Leadership

Muhammad Ali – Inspirational thoughts

Muhammad Ali – Inspirational thoughts

Muhammad Ali – I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.

I must admit to being very surprised when I first came across this quote. “Hated every minute of training?” and yet he still went on to become what many would regard as the greatest boxer who ever lived? He was certainly an icon who transcended his sport.

Muhammad Ali must have spent thousands of hours training to become the best at what he did. This training is a testament to his basic beliefs. If you want outstanding results in your field of endeavour you have to train long and hard.

Many business owners wonder why their business is not progressing. They believe it should be performing better. And yet they have spent very little time training as opposed to “fighting in their ring.” They seem to believe their business is completely different to all other businesses. They ignore the benefits of a great training and coaching program.

This is a misplaced point of view. Every business may indeed be different. Indeed, every athlete is different. If those athletes want to become great,  the same principles of coaching apply to all athletes. In business, the same applies. Coaching will help you to develop as a person and a business owner.

How much time do you spend in the training zone?

How much time do you spend in the performance zone?

The training zone gives you help and feedback to improve your skills. In the performance zone, you have to achieve excellent results.

Nobody wants to have an operation done by a surgeon who is in training.

You want him to have trained to an excellent standard beforehand and then produce outstanding performance in your operation.

Allow yourself time to train to be the best you can be. This investment in yourself is the best investment you can make.

The results of such a change will have a huge positive impact on your life and business profitability.

If every great athlete like Muhammad Ali in the world has a coach why don’t you?

Do you know your clients?

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Do you know your clients? Yes, but do you really know?

We often think we know our businesses, and its true most us have a handle on the numbers and the history.  However, Sir Clive Woodward, at a recent conference talked about ‘The Data’, and the story behind the data is not often a true explanation of the facts.

Get the Facts. Truly, deep down can’t get any more data Facts.

You can look at your ROFE, yet behind that could be just a handful of great profitable customers that are masking the truth behind the vacuum of profit customer. Averages help get an overview but break them down and the character of the good bad and the ugly, start to show.

Ask your team, who is a pain to deal with, and why is that so. A client may serve you better by being referred to a nearby competitor. That client may have come from them in the first place.

I remember letting a client go once, and he was horrified. He got quite angry too. So, I explained to him that my average customer spent 20 hours a month of my time and gave me £300,000 turnover a year. I explained that my profit from my average customer was £100,000. On the other hand, he gave me 30 hours work a month and only contributed to £80,000 to my turnover.

Once I had explained the ‘Facts’ to him he calmed down and realised why I was making the decision and that had he known more, he would have looked at what I offered differently.

The result with this client was that I offered to charge him an hourly rate. He declined as he knew he could go and take advantage of a competitor, without paying the fees for his time. So, we agreed to no longer work together.

Unless I had got to the bottom of his way of dealing with us and backed it up with enough comparable facts, I may have continued to be bossed around by this client. It turns out the staff loved that I had ‘let him go’ because he was the proverbial heart sinker. A double win.

Working with clients you like is always a bonus. Ones that are profitable as well make a great business.

The sweet spot of what you offer is one number crunching exercise. Looking at clients who could be ten times more profitable than your average is another.

Which of your clients have the capacity to do so much more? Fewer clients to deal with could be a new option. The numbers will reveal them.

It could be that your top clients are not top clients. It could be that your low turnover/profit clients are capable of so much more, or, would refer you to others that can. Getting to know your clients in depth is important.

By getting ALL the numbers, the decisions are so much easier.

Yes, it felt good to remove Mr Pain. It was easier than I thought because I had got the facts. Numbers never lie if you dig deep enough.

So do you know your clients well enough?

Hire slow fire fast

Hire Slow Fire Fast

Hire slow fire fast

When we employ enough staff, we start to realise that employees are transitional. They come and go based on their agendas, lifestyle, circumstances, competence or even just boredom.

Hiring people is an art form. Get it wrong and you will be going through a tough time. Hire well and it can be extremely rewarding and fruitful. Good staff and stability is a great measure of how you run your business.

