Your ideas and story
Your top ideas. Your client’s top ideas.
I’m curious about people’s top ideas, and when I meet new business people, I’m often curious enough to get them to spill their heart out about what they love and why they do what they do.
The stories are often surprising, and I get taken aback by the depth of the emotion, adversity and tenacity that businesspeople seem to be able to relay so easily.
What makes your clients tick is easy to uncover with just a few of the right questions and a willingness to listen, rather than comment, lecture or show off.
If you were asked, so what made you start your own business? You would find it a good experience and spout the best of stories.
So, ask your clients to unfold their ‘why’ their passionate stories, inspirations, frustrations or even their wants.
Everyone has them. We all are moulded by experience, both good and bad.
Ask your clients. Ask in a way that indulges them. Let them be selfish. Give them the stage to boast from. Give them room and time to rant. Be a cheerleader for them and their struggles overcome.
They will be so pleased you allowed them to open up. Stories sell, Facts Tell.
Once they have done so, ask them these questions.
I ‘m curious, what are your top three tips?
What do you want from me? Not what do you need, just, what do you want?
Would it be ok if we quoted your knowledge to others that are just like you?
Start with yourself, what is your story.
Key people in your company and life.
I remember a significant customer who gave me so much business every year, that I joked about if he were ever ill, I would send my own personal doctor by helicopter to get him well again.
We laughed about it at the time, yet we all know that some people in our businesses, customers, key salespeople, directors and office managers can be so integral and valuable, we would do anything to keep them in situ.
With regard to team members, while this is impossible to guarantee, it is possible to strengthen their position with you to make it unlikely they would leave. It is possible to have the right health plans in place for them. We can pay them more than the open market value too. However, this is not good enough. Yes, it will help, but when you are running a business, you need more than a plan A or A & B.
First, it is not wise to be so dependant on one person. This means having a robust enough back up to replace anyone.
Secondly, it means recognising that this is a vulnerable position to let yourself be in. A table with only one or two legs will fall when one goes.
Thirdly, it means having the right people feel appreciated.
This last one is the overlooked one.
Appreciation is often shown with money, rewards or even recognition. However, the secret to appreciation is based on being real about it.
A heartfelt thank you. A case of wine, A personal thank you note. Perhaps a gift of extra time off.
One of my personal favourites is just a surprise gift. Saw this and thought of you. I knew you liked these, so I got you one.
It can often be like courting. When you are trying to win someone over you, tend to be more attentive than at any other time. Yet if we want people to be loyal and happy and productive, we have an easy option of just paying them the respect they deserve. It is not about money only. It is more about a sense of self-worth or contribution. Making a difference in people’s lives is a strong motivator. Tap into it.
Ask yourself, how can I improve the lives of the key people in my business, or life. They won’t get it easily anywhere, yet if we know how to, we can build a business based on the valuable traits that make people happy.
People will come and go for a variety of reasons. It is important to shore up the valuable assets in our businesses and families and relationships. The most valuable is often the people. Pay respect to that fact and it will serve you well.
When is losing really winning?
No matter how well you get on with someone, it is practically impossible to agree on everything.
For many people who are less assertive by nature and do not like confrontation of any kind, they may pretend to agree on points but actually disagree. In this event, nobody wins
For most people, if they disagree and they are free to express an honest opinion, they will do so.
However, what starts as intellectual disagreement can often engage both peoples egos and thus drop into winning and losing when both parties believe they are right and just argue to win. In this event, both parties actually lose.
So how do you win every disagreement?
The answer is – you don’t see it as disagreement but a chance to learn something. Ideally every time someone disagrees with your point of view you should get really curious.
- Why are they disagreeing?
- What do they know that I don’t know?
- Why have they come to that conclusion?
Coming at any disagreement from the point of curiosity means you win every time.
Because no matter what happens, you learn something you didn’t know before. Either some facts you did not know or something about the person who is holding a different perspective.
Maybe you are better armed with more relevant facts than the other person, maybe your information is wrong, or maybe your world views are just different – either way, you learn something. Learning something means you win from the disagreement irrelevant of whether you end up agreeing or not.
In the end, in most cases, it’s not that important that someone agrees with you and there is no such thing as winning an argument.
So how do you get to the fundamentals of why you disagree?
