Is your business working for you or are you working for your business?

When I started up each of my businesses I had a dream. Not a huge, Martin Luther King type of dream that would change the world, but a smaller dream of helping business owners while having a decent work-life balance for myself.

I wrote down my vision in one sentence. Nothing complex but just to remind me.

And each time I had to make a big decision I came back to my dream to see whether this particular decision would move me closer to my dream.

But often we make a lot of smaller decisions that mean that our business drifts away from that dream and we just end up with a job that we have to do in order to pay the bills. When I work with clients on our individual or group coaching programmes I encourage then to recapture that dream but also to take actions.

Here are some of the actions that you can take:

  • Review your pricing to ensure that you are being paid what you are worth
  • Review your clients to ensure that you are selling to the right people profitably and enjoyably
  • Review the type of work that you are doing to ensure that you are doing profitable AND enjoyable work
  • Review your marketing to ensure that it is all aimed at getting more of the right people and the right work
  • Review how you are spending your time to see if there are things that would be better off delegated or outsourced. How many small business owners are trying to do their accounts at the end of a long week? And how many accountants are doing their own graphic design?

You may prefer to do this on your own but, if you want some accountability, then come along to our monthly Flyby sessions (see below). If you would like more proactive input or specific advice from me then try our coaching programmes.

Hurdling through Covid

I’m an athletics coach as well as a business coach. This means that I often get called in to make up the numbers for track and field events. I’m not very good at them but it’s easy to collect a lot of points by coming third of three in the less popular events. One of the events that I discovered in middle age was the 400m hurdles.

And, you guessed it, I have an analogy with business life.

400m hurdles may be a longer distance than 100m hurdles but there are the same number of barriers to cross. At the 100m start I can just see a row of obstacles and it is quite intimidating to stare at them while waiting for the gun. The 400m hurdles are spaced out so that I can only see one at a time and there is time between them to recover my stride before focussing on the next challenge.

For me, and for most of the accountants and business owners that I coach, the last 15 months have felt like a very long 100m hurdle event. Obstacles coming straight after each other with no opportunity to recover in between.

Now we’re heading back to a new normal which is more like the 400m event with time for recovery between each hurdle. It is up to us to make the most of the flat bits to recover and prepare as well as to move forwards, ever forwards.

Have you booked yourself a holiday yet?

Have you got your self a post-Covid plan? Can we help?

Welcome to the minimum wage club

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.

Workaholism is an addiction

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.

Staying calm

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.

Bring forward the joy

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?

To sell or not to sell

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.

Are you getting enough rest?

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?

Be careful what you wish for

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.

What do you want to look like?

I have a deadline! I have until 21 June to get back in shape and get my life together. Yes, I’ve coped pretty well for the last year (and I’m aware that many have struggled) but I want to get back to thriving and actively enjoying life rather than making the best of things.

I know what I want to look like (20 years younger and a stone slimmer 😉) but I also need to think about what I want my business to look like. I don’t know about you but my 2020 plans were put on hold and 2021 was also curtailed. Although I managed to double the size of my business it was much more Plan Z than Plan A.

How did you do through the various lockdowns and restrictions? Was it business as usual or did you have to pivot? Will you continue with your new style business or will you go back to Plan A or do you have a new plan?

Will you work from home or office or a local hub or home office like me? I know a few people who have moved to bigger houses because they will be working from home more in future and want a proper office rather than a corner of the kitchen table. What will happen to your office premises? With the technology to work from anywhere in the WORLD where will you work from?

Did you introduce new tech for remote working and other efficiencies or have you spent the last year being cautious and cutting all costs possible? Do you need to invest in your business again?

Did you enjoy spending more time with your family and will you keep up baking banana bread or the foreign language you’ve been learning? Or were you too busy to do any baking? Are there any good things that you want to retain in your life and your business?

With a provisional date on the horizon we need to start preparing for the post-Covid, post-Brexit world.

What will you do from pre-Covid, what will you do from Covid and what are you looking forward to starting post-Covid?