If you consider staff to be friends then lines can get blurred. Complacency, familiarity and lack of progress are tell-tale signs that the job isn’t the job hoped for and must be guarded against.

Building a team of people that complement each other or generate a powerhouse of work completed takes time, awareness and attention.

The question is, who does that for you and what systems do you use to ensure great productivity? How much do you develop a relationship with staff or them with each other for optimal performance?

It could be considered formulaic. However, people are people and by that, I mean, we are all different. We may have skills that are needed to compliment others or complete a team. Overall though we need to feel human, fulfilled, valued, cared for, respected, listened to and appreciated.

Even if you are all the above, turnover of staff will occur. Loyalty cannot be bought. Life changes outside work and life impacts.

When trust breaks down, fire fast. No employee should be allowed to continue in their job if the trust has gone. It is better to pay them all they are entitled to and change the locks and passwords. If you find yourself compromised, shut up shop. Get rid and move on.

The opposite is true. Hire slow. Take your time to find the right person. Do not react by getting in the first person you can. Take your time. You could be with them for years to come. Valuable people are out there. People who have skills that are rich and useful and underutilised do exist. People who are looking for a breath of fresh air and want to be part of a company that is fertile ground that enhances their natural abilities and captures their great ideas are keen to be with you.

Where would you like to work and under what conditions? Create the type of environment that people will want to come to. They will want to work hard and feel appreciated. That must be better than trying to fill the bank account with enough money each month, just to get by. That style of thinking will never serve your businesses, the employee or others who work there.

We can stifle great people. We can micromanage them to the point of strangulation. I could not think of a worse job.

When selecting someone to take on board, they need to be self-starters. Batteries included. Your role in making that happen is important and worthy of investment.

Ask the candidate, how do you see yourself in three years’ time. You already know what you want to hear, and they will already know what you want to hear too. However, those that can easily answer and are excited about the prospect of growth and learning as well as being able to articulate that in a way that you know isn’t contrived should be sought after, cared for, protected, nurtured, cherished and included in your vision for the future.

Why I try to prove myself wrong

Why I try to prove myself wrong

Why I try to prove myself wrong

Our biggest errors in making decisions often occur when we believe we are correct about the facts or information around a subject but in fact we were wrong.

It’s true that you cannot go on second guessing yourself forever and sometimes decisions have to be made with the information that’s available to hand. In most cases however and certainly for longer term goals and strategies it pays huge dividends to double check your information or get expert help from a variety of sources.

A good way of thinking about it is to set a system in place to double check your information and the strategies that are driven as a result of that information.

“In other words when I’m certain that I’m right about something, I will try to prove myself wrong.”

Trying to prove myself wrong is the best way I know of to improve my education around a subject which will then drive my strategies and actions. However it flies in the face of how we are raised and rewarded. Usually, you are rewarded for the “right answer” in a world of education where there is a perceived right answer. So we are subconsciously raised to believe there is one right answer. This also falls right into our preferred method of thinking which is to seek easy answers as anything else raises uncertainty and then takes too much time and effort to resolve.

We tend to skim information and accept what we read and hear at face value. For instance -almost everybody will judge other people diets believing they are healthy on not, based on superficial information and education. Unless you have done at least one thousand hours study and in depth research into an effective human diet or any other complicated subject you have almost no expertise – so presume you are wrong.

There also exists the problem of confirmation bias, which leads us simply to seek out information and facts which support the decisions (often irrational and emotional) we have already made. This effect is even stronger in emotionally charged issues when ambiguous information is used for supporting evidence. It is often easier to try to prove someone else wrong than make the effort to get more educated ourselves.

“When we are open to the possibility of being wrong, we gain knowledge which will help guide our strategies and decisions.”

Even when trying to build your knowledge, you have to be careful about people’s opinions as everyone has some sort of agenda, which while it might be well intentioned, may also be as a result of their own confirmation bias. Most documentaries, magazine articles or blog posts will be written by someone with an agenda and it’s not difficult to research any subject and find a different point of view on the same topic.