It’s about exploring the other person’s beliefs. As Stephen Covey points out, this is one of the 7 habits of highly effective people “ Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”
A great question which I am trying to embed in my life is “Why do you believe that to be true?”. This open question followed by more in-depth clarifying questions can really get to the bottom of a person’s belief system and will unearth the answers to the previous 3 questions.
It’s generally good practice to summarise what the other person believes and why to firstly get an agreement that you fully understand.
Once you understand a person’s beliefs and why they believe what they do, you have a solid base from which to proceed.
It is probably best not to jump straight in with your disagreement but to firstly establish common ground on which you agree – this helps build rapport.
If the other person’s beliefs rest upon what you believe to be incomplete or incorrect information, you are now in a position to put that correct ( which could be incorrect) information on the table. They are more likely to listen as you have shown you fully understand their perspective.
At this point, I personally have to be careful. I am a person that both loves to help and is also armed with a huge amount of information ( having read on average 40 books a year on personal development and business for the last 20 years). This very knowledge means I am potentially in a position to help, but sometimes the gap is too big. ( I need to work on my mindfulness to recognise these points more often)
What do I mean?
For instance, for me, (because I have done over 2000 hours of research into this area alone over 20 years,) it is very difficult to help someone on diet, health, longevity and losing weight if all they know are what they read in newspapers, magazines and the odd TV program.
Information and experience is generally what is used to form a person’s beliefs. A belief is like a table – the stronger the belief the more legs there are supporting that table. So to alter a belief where you discover a vast array of incomplete knowledge and a strong viewpoint, is very difficult. You basically have to knock out each supporting leg one at a time.
It’s hard to walk away when someone has incomplete facts and are doing the wrong thing, which may negatively impact their lives. However, sometimes to enhance the relationship, it’s just better to say – OK, we have a fundamentally different viewpoint. I arrived at mine by doing this, this and this which is a lot of ground to cover and today may not be the right time. So let’s just agree to smile and disagree. However, if you are interested in why I disagree please let me know, and I will send you what I believe to be the best sources of information and then you can decide for yourself.
In the end, all disagreements are a chance to enhance relationships and learn something if you engage curiosity rather than ego – I personally have a long way to go to practice what I preach in this particular post. But I learned something from writing it
Enjoy the journey.
Eight biggest mistakes of business owners
The following eight mistakes of business owners are not meant to be a comprehensive list because as all of who are business owners know the list is a lot longer than 8 points. However, I believe that if you address the following 8 points, those actions will have a massive impact on the profitability and success of your business.
These points are more about mindset changes as opposed to specific activities.
1. Being driven by money and not a passion for delivering value
Sure we have to make a good profit to remain in business. It’s no good having a wonderful business which you love if you do not make enough profit to live your desired lifestyle and help your teams of people do the same.
In the end, the money your business makes is a direct reflection of the value it offers and the number of people it delivers that value to
However, if your focus is ONLY on the profit, you will not build a strong growing business. A business is only as strong as the idea behind it and the value it delivers to its customers. Bear profit in mind but swing your mindset more to offering as much value as you can to your customers. The more you can grow and differentiate the value your business offers to your customers, the more “Raving Fans” you will build. Therefore, the word of mouth recommendations you get will significantly improve, and the more your business will grow.
Look at every one of your products and services. Focus ONLY on the ones that you believe you can offer extraordinary value to your customers and either ditch the rest or find a way of outsourcing that to someone else. This focus will make your systems and teams increasingly better, which will keep adding value and keep growing profits.
2. Not thinking long term sustainability
A business is not or at least should not be in the game of beating its competitors (unless it’s a sports team) It’s not about the competition – it’s about sustainability.
Business owners that focus on beating the competition simply do not understand the game they are playing. In sports, the game has a defined time limit, a defined set of rules and a referee. Your business has continually changing competition across the world; there is no time limit; there are no clearly defined rules and certainly no referee.
A business is in an infinite game where the game is really – To Stay in Business. You lose the game only if you go out of business.
If you want a long-term sustainable business, you have to start with the intention of growing a long term sustainable business not simply beating the competition.
Think long term. Build the best you can now and apply the Kaizen principle – Continuous and never-ending improvement.
- Keep your best people long term and keep helping them to improve.
- Build your systems for the long term and keep improving them
- Improve your products and services continually
- Build your financial reserves against a rainy day
- Protect your intellectual property – the way you do what you do
3. Not working on your personal development
Every business is a reflection of its leader or leaders. The way you think determines the culture and actions of your teams and ultimately what your business does and how it does it.
