4 hour work week

Have you read the book ‘The 4-hour work week’ by Timothy Ferris?

I read it a few years ago thinking that it would help me to run my business more efficiently in just 4 hours a week. Whilst it does have lots of efficiency tips for any business, it was built around the idea of building a business purely to earn money to finance a lifestyle. While this may be your objective too I was disappointed that there was no thought of creating enjoyable work or focus on serving a client’s needs. 

If you haven’t read the book then I can recommend it as it certainly gave me a few ideas that helped me to run a business I loved in a 25-hour work week, and I believe we helped our clients and their businesses too.


Being consistent on social media

Anyone who’s already read my latest book ‘Growing by numbers: How to scale up your business with confidence‘ will know I talk up the importance of steady marketing throughout the year.

A large part of your marketing plan should include having a strategy to ensure a consistent and active presence on social media. Here are a few tips based on what I have found works well for me:

  • Find the right platforms for your business – think about your target market, your professional network and factor in where you feel comfortable hanging out too. For me, Twitter continues to be my number 1 social media space , but I also have a presence on LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • Find a scheduling tool that works for you. My system of choice is Smarterqueue.
  • Set up a bank of key messages and reminders that can go out regularly on a repeat loop, e.g. we have a course that starts with a new cohort each month – we send regular reminders about that out and schedule repeat posts. Don’t forget that not everyone sees everything all of the time, so while you might worry about being repetitive, chances are that other people won’t get that impression.
  • Set time aside on a weekly or fortnightly basis to update your plan and schedule new posts.
  • Outsource where it makes sense to –  I work with a Virtual PA who updates the website and posts my blogs on a weekly basis – she then schedules posts to go out several times to share new information.
  • Build up a bank of visuals to go out with posts, incorporating brand colours and fonts and a mix of free stock images and brand photographs where you have some – we use Canva regularly for this  (again, my Virtual PA works on this on a regular basis).
  • While lots can be scheduled it’s important to show up in person consistently too – after all, it’s called ‘social’ media for a reason. If you don’t naturally find yourself engaging with others on each platform you’ve a presence on throughout the week, set aside some time each week to do just that.

The power of a diverse team

I once worked with a young lad who had exactly complimentary skills to mine. Together we made the perfect team as we shared the same values and would happily shunt the workload between us to whoever was best suited to handling the task or customer. This compatibility meant that, although only two people, we were probably as effective as three.

I’m afraid that I spoilt the dynamic when I went off to have babies and then moved to France.

Roll forward several years and my own kids operate as a power team as one thinks linearly and precisely, while the other is a problem solver who thinks so far outside the box that they don’t even realise that there is a box. For years now their combined efforts have been enough to outwit most adults. (It’s also why I have so many grey hairs just from trying to stay ahead of them).

Even if you never discover such a perfect pairing it is worth having a diverse team who bring different skills and ideas so that the combined efforts are much more than the sum of the individuals.

Managing your interruptions

I recently received a complaint from somebody for posting in a WhatsApp group in the middle of the night. Had I realised that they had audible notifications switched on I would have been more considerate, of course.

But it made me wonder how many of us allow our phones etc. to dictate our lives.

Whether in meetings, writing, recording videos or checking a set of accounts, most of my work requires concentration so I try to minimise interruptions. I also like a good work/life balance. And woe betide anything that disturbs my beauty sleep.

Here are some of the things that I do which may be useful to you.

  • Define your ‘office’ hours. I prefer 9-5 when working with UK clients but it’s not always possible when coaching business owners overseas.
  • Use Calendly or similar to schedule telephone and zoom calls when it suits you.
  • Turn off audible and pop up notifications on all devices.
  • Keep your phone on silent or vibrate unless expecting a call.
  • Use the Do Not Disturb function on your phone for a good night’s sleep or when in meetings. I-phone allows certain important numbers to overcome this as I still want to be contactable if anything happens to my kids.
  • Use an answering service to get rid of cold callers and forward messages. I’m happy to recommend the one we use.
  • Have a voicemail message which encourages users to leave their own message rather than keep trying to ring you.
  • Be selective about which apps you want to use ‘badges’ for or other passive notifications. I use these for my business emails on all devices and for Twitter and LinkedIn on the iPad that I use for social media.

Decide how accessible you want/need to be and set everything up accordingly. And remember that you control your communication devices, not vice versa.

How do I know when I need to delegate?

There are several times when it is good to delegate:

1. Profitability – when you could make more money by paying somebody else to do the job while you earn more money elsewhere. This is why I have a PA

2. Procrastinating – when you’re not getting around to the task for some reason, either a genuine reason or an excuse because you don’t want to do it. Sometimes it needs to be you but, if somebody else can do the job then hand it over so that it actually gets done

3. Dislike – this is a bit of a luxury but is also one of the perks of running your own business. After all I persuade business owners to hand over their bookkeeping and accounts which I love and they hate (see also procrastinating!)

4. Expertise – when somebody can do a better job than me it makes sense to pay them to do it. I recently saved hours by delegating an IT problem to a local company to sort out.

Learning to delegate may not come easy to some but it is the only way that your business will grow bigger than just you.

Value your time

I’ve just been watching an online conversation which includes some people who appear to want to work for nothing.

You’ve probably realised by now that I love all sorts of efficiencies. When you’re trying to run a business in just 25 hours per week (as I was) it makes sense to pay a little to save time which you can spend earning much more.

