What if I had never got back in the water?

When I was seven I nearly drowned!

I was a strong swimmer so I was doing a personal survival lesson in oversized pyjamas as I was the smallest, skinniest kid in the class of older children. It didn’t take long before I was struggling to keep my head above water and fortunately one of the boys, two years older than me, noticed and held me up while the swimming teacher leapt in to rescue me.

My mother was teaching a different class in the pool so she sat with me for a few minutes to check that I was okay and then … SHE MADE ME GET BACK IN THE POOL. Minus pyjamas. (She wasn’t that cruel.)

I am eternally grateful that she did as water is where I am happiest; either in it or beside it.

In later years I went on to qualify as a swimming teacher and lifeguard myself and, if I haven’t bored you with my ironman triathlon exploits then you’re very lucky. But how different would my life have been if she hadn’t helped me to rebound from that experience.

Of course there’s a business analogy. How do you bounce back from disasters? Are there things that you’re too scared to try because of a bad experience?

What’s the worst that can happen?

I did it! I completed my first triathlon in over four years!

Not only did I complete it but I managed to do it in similar times to fours years ago when I was much fitter.

It wasn’t fast and it certainly wasn’t pretty (everybody’s bum looks big in a wetsuit!) but a large proportion of the entrants were DNF (did not finish) and others were DNS (did not start).

And it’s the same in business. Too many people miss opportunities because they never get started.

I’m a great supporter of Bryony Thomas’ principle of overcoming perfectionism by releasing things which are “functional but not too embarrassing” then coming back and improving them at a later date. I write my books quickly to capture my thoughts, and then edit slowly to make sure that my readers will be able to follow those thoughts.

I also use a business coach (as well as being a coach myself) because, although we often know what to do, we never get around to it without somebody to hold us accountable.

So this week why don’t you JFDI (Just F Do It) and perhaps even join one of our September cohorts to help you to do it faster?

Efficiency: conserve your strength for the long haul

Lots of triathlon and sports metaphors to come. Triathlons, like running a business, are an endurance event. We’ve seen the Brownlee brothers and others helped across the finish line (there’s another message there about needing support, even in individual sports). Speed alone is no good if you can’t make it to the final goal.

Working long hours just won’t crack it as many folk are finding out after working through stressful lockdowns without a break.

Personally I like my 25 hours working week spread over 5 days. I can feel my brain slowing down throughout the day so better to go and do something nice with family or friends, or a bit of alone time rather than push on through (unless there’s an exceptional deadline).

Whatever hours you choose to work you want every one of them to count and that’s why we focus so much on efficiency on the online courses and couching sessions.

Look for one thing you can do more efficiently this week; perhaps by automating or delegating it or just improving the system.

Are you making progress?

I was talking to a client today who felt that she hadn’t made progress because she hadn’t actually achieved any of the goals that she had set herself.

Sometimes business feels like this. It’s a bit like running on the flat ground between hurdles. There is still forward motion even though you haven’t increased your hurdle count.

We might set arbitrary deadlines of month end cash collection targets. If a large cash sum arrives the day after month end then, in harsh terms, you’ve missed the target but, in reality, it’s only a day behind and may still be a new record.

I like to break projects into lots of smaller hurdles but please don’t forget that you are making progress when running between them on the flat too.

Please do set yourself nice stretch goals but applaud yourself for the bits in between too.

How do you want to spend your day?

When I first set up my business I had a vision of how I wanted to spend my days and you probably did too.

I wrote mine down but you may have a vision board or another means of capturing what you, personally, wanted out of your business. (If not then you should consider doing this now)

How does your typical day compare to this ideal?

Over the last 16 months many of us have drifted away from this but we now have time to catch our breath and make improvements. I could tell of the benefits of a decent business coach to make things happen in your business but you can still do things for yourself.

What ONE thing can you do today to move your business closer to the business you originally dreamt of? Now do it. TODAY.

Periods and menopause – for the men

These are often seen as women’s issues but, as about half the workforce are female, they’re things that employers need to know, whether they are male or female.

By the time women are old enough to hit the workforce they should be able to cope with their periods but some women may suffer quite debilitating pain or heavy flow that will affect their work for a few days each month.

Employers can help by:
• Being aware
• Allowing flexible working
• Allowing home working
• Running meetings to time. How many women have been sat waiting to dash to the bathroom when a meeting is dragging on?
• Being a little more sympathetic on the bad days and save the horrid jobs for another day unless it really is urgent (we’ll still get it done as we are professionals, after all)

Menopause is something else that hits women differently around ages 45-55. There is a period of peri-menopause prior to periods actually stopping when the body does strange things and sleep can often be disrupted.

Employers can help by:
• Being aware
• Allowing for different ventilation in different areas for those hot flushes and for variations in uniform if necessary
• Allowing flexible working
• Allowing home working
• Being a little more sympathetic on the bad days and save the horrid jobs for another day unless it really is urgent

For more information then Lauren Chiren over on Linked in does some great training for men as well as women. She’s a professional whose life was set back because she didn’t recognise the symptoms of her early menopause and now she is raising the profile of the topic so that others avoid the same problems.

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.