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SMART goals and Small Business Saturday

As we’ve explained before, and hopefully you have all picked up on, we are always passionate about helping businesses of any size, so we were delighted when our offer of a drop- in clinic for businesses this Small Business Saturday was so well received.

We offered 30 minute slots to discuss any business issue and all our slots were snapped up within a few days of making the offer. We saw a real mixture of people: some with ideas for fantastic new businesses and others who run established businesses who were looking for some extra motivation and ideas for their plans for the next year.

One of the most common themes of advice was that it was definitely time to start thinking about goals for 2016. Why? Well research shows that if you write down your goals and review them regularly it gives you a 95% higher chance of achieving your desired outcomes. And any business needs to know where they are going, as Lewis Carroll says “Any road will get you there, if you don’t know where you are going.” Goals define the route you are taking and ensure you are on the fastest and easiest route to get to your destination.

Goals are clear targets to be achieved within a set time frame and with specific outcomes. They focus your efforts in driving your business in a specific direction. They can motivate and drive you in a clear direction. They ensure that all employees are working towards a common outcome. Goals focus the attention of the business on a specific plan of action. Continue reading

What value do you put on the advice you get from your business mentor?

 

How do you show respect to your business mentor?

 

A while ago I read an article in the Guardian newspaper by James Caan where he talked about taking notice of your Business Mentor.

 

The first thing that sprang to my mind was “I wonder how he defines mentor?”. So many people seem to use the term interchangeably with coach and business advisor, and they really shouldn’t and I’ll be writing a blog about the differences in another post very soon.

 

It always amazes me how some businesses invest a lot of time, effort and significant amounts of their hard earned cash to pay for help/ support/ advice and then completely ignore it. Or they don’t share the knowledge throughout the organisation, so one area will be making great changes and the rest of the business fails to keep up with them.

 

So who or what qualities make a good mentor for you or your business? Well for me it has to be someone I can aspire to be like. Whether it be the person a couple of steps ahead of me on the promotion ladder or a business owner who has a successful business model I admire, someone I know has proven expertise in a field I don’t have. But for me that is the key. They have to be able to prove they’ve done something. They are the people who can stand up and say “been there, done that, & they wear the t-shirt with pride”. Continue reading

Why every business needs business processes, even if your business is just you.

I was recently talking to a supplier of mine about a customer complaint they had received and they asked me to help review their processes to make sure they couldn’t receive more complaints. They confidently told me that they couldn’t possibly have done something wrong because they “always” do things in a particular way during the sales process. Fantastic! I thought. They have some business processes…… Unfortunately when I started to ask more questions it all started to fall apart. It became clear that the business owner had a great vision, but her lack of clear communication to the staff, and a lack of attention to detail by all the staff meant every order we looked at they had done things differently, or not done somethings at all, and were regularly missing vital pieces of information. Not once had they followed the “guaranteed process” the business owner had described to me.

 

This is an established business with 3 full time staff, plus the business owner, all office based, and they are heavily reliant on repeat business. So the underlying and more serious issue was that the errors were frustrating their customers, and in some cases making the customers wary of buying from them again. (They found this out by carrying out a very simple and short telephone feedback exercise, which again prompted some very interesting discussions with the owner.) The tangible effect was that there was a noticeable and detrimental impact on their bottom line by a lack of reliability and repeatability.

 

The solution was really very simple. Continue reading

When did you last take a step back and consider the YOU in YOUR business?

First some questions for you:

  • Why and how did you get started in business?
  • Would you start the same business today?
  • What did you hope to achieve with the business by now?
  • Is the business the one you imagined you’d be running?
  • If not what’s different?

 

One of the first things I do when I start working with a business is do a comprehensive business review. One of the key points we cover (very early on) is asking the business owner the above questions. They are very important in finding out what drives the business owner, what their ambitions were, what they are now and also what the owners’ attitude towards their business is currently. Continue reading

Proposals and why you need them

Why write a business proposal?

 

Have you ever been asked to provide a proposal to someone about what you can do and how you can benefit their business? I often get told that they are a waste of time and not necessary in today’s business environment. Well I disagree.

I enjoy writing a business proposal. Does that make me strange? I’m not sure. But I write them for every job I do. I find that laying out in a very structured form what I have discussed with a client identifies whether I have enough information; and where I may need to ask some more questions. It clarifies my understanding of their business and what we are trying to achieve together.

I separate the tasks into small chunks so that I can agree with the client who is going to complete each one and when. If this is a proposal before we have agreed to work together then this allows the client to see the value of each chunk. if they want to reduce the cost of the project it clearly identifies any in-house work they can complete themselves – but also shows how the project is reliant on them actually completing these tasks.I often find that as a project progresses and value from each step is identified and measured I get asked to complete the steps that were initially removed.

The proposal can include initial projected timings, which can be important for some projects; and starts to identify which parts can be carried out in parallel with other parts of the project. Continue reading

Are you indispensable to your business?

