I’m a Line of Duty fan and one of the things that really impresses me is their evidence packs. It’s like an enhanced audit file where everything they say has supporting documentation.
I only wish that my own business documented everything as well. I’m pretty good at making notes and writing processes but often create a second document rather than updating .
Do you document all your processes for yourself, for new starters, and for possible automation? Do you download all email attachments to a separate document management system? I’d love to get some idea of how everybody keeps their client/customer information and their standard operating procedures.
As a chartered accountant I have to make sure that, if anything happened to me, another qualified accountant could step in and keep Minerva Accountants ticking over using my procedures and notes.
Is your paperwork good enough? Would your business survive without you?
I recently did a wholly unscientific survey on Twitter to find out what hourly rate people were earning working for themselves and taking payment as drawings or salary plus dividends.
The shocking, but unsurprising, result was that 25% were earning below minimum wage.
A further 8% were earning less than they had in their previous employment. In spite of taking on additional business risks.
Whilst in start up mode it may feel necessary to reinvest your profits into the business or to work longer hours to save a salary. This is still a problem but there is a finite period. If you have not recovered your hourly rate by the 3 year mark then you need to get some expert help to tweak your business. (This may be me or another favourite coach)
Look at your pricing, look at the type of work that you’re doing, and look at your internal efficiencies before taking on any more work. It’s no good pouring water into a leaking bucket so fix your bucket first.
Please don’t continue working too many hours for too little reward.
Anyone who has done any level of carpentry or even DIY will understand the benefits of measuring more than once in order to make the cut right first time.
The equivalent in business is to make mistakes on your business plan.
Try things out on paper, excel or one of the brilliant forecasting apps that allow you to run different scenarios. Make any mistakes at this stage rather than running out of cash in real life.
For instance, I allow 3 months for a new team member to get up to speed. During this training period my own productivity will also drop so I now build this into any of my forecasts.
What other scenarios are you considering in your future business?
Too many people seem to be adopting a long hours culture. It’s partly because of the lack of options during lockdown but now it is time to STOP.
Your productivity decreases throughout the day. My average work week is just 25 hours with perhaps 90% of the output of a 40 hour week. A lot of my work requires my brain to be firing on all cylinders and that’s not the case as I start to tire.
So why do people work 60-80 hours per week instead of employing a second person for the job? It’s usually because they’re not making enough money to employ somebody else. On a quick Twitter poll the other day 25% of respondents were making LESS than minimum hourly wage. And a further 8% (33% altogether) were earning a lower hourly rate than in their previous employment.
So increase your prices (we run regular webinars on this) so that you can afford to employ/outsource. When your own hours reduce you will probably find that your productivity increases so that you can provide a better service to your customers.
My team always think that I’m very calm. Even when one of them has made a big mistake (which was rare).
I used to be much more excitable and respond to things without thinking but having kids has taught me that I am the grown up and the one who sets the tone for dealing with any problems.
And just being around for long enough to gather some experience helps. I’ve often seen this problem or something similar before. I may not have lived through a pandemic but I have traded through a recession and run a business with remote working.
Here’s how I handle crises these days:
1. Gather information and check facts
2. Reassure but don’t bluff. If you don’t know the answer admit that you don’t know but that you will find out
3. Limit any further damage before looking at the full solution
4. Do what needs to be done
5. Afterwards analyse and put systems in place to prevent it happening again. This is not about assigning blame!
6. Understand that we all make mistakes but if anybody is still making the same mistakes after adequate (re)training or deliberately ignoring the system then disciplinary action may be needed.
I heard this in a PSA (professional Speaking Association) talk and it really resonated.
Are we putting off the joy that we intended when we set up our businesses?
Are we reinvesting our profits for faster growth when we should be taking some of it for ourselves?
Are we spending silly hours working to grow the business faster when we could be spending that time with friends and family (now that we’re allowed out again).
If you knew you only had, say, five or ten years to live how would you spend your time?
Whilst most of my coaching clients want to grow their business or to get a better work life balance we have two who are preparing their businesses for sale and preparing themselves for the move into retirement (realistically semi-retirement because entrepreneurs never quite stop).
I did have four such clients but two of them liked the reorganised business so much that they decided that they didn’t want to leave after all.
If your business works independently of you it is not just easier to sell but it will also allow you to reduce your hours without impacting your profitability. Most of this is done by replacing the business owner with systems. Or with documented procedures that can be delegated, outsourced or even automated.
Whatever your plans for your business please don’t suffer in silence as we have a selection of group coaching programmes and individual coaching too.
With the return of face to face events this is one thing that I haven’t missed.
During Q&As the event organiser will offer a microphone to the audience member asking the question and a fair number will reject it announcing “I don’t need a microphone”
Well, I’m going to burst your bubble and tell you that you do. And here’s why:
- I’m a professional speaker and quite capable of projecting my voice to a significantly sized theatre and I still use one to save the quality of my voice.
- People fade as they speak. Especially if it’s one of those long questions that involves sharing your life history (don’t do this either; nobody is really interested)
- Your voice mainly travels forwards to it will be fainter for those behind you
- The event organiser will often be recording the event. If you don’t share your question via the microphone that is hooked up to the AV deck the speaker will have to remember to repeat the question “for the tape”
- Those wearing hearing aids will set them to a particular position for the best sound reception from the microphone. Use it in order to be accessible.
Also remember that the slot for Q&As is often limited so:
- Keep it brief
- Ask a question; don’t make a statement
- Ask yourself if it will really help the rest of the audience.
It’s been hard through lockdown when there aren’t many fun things to do when you do manage to take time off but it’s a good discipline to build rest time into your week and essential to help you produce better quality work. While you might feel “heroic” right now, in a short time you’ll be burnt out from working 80 hour weeks.
Look for displacement activities so that your brain switches away from work. It’s why I take Spanish lessons.
Look for restful activities. I love to read in a bubbly bath. Either mind improving business books or mind numbing chick lit.
What sort of activities do you usually do to relax and how has that changed during lockdown?
We’ve all seen shows where the hero is granted three wishes and they don’t quite get what they had in mind. And the same goes for setting targets.
I used to work in supermarkets to fund my way through uni. One of these was in central London and with so many customers living close to the store they often took trolleys all the way home and didn’t bother to return them.
About once a month the trolley boys would be asked to come in on a Sunday and go further afield to collect them in return for £5 per trolley. Not surprisingly, on the Saturday afternoon they would pay local kids to ‘hide’ some trolleys in a pre-agreed location for £1 each. So the store ended up paying for trolleys that were never ‘lost’ and the trolley boys made £4-5 per trolley that they ‘found’.
We must always be careful when setting targets that they prompt the desired behaviour.