However, in big life changing decisions like your diet, exercise program, career or finances it is certainly worth the time to make an educated decision as possible. Trying to prove yourself wrong is an effective strategy as this route usually leads you to find out that the issues involved are much more complex that you originally thought and the world is rarely black and white. You have probably studied your career for over 1000 hours but can you say the same about diet, exercise and financial well being?

We need to start off believing we are right but then really make the effort to prove ourselves wrong and seek out information that flies in the face of our beliefs. When we are open to the possibility of being wrong, we gain knowledge which will help guide our strategies and decisions.

Other than the time and effort it takes to more fully and deeply explore any subject that could lead to big decisions there is little to lose and much to gain.

  • You gain knowledge
  • You gain balance and empathy with other people’s points of view
  • You gain better strategies and decisions

Simply put in taking the time and effort to prove yourself wrong – you gain.

Enjoy the journey

Generating focus on the job until completion

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Generating focus on the job until completion.

Recently I decided to put a 3-minute video together to post on my Website. I soon realised that when I made a mistake of any sort, because I had the option to stop and start again, I could focus on getting it as near perfect as possible and just ditch the out-takes as it were.

This caused me to keep my focus levels average and not be VERY focused as I should be. The idea of one try and that’s all you have, would be difficult to manage but like the proverbial gun to the head does have a way of improving your performance or shutting you down completely.

Generating focus on any task that is important, needs to be understood. Too relaxed and the performance or detail can be too casual and substandard.  Too intense and you may crumble under the pressure.

The length of time that we can spend highly focused is different for us all and different dependant on it being something we love doing compared to something we hate doing or just need to get done.

If you love painting, you can spend many hours doing so and lose track of time.  Often the more focused we are the more we lose track of time. People refer to this as being in the zone or in a state of Flow.

So how do you get the maximum focus time for any one job. The style of guidelines varies but here are some fundamentals:

It is better to stay highly focused for a short period and then have a break and pick it up again.

The less distractions you have the better.

The less opportunities you have, to be able to postpone the task, the more focused you will become.

Having others to answer to will keep you motivated too.

Proper preparation is essential. Start by detailing your plan, determining your order of attack as well as preparing the tools or needed equipment will enhance your focus.

The desired outcome being clear in your mind, enables you to overcome the hurdles as you go, rather than stumbling and failing. It also helps you persevere at the tough points.

There are many styles of how to focus yourself and the key to being focused is listening and analysing yourself to enable that to happen. Here is a thought process that will help.

Tasks or goals often fit into one or more of these criteria: Necessary, urgent or desired.

If they fit the urgent, it is clearer that you of course need to get on with it. The necessary push you in a negative way. The desired however can be the one you put off until the desire is very strong indeed.

Learning to build your desire helps tremendously with motivation and generating focus.

Avoiding the pain helps too.

As yourself the following:

  1. When does this need to get done by?
  2. Why does it need to be done?
  3. What are the benefits of doing so?

These will all greatly enhance your ability in generating focus and improve the quality of what you do.

Going back to the video. It is urgent and desired. I have many good reasons to do it. The benefits of making it are huge and potentially lucrative too.

Have I struggled with generating focus? Yes. Using the guidelines above, I managed to get it done, enjoy it and have some funny outtakes too. The progress made was good too. The next one will be easier. Thankfully my camera knows how to focus automatically.

We need to practice on generating focus to help achieve our desired outcomes.

What is your story?

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What is your story?

A compelling story enhances the best of presentations more than most things.

The elements of the story need drama and adversity as well a goal or quest against long odds and desire to put right a wrong.

The example of Moguli in the Jungle Book is a good one.

A stranger in a jungle, wronged by circumstances, finds his way back to his kind and rights the wrongs of Shere Khan, the evil tiger, hell bent on killing him.

Some tricky characters along the way, like the snake or the monkeys illustrate the challenges of life, but the quest is attained.