Working on your business is like adding extra apps to your phone. Very useful and certainly adds value if the apps are good.
Working on yourself as Leader is like changing the operating system from a mobile phone which simply makes calls to the supercomputer you probably have in your pocket right now.
Working hard and getting coached on your personal development will change how you think, your life and business strategies and how you interact with the world. Growing personally will inevitably change your life for the better.
4. Not working on your business culture
Your business has a culture irrelevant of what you do. Your culture is how you, your teams and your business behaves. The question is – How effective is your culture in winning your business game.
In the 1960s Douglas McGregor wrote a seminal business book called the “Human Side of Enterprise” about Theory X and Theory Y companies. – Google it to learn more
Basically, theory X companies work on command and control – They believe people need to be controlled, told what to do and how to do it.
Theory Y companies believe people are generally good, self-motivated and self-directed and want to produce a good job. They prefer the autonomy of being allowed to work to the best of their abilities.
Both methods can produce excellent results. It’s just one is much more fun to work in, less stress for the business owners and potentially is more sustainable in the long term.
Today in a fast moving and ever more complex world, the most talented people are increasingly mobile and well connected. They know their own worth and are only attracted to companies where they feel valued and can work with purpose-driven highly capable teams. It’s not just the money. In the first five years of Google, nearly everyone who worked for them took a salary CUT to join them because they were excited to work in a high performing autonomous culture.
You cannot hope to run a great business by yourself.
Building a great culture to attract extraordinary people who will help you grow your business with more fun and less stress is essential in today’s world.
5. Not measuring team members performance properly
You can make every effort to employ the right people and build a great culture, but still, some people will underperform. You or their team leader may feel that underperformance in their guts but its really hard and time-consuming to pin down. If you or a team leader gives a person a bad appraisal, that person can simply dismiss that appraisal as the “Boss is just a ********! – He /she doesn’t know what she is talking about. They then carry on regardless, doing the same as before or worse still simply paying lip service to the feedback.
So what’s the answer?
360 Degree anonymous reviews for every person in the company and especially team leaders and the boss from at least five other people who work closely with them. The results should produce average scores against a whole range of criteria.
It’s easy to dismiss parts of your appraisal because the boss is a ******** but practically impossible to do so if it’s all the people you work with giving you an average low score in a particular area of your performance. It does not matter what you think. Whether you think the score is fair or not is irrelevant – the fact is that other people who work closely with you believe this is a correct indication of your performance – so nearly everyone will take more notice of the results.
It’s essential that a 360 review system is put into place to help people develop because hopefully most of your people want to do a good job. Most of us are simply blind to our weaknesses. People should want to know how to improve otherwise, why are they working with you?
Following that 360 appraisals, a personal development plan should be agreed with every employee and regularly discussed and progress tracked by team leaders.
A team leaders MAIN job should be to get the best from his/her team
This regular feedback and tracking to help low performance in certain areas are essential for everyone. Across your company, this will produce extraordinary results. Across the board, low performers can be moved to other roles to give them a chance. Ultimately, low performers are likely to deselect themselves as it is very difficult to continue work in a team when you know everyone thinks you are underperforming. You will either strive to improve, or you will leave or the company.
Sometimes the company will have to “ask” some people to leave.
If you have to go through the correct disciplinary procedure with a few people who underperform you are protected. Its very difficult for them to claim unfair dismissal when a whole team of their peers are stating in their records that they are underperforming in key areas.
For your good people – they know they are doing a good job. As such they really want to know their lower scores (which they may well be blind to) and how they can up their game.
Measuring performance fairly across a range of key criteria and following it up properly will produce high performing and happier teams
What gets measured gets managed.
6. Not enough focus on attracting, identifying and engaging great people
Many companies boast about how great their training programs are. If you spend more time energy and resources on attracting, identifying and engaging great people you can spend a lot less on training. Great people are self-motivated. They will identify their weak areas and self-train without the need for much help from you. Smart, engaged people can learn how to do most things well provided there is someone to teach them.
In my opinion, there is NOTHING more important than doing everything you can to employ the best people.
Until you are certain you have a fantastic team of HR people with a highly systemised and proven record of employing great people do not leave it to them.
How can you be certain?
Develop scorecards and questions to determine the attributes you want for every prospective employee. Your performance management system should be checked back against the scorecards produced when that person was engaged. Were the scores in line with the actual performance the employee produces?
