Leadership

The high road or the low road?

  for your business

The high road or the low road?
As part of our coaching practice, we ask programme members the following question:
 
Why did you start your own business?
 
The answers are generally very similar.
  • I felt I could make more money doing (what I do) myself
  • I wanted to be in control of my own time
  • I did not like the way I was treated at my last company
  • I had a great idea that I wanted to put into practice.
However, nobody starts a business which they believe will fail. Most people start a business in which they have expertise in what the business does. A florist starts a florist shop. An electrician starts working for himself as an electrician. A financial adviser like myself starts a financial advice business. This trend is very well covered in the excellent book for small business owners – the E- Myth Revisited. The book also covers the reasons that most new businesses fail in the first five years. The figure is around 80% which is alarming and terrible for the people concerned.
 
The main reason is, although they know how to do what the business does, they have no skills in how to run a business.
 
This skill of understanding how to run a business well is significantly more important than knowing how the work of the business is done.
 
A highly experienced business owner could probably make a success of a florists business, even if he or she did not have the slightest idea on how to be a good florist. Essentially, this is where a good business coach can help – they know the strategies which work and the ones which are less likely to.
 
Nearly everyone believes they can make more money working for themselves. This is normally is a primary driver for taking the risk of starting their own business. This is fine as an initial driver as we all have to live and pay our bills. However, once the business is relatively stable and profitable running a business purely for the money is the low road. This low road has a high potential to end in dissatisfaction, stress and burnout.
 
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as shown below says that once our physiological and safety needs are met, we all aim to satisfy our needs for self- fulfilment.maslow hierarchy of needs
 
Setting the main goal and purpose of the business as only making a large a profit as possible causes a problem. It will make it more difficult for the directors and team to stay motivated and aligned with that purpose in the longer term.
 
The high road is to set a purpose of contributing to the world and adding the most value possible. Of course, the bottom line of working as effectively and efficiently as possible does not go away. The business must continue to make a profit to thrive.
 
Delivering on this higher purpose will generate money as customers all appreciate good value. This higher mindset will align the directors and their teams to work harder. They will also have higher levels of job satisfaction that simply more money will not bring.

Action required

Review your company goals – are they set around the high road or the low road?

Explore what your business does. Ask your customers why they use your products and services. Talk to your employees. Ask them what value the company provides.
 
Once you have collected all the information, spend some time setting a vision for the future. This vision should encompass the contribution the company intends to make and the value it provides. Clarify and write down the company purpose, mission and values.
 
Get feedback on your statements from your employees and customers before settling on a finished version. Then keep these statements under review and set your company goals and direction around them.
 
This is the higher road which leads to self-fulfilment for all people working at the company. It also helps you employee people who are aligned with what you are trying to achieve.  These more engaged employees work harder and smarter to help achieve company goals and produce higher profits.
So in deciding on your business goals remember the high road or the low road is a conscious decision which can make a big difference in your approach
Enjoy the journey

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?

get to know your clients

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

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