So, what is your story?
Did you go through tough times, setting up your business, trying to make it a worthy one.

Tax offices and banks along the way can crumble your dreams and the customers who took advantage of you, reduce your resolve. Yet, you still persevered.

Do your favourite clients know your story? Could you communicate it with them, and, do they have one?

The two most important things in life are relationships and health. Everything else fits in around them. Get those two things wrong and the rest feels pointless.

I do not mean health challenges, but health care of yourself.

I do not mean relationships you ought not keep, but I do mean the ones you should keep or are important to you.

Nurture your health and your relationships and life is easier and happier.

Neglect them and it gets tougher. It can be filled with regret.

If you have a story, let those that you care about know about it. The story of those you care about should be known to you.

Eek it out. Embellish and develop it to bring it to life as much as you can.

My story? I grew up on a council estate that was so large, the police would not go there. My education was minimal, and to see beyond the boundaries that were there, was difficult. Friends of mine were collecting criminal records and poor health habits at an alarming rate.

I decided, it was not for me. I went on a quest to read any self improvement book I could get my hands on. I promised myself I would seek out people of the same mind set. I travelled to get away from the less than fertile ground.
My travels took me around the world and I met some inspiring people along the way.
I saved, invested, gambled on better outcomes, had setbacks and thieves nearly take it all yet I carried on.

One more day, one more day, one more day and then as the tide started to turn, my dreams became more of a reality.
The strength I had relied upon became my staff and I gathered around me people that would want the same things, relationships and integrity.

A legacy in the making, still vulnerable of course, yet solid too, with hindsight, was better than I imagined.

I now run a business with my wife, have two daughters who are blossoming, and I have more dreams for the future than ever before.

I have reasonable health and keep it maintained. I have countless relationships, that I love and I have a lifestyle some would envy.

Am I still going to grow? Yes. Am I wanting to share how I did it? Yes.

At 56, I feel like I am just getting into my full stride.

Share your story.

Do you use an entrepreneurial or purposeful approach?

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Do you use an entrepreneurial or purposeful approach?

Many small business owners use the word Entrepreneur to describe what they do almost as a badge of honour. I would question this approach as most entrepreneurs either fail altogether or fail to reach the levels of success that they originally hoped to achieve.

The entrepreneurial approach is our natural way of achieving the results we want. You see something that you want to do or needs to be done and with a little bit of planning you dive into getting it done with the enthusiasm and energy of your entrepreneurial spirit. This means you get the tasks done to the best of your natural abilities. You look at the job and think  – I put everything into it and so that is the best that I could do – thus moving on to the next thing that catches your eye. This OK plateau is the main cause of problems in people’s lives and businesses.

The quality of the job done and the results achieved will vary from person to person depending on their natural ability. Unfortunately for all entrepreneurs there is a ceiling on how high natural ability will take us, especially in something as complicated as running a business.

Really highly productive people don’t accept their natural abilities and the results of those abilities as the last word on their success. I would suggest that you should not do this either. You should not put the limits of your natural abilities as the benchmark in any important goal. Is this a problem you can fix?

Purposeful people don’t look at the best level that they can achieve but set the benchmark at the best level that it can be done.

Sometimes this purposeful approach will give only a small difference in performance but as we know from Olympic competition a small difference in lots of areas adds up to a big difference in results.

A purposeful approach is much more strategic and planned. Purposeful people look for mentors and coaches, new models and systems – simply better ways of doing things to make gradual but definite ongoing improvements in whatever it is they are trying to achieve.

Constant and never ending improvement is the mind set adopted.

With a purposeful approach you can achieve breakthroughs far beyond your natural abilities. In fact depending only upon your natural abilities will almost guarantee a lower end result. You must simply be willing to invest the time and effort required to get help from people who may have already successfully achieved your goal.

A purposeful approach is all about doing what comes “unnaturally”. However, if you are committed to achieving high results you need to do whatever it takes and push out of your comfort zone.