If not adjust the employment process and questions asked to improve your engagement process to only hire world-class people.
It’s currently x10 harder to get a job with Google than it is to get into Harvard business school. That’s not because they are a highly successful company now. They are a highly successful company because they work extremely hard to get the right people and build a culture for those people to perform well.
7. Not building systems for everything
Great people are essential, and they can even get around bad systems, but why should they have to?
Everything in the business should be part of a system with strong checklists.
You should have the attitude of: To err once is human to err twice on the same thing is stupidity.
If something goes wrong and you have a system – the first thing you should do is blame is the system – most bosses blame the person when in fact the error is probably the fault of the boss for not having a proper system. If the system is at fault talk to your people on how to improve the system, so the fault does not happen again.
Does this mean all your people become robots? Absolutely not – their role is to identify exceptions to the system, faults in the systems and have the authority to act accordingly without fear. They should also be architects of improving the systems and therefore will be engaged in making it work.
With great highly engaged people constantly looking to make 1% improvements to the company systems, the company continually improves to win its game.
8. Not having a coach
All of the above points take a lot of time, energy and resources.
All great performers have great coaches, and I believe it’s almost impossible to perform well without one.
A great coach will question your beliefs and thinking from which all your actions and results are driven. They will hold you accountable to drive forward when things get difficult, and you wonder if you will ever fix big problems. They will remind you that all big problems can be resolved with a good strategy and hard work even if it takes years.
A good coach keeps you in your business game and helps you win.
Enjoy the journey
A Coach for all. Your purpose identified. Live a great life benefiting others. Get Happy.
I have a purpose to help as many people as possible engage in the process of being coached.
There are many types of coaches — Fitness, Financial, Business, Motivational and even spiritual.
Overall though a coach should be about helping you find a path that works for you, heals your failings, builds you up and engages you to find your passions. It doesn’t need to be a specific type. We are all very capable of achieving so much once we find out what it is we truly want and discover how to use that passion for a greater good or purpose.
If coaching can be boiled down to its basic elements, it would include being an encourager, a guide to a better you and a lifter of spirits.
Not all will see it this way yet in essence, if you find a new desire you hadn’t explored before, and that desire is helpful to others and makes a difference, this is something that can be infinitely rewarding and beneficial.
I remember helping a young man follow his dream to be a teacher, and the hurdles were big, the subject complicated, and, as is often the case, seemed impossible or too hard to achieve at the time. He later went on the fulfil that dream, and the catalyst for his drive was the vision of what difference it would make to others rather than to himself. The fear of failure was high. The probability was against him, yet once he’d grasped the idea of the impact it could make, coupled with even if he didn’t fully achieve his dream, he would have made a big difference. He was so determined, he did, in fact, achieve his desire.
A good coach brings out the possibilities, the motivation and the ideas that may not have been obvious on the initial analysis. This can be achieved in any field and for any person.
Schools should have life coaches. Universities, homeless centres, addict charities, the health service. ALL could benefit. ALL should have access.
My passion is helping others be the best they can be. This doesn’t need to be limited to a business, it can be for anyone. The YOU, that sits inside, that is awaiting the spark and has incredible potential for positive change, is there. It may need coaxing out or releasing, but it is there.
Some have already found it and love their lives and live according to their skills, desires, passions and purpose. Do you want to join them? A good coach will help you find that power and bring it out into the open. The how to achieve will take care of itself, once you find the true desire and drive you have for the things you wish to do. Once you find your uniqueness.
Inspire, save, unlock potential, create a big impact, enrich and many other types of descriptions come to mind. A coach is for all types of people for all reasons. A coach is a coach no matter what the subject.
The high road or the low road?
- 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.
This skill of understanding how to run a business well is significantly more important than knowing how the work of the business is done.
Review your company goals – are they set around the high road or the low road?
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
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.
- The 7 year itch
- Directions on the path
- I am curious
- Your ideas and story
- Anti – testimonial
- Key people in your company and life.
- When is losing really winning?
- Holidays vs Time out
- Eight biggest mistakes of business owners
- What is bothering you?
- Do you want a new computer?
- Are you setting yourself up for failure?
- A Coach for all.
- What businesses are going to be the best in the future?
- Begin with the end in mind
- Letting go of the past
- Promise Keepers Rule Ok!
- The high road or the low road?
- Should I put a hammer through my TV? – The power of rituals
- Muhammad Ali – Inspirational thoughts