As always somebody was looking for free software to do a particular task.

The camp was split between using a free app which only did half the job or paying a few pounds for an app to do it all. I’m biased because we used to pay for the app in my practice. BUT we paid for the app because it was cheaper than paying a junior to faff around finishing off the manual part of the job.

The software was cheaper than a junior so imagine the time cost if the business owner was the one doing the manual work.

Please do put a value on your time. If £6 saves you half an hour in which you can earn more then you should be paying the £6.

What sort of ways could you pay to save time?

Tiny productivity hacks

I’ve been struggling a little with mental discipline since Coronavirus has been a reality in the UK. It’s not a problem I usually have so I’m only just learning how to cope. It takes a lot of mental strength to overcome my natural inclination to procrastinate and, after however many weeks into lockdown, I’m at last starting to do something about it.
Since changing email provider I have been unable to handle my emails through my laptop Outlook app, so I’ve been accessing them on my ipad until I had time to resolve the problem. It was only meant to be a short term fix but, like many of these things, it has dragged on because I had more urgent/important things to deal with.
So each time I wanted to send an email (a big bit of what I do) I had to go onto my ipad … with my social media apps. My ipad usually sits on my desk anyway so I can have a bit of a chat between jobs and it doesn’t usually distract me while I’m actually working. But now it is! 
So I’m getting it fixed this week in the hope that this tiny change will sort my number one distraction and increase my productivity.
The second thing is that I’ve stopped reading as much as I used to. Last week I forced myself to read and I finally identified that the spotlight above my bed is not bright enough to use as a reading light (whereas Netflix needs no external illumination). I’ve moved in a proper reading light and I’m back up to a book a week. 
Have you got any similar examples of where a tiny thing is causing a disproportionate disruption?

Cloud normalists not cloud specialists

Cloud is now old hat. Even before the Corona Virus caused many of us to work from home most modern businesses were going paperless and using cloud based software*

So what software do we use with most of our clients?

  • Receipt bank – to get your data into Xero as simply as taking a photo or forwarding an email. Optical character recognition does the rest
  • Xero – to link directly to your bank statements so that your accounts are as up to date as possible for those important business decisions and loan applications
  • Xavier – which helps us to check the quality of bookkeeping. We use it to check our own bookkeeping and for the few clients who insist on doing their own.
  • Fluidly or Futrli – to keep track of cashflow which is so vital at the moment
  • Clarity – to help you improve your business through tracing 7 key indicators.

While the software in our tech tool box does the heavy lifting we can then help you to CHANGE your numbers with our free monthly Money Matters webinars and our online Flyby review sessions. We might recommend other software depending if we think that it will make your business run more efficiently and help you to create more profit for the hours that you put into your business.

*If you’re not already using cloud based software then we can help you to migrate. If for some reason you don’t want to use the software that we like then we’ll be happy to introduce you to accountant colleagues who use other software

How to write a business plan when you’re not clairvoyant

There are so many unknowns at the moment. Your business plan for this year is probably as much use as a chocolate teapot in guiding your business through this challenging time. But how are you going to navigate your way out of the Corona pit if you don’t have a route map?

1.Start with your personal objectives.

Are these still the same? Many business owners are enjoying the time with family or not having to endure a commute. Do you still want what you did before?

We use a Balanced 10 Scorecard to look at 10 different aspects of our clients’ lives. Business and Finance are only two of the things that we believe need to be balanced in your life.

2. Business objectives.

With your new personal objectives where do you now see your business in 5 years time? Will you still need premises? Will you invest in software to increase productivity and save that precious time? This is your destination. It is common to set this out in financial terms.

3. 3 month plan

Just as you can’t drive a long distance in one go it is wise to plan stops along the way to take a break, stretch your legs, and make sure that you’re still heading in the right direction. A 3 month plan (or 90 days or 12 weeks) is a good period with a foreseeable timeline.

4. Where are you now?

Evaluate where you are now. What is working and what isn’t? What will take you towards your destination? What do you need to start doing and what should you stop? What can you change now and what will need to wait until we are able to live and work with the virus safely under control?

5. Action plan

How fast can you travel the route? Map out your detailed actions for the next 3 months. Think about what you need to do in terms of people, marketing, systems and products/services.

Each action should have a specific deadline and a person responsible. If it’s a longer term project then only include the actions which need to be taken in the next 3 months. The way to eat an elephant is one mouthful at a time.

6. Review

At the end of each quarter take time to review your progress. Celebrate your successes and learn from anything that didn’t go so well. Do you need to update your overall plan?

7. Reset

Reset your plan and actions for the next 3 months and you’ll gradually get closer to your 5 year goals for your business and personal life.

We can help you to keep track along the way with regular management accounts, business plans and advice. We also run our monthly FLYBY reviews so that you can book on each quarter to get help with points 6 and 7.

Catalyst for growth?

As I’ve had time to speak to more businesses this week it would seem that Covid 19 has been a catalyst for all sorts of business improvements that were already in the pipeline.

I’m sure that many business owners, like me, have a file full of ideas, some of which might even have made it as far as a full blown business plan. Minerva Accountants was one such plan for me (although the reality took a bit longer waiting for ICAEW to process my practising certificate).

I’ve also heard of businesses combining sites, implementing new technology, and outsourcing work. All things that they had already identified as cost and efficiency gains. The virus has moved these things from the important but not urgent quadrant to the urgent and important.

What ideas have you got in your repertoire that now need to see the light of day?