The next time you consider any project – STOP before simply employing your entrepreneurial mindset and ask yourself – is this important enough to adopt a purposeful approach of good planning, increased knowledge, skill acquisition, accountability partners and most importantly good mentors or coaches.

Enjoy the journey

Avoiding Business Failure

avoiding business failure

How to avoid your business failing

Most businesses fail in the first 5 years with a huge impact on all stakeholders. From those which survive 80 % fail in the next 5 years. Owning and running a business which beat those odds and succeed is a difficult thing to achieve. However you can increase your chance dramatically by becoming a great small business owner by ensuring you follow a few key strategies.

Ensure your business aligns with your life purpose

Once you have thought sufficiently to have a written life purpose (the importance of this is stressed in our introduction workshops) you should make sure you identify how exactly your business aligns with that purpose. This is essential to provide you with the long term drive and energy required to make your business a success. Running your own business takes a lot more energy that is required from most employees and failure has a bigger impact emotionally and financially that losing a job.

I remember many years ago when employed at a Bank I used to get the Sunday evening blues thinking about going into work after having had a brilliant weekend. Eventually, I had the sense to leave and carve out my own business. Not having enthusiasm for your work and business is a path to a miserable life. Reminding yourself every day about why you do what you do is essential to maintaining high energy levels and avoid your business failing.

Your business is not you

Although it should ideally be deeply aligned with your life purpose, you should always be more than your business. You will encounter setbacks which have to be conquered. Beating yourself up for short term failures does not help you fix the problems. If you look at your business as a huge challenge you have set yourself and any setbacks as simply a learning experience, you will be better equipped to move forward quickly. Looking at your business as just one part of your life allows you to build greater life balance and not be too reliant on it to give you everything you need.

Improving the business

Most of us started our business to give us more satisfaction, more wealth and more time. These are not likely to happen unless you ensure you mark out time in your diary on a weekly basis to spend on improving your business rather than simply working in it. Improving the business and in the long term making yourself redundant to the business should be the long term aim of all business owners. If you are not needed but still choose to work in your business that’s fine. However, a business that does not need you by definition gives you more time off and is worth considerably more to a potential buyer.

Taking time out to actively look for ways to improve your business is the essential strategy that will make a huge long term difference in your life

Building great systems

To avoid your business failing everything in your business should be done according to a written process. Yes, I mean everything. When things go wrong in a business, it is rarely the people but the systems they are using which are at fault. Using this mentality, every time something goes wrong don’t blame your team but instead ask “ What went wrong with the system and why? Tweak the system to help ensure it does not happen again. This way, everything the business does, gets done in an ever increasing, more effective and efficient manner. Once a year at least review the steps and procedures of all systems to make sure they are still effective.

Building a great team

If you do it all yourself you will always have to do it all yourself. Eventually it will run you down or you will have to settle for less success that you want. Invest in great people, train them well, let them help you to build great systems and support you when things get tough.

Use your task list to weekly do a review of everything you spend your time doing. Ask your self – Was doing that task the best use of my time? If not, is it possible to delegate to someone else. Yes, it may take a long time to train someone but in the long term it will pay off in saving you time for more profitable or enjoyable tasks.

Never be satisfied – continual and never ending improvement

There are no successful companies that do not have this mind set built into their culture. This is not an option and there is no status quo – You are either growing and improving or dying- even if you do not see it yet.

Regular reviewing of all systems, processes, activities and people to aim to at least make tiny incremental gains is what keeps it both interesting and leads to greater levels of success.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

Nearly everyone who owns a small business has never had any training in how to run a successful business. No wonder 80% fail. Think about it – Would you try and do anything difficult and complicated which has a big impact on your life without training? It doesn’t make any sense – yet many business owners go about their daily business wondering why it is not as successful as they had hoped.

Investing time and money in joining a coaching program for ideas, help and support is a worthwhile and sensible strategy.

If you had a good friend starting out in their own business and knowing what you know now after years of hard won experience -would you not advise them to get good training to avoid their business failing? So why doesn’t that apply to you to improve your business?

Enjoy the journey.

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