I’ve talked in other blogs about the benefits of getting support as early as possible for your business; outsourcing those functions that are onerous to you in terms of time but add little value to the bottom line. So the next question is – what happens to your business if you’re not actually there?

 

Now if you have more than 1 business partner then maybe it isn’t such an issue, but if it’s just you & you need to take time off then what happens?

If you sell “you”/ your time / your knowledge it can be a real problem. The key id to think about what you do & make it replicable/ saleable in some other way so that people have access to your basic principles/ processes even when you’re not around. Continue reading

Physician Heal thyself

 

No this isn’t anything to do with health issues, or even a medical practice. But it is about looking after your own business in the same way that you look after your customers.

So why am I telling you this? Well I’ve recently had to have some very difficult conversations with a business owner. They are an established firm in the local area and a year ago were growing fairly steadily. They had a great mix of public and private sector clients. They offered a range of services at a reasonable prices and were well known on the local networking scene

Then a member of staff left and the business found it difficult to find a replacement, meaning that the rest of the staff were extra busy. The owner made the decision to concentrate on delivering for their existing customers and pulled the rest of the staff back from attending any and all networking events and exhibitions. This decision included the Business Development Manager. Continue reading

Cash is king

I’ve spent some time over the last week working on business plans for 2 businesses. One is a new start up in the middle stages of planning, and the other is an established business which is going through a major restructure which will allow them to survive after a tough few months.

 

One thing became apparent to me as I was working on their plans: Whether you’re in the very early stages of planning a new business, in the first few months of trading, or have been in business for a number of years, the changes in the banks lending policies over the last months have made one thing very clear. Cash is King. Your business, and mine, cannot survive without it, so while you probably know all these things, I thought I’d remind you, and myself: Continue reading

Celebrate your successes

image supplied by http://stockmedia.cc

So in my last blog I talked about having a plan to ensure that you can actually achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself or your business. And human nature being the way it is we are always the first ones to beat ourselves up about failing to achieve these goals. But how often do we celebrate when we do achieve them? It is very easy to forget the successes we do achieve as we go about our business lives so this year I’d like you to try something. Every day write in your diary, or in your calendar, or in a separate note book ANYTHING you have done well, anything you have achieved however big or however small. And if you can write more than one thing then write all of them down. But make sue you write something down. They don’t all have to be business related. Anything you do that make you feel good, that you have been putting off, or done for the first time, then record it.

And on those days when you think you’re not progressing towards your goals or you’re having a bad day then dig out these achievements you’ve recorded and have a read – I bet you’ll be surprised.

 

It’s also important to celebrate our successes and achievements. So whether you’ve won a new piece of business, finished a project on time, received a thanks you form a client then celebrate that. Whether it’s taking the team for a cup of coffee or a drink after work, having a glass of wine with a meal, a lunch for the work force, an ice-cream, do SOMETHING that says “yes, we did it”. And make that part of your business culture.

Some big corporations are very good at celebrating success, or even the completion of a project. It brings a closure to the piece of work and says thanks to the people in the team, who perhaps didn’t know each other when the project started, but then had to deliver something on time and on budget.

 

 

So what have you achieved today? And how are you going to celebrate it? And why not tell me what you’ve done, let’s all celebrate together.

10 top tips for where to find inspiration for your blog topics

10 top tips for new blog ideas…

 

As this is the first blog I’ve written for this site I thought I’d post some ideas for where I get the inspiration for new posts from, or which topics make me read a blog post.

  1. Conversations: as business owners we talk to people, a lot, so this is our primary source for ideas. Similar topics crop up regularly as concerns or areas of interest so we write about those.
  2. Newspapers: well OK any print media (or the online version of). I always have a flick through the business section of the papers when I’m at the gym or browse the internet news sites. What is there that interests you, affects your business or your industry?
  3. You have an area of expertise. Share that information with us. We’ll definitely know who to go to when we need that type of help then
  4. Other blogs: Whether you agree with what they say or not, they certainly trigger ideas for me.
  5. Your own blogs: Did you try to cram too much information into some of your older posts? Well why not turn them into a series of posts on one topic? Or pick a theme and turn it into a series of posts
  6. TV programmes: even if they’re not specifically business related if there’s something you see that you lean/ get information from then write about that. Imagine the customer service posts you could write based on Fawlty Towers!
  7. Business Books/DVDs/videos: most people have read one, and a lot of us read them regularly. Which do you like? and why? Even a review of the entire book, or share with us the one key message you take from it.
  8. Webinars/ networking events: well theoretically these could count as conversations as well, but write about what you liked about the event, who you met, did you learn anything from the presentation (there usually is one) and who do you think would benefit from attending the next event
  9. Planning for something? Then share with us the highs and lows, what happens, what goes well (and not so well) and what you learned from it. What you’d do the same and what you’d do differently next time.
  10. Personal experience: What or who has been the biggest influence on you or your business or your life? Tell us why and maybe we’ll get inspired too.

 

So that’s where we get our inspiration from. Where do you get yours? What should we have included on this list?