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?

What is a coach?

I’m both a business coach and an athletics coach. In the past I’ve also held coaching qualifications for swimming and football (technically I still do as they are old enough to predate the requirement for expiry dates). That means that I work with fabulous people to improve what they are already doing. There are a number of coaching techniques that I use for both.

Observational analysis – I watch the athlete or business and report back on what I have seen and how this affects their performance. This might be a strange running technique or it may be that they are working too many hours. Some of this may be known to the athlete/businessperson but some of it may be new.

Notational analysis – this brings out the numbers geek in me. I like to compare progress over time and, whilst no two businesses are the same, it is sometimes helpful to benchmark against industry norms. As a runner myself I know that you can’t beat the feeling of a PB (Personal Best).

Performance profiling – I check the various parts of their performance to see what they are doing well and what needs work. When coaching runners this may be breaking down their arm action and, when coaching business owners, this might be

Technique – sometimes it’s enough to know what to do but sometimes you need somebody to explain how to do it step by step. This information can come from a mixture of qualification and experience. In athletics we have certain drills to improve different aspects of technique and the same in business.

Demonstration – In athletics this can be delivered by the coach, another athlete or a video. For some reason the business world classes this as mentoring rather than coaching but I am fortunate to be able to cover this too thanks to my experience founding and growing two businesses of my own as well as managing a number of other SMEs up to board level.

Goal setting – Agreeing on the overall objectives and for the current season. These should be enough to stretch you but not so much that they overwhelm you.

Accountability – There are always exercises to be done between coaching sessions. As a coach I make sure that everything is completed as agreed unless there is a good reason not to have done it.

Motivation – Whether preparing for a race or growing your business it is important to have somebody in your corner who believes in you and who will be cheering you on. Throughout the pandemic I have had to do far more of this than usual to help business owners produce their best performance.

If you’d like to find out more about our individual or group coaching then book a call. (Sadly, non-elite athletics clubs are closed for a little longer)

How to work within your limits

I’m a terrible gardener. Gardening is too active for my lazy days and too sedentary for my active days. Whilst I love eating fruit and veg that I’ve grown myself that goal alone isn’t enough to inspire me to put in the regular labour required even for the few things that I do try to grow.

As you might expect, for me this demonstrates a few things in the business world.

1. You need a Big Hairy Audacious Goal that will really inspire you on your lazy days. Just something ‘nice’ isn’t enough. Have a picture by your work station of your kids, your next holiday, your new car or whatever your reason for your business. In my case I have a seashell on my desk because I want to run my business remotely from somewhere near the sea.

2. You need tasks to do on your lazy days that will still move you closer to your goal. I’m quite happy to fiddle around with an online garden planner and order some seeds and compost. In the office it’s a good time to file or tidy up or clear some old emails. At the moment I’m writing this to avoid some other work but it will save me time later in the week.

3. You can find ways of making laborious tasks more enjoyable. If we’re all in the garden it’s much more fun and the work is shared. Even Grumpy Cat loves to join us outside. Pre-Covid our village ‘Working from Home’ group would spend Friday mornings working in one of the two local pubs.

4. Work at your best times. Whilst it might not suit most people I sometimes enjoy digging in the rain when the soil is softer. It’s another reason I believe in flexible working.

5. Know your limits and outsource where possible. About the only thing that I manage to grow in the garden is courgettes. (And none of the family really like courgettes!) So I order a weekly box of veg from the local farm shop effectively sourcing my fresh food production to somebody who is far better than me. I outsource work to those who are better than me, faster than me or just enjoy it more than me.

Anyway, I’m off to water my new apple tree and blueberry bushes in the hope of keeping them alive just a little longer.

How can I save the world?

Nobody can deny that times are tough at the moment with the double whammy of Covid and Brexit to cope with but we should still spare a thought for our environment and the world that we will leave for our kids.

The good news is that Covid has already prompted some good moves. Here are some ways that we can try to minimise our environmental impact.

  • Working from home or even at a serviced office close to home will eliminate the need to commute. If you need a commute as a mental break then try a walk around the block at the start and end of the day instead
  • Running a paperless office will reduce the amount of paper, ink and printers that are used as well as the file and furniture that we store them in. If you need some ideas then this is one of the free webinars that we run at least once a year
  • Online meetings where possible. Bingo! One of the benefits of Covid is that more people are doing this already. Once they’re interspersed with some real world meetings (business or personal) they should create a better balance
  • Walking, cycling and using public transport where possible will make a difference. Use a carbon offset scheme when car or even plane is the only option.

Dealing with criticism

It’s happened to all of us at some time. In spite of our best efforts we have been on the receiving end of some sort of criticism. Here are some ideas on how to handle it:

  1. Stop. You don’t have to respond fully right now.
  2. If you must respond now then make it something neutral and agree that you will take their comments on board and give a fuller answer later (if required).
  3. Allow the emotion to die down. Nobody likes to be criticised. If it helps then get it out of your system by writing a response that will never be spent.
  4. Bear in mind that they may have had a difficult day/week/year and just lashed out at the first available person. This may not be about you at all.
  5. Having taken the emotion out can you see if there was a genuine problem or if there is something that might have been misinterpreted as a problem from their point of view?
  6. Can you do anything to rectify this now or put ego aside to apologise appropriately and compensate if necessary?
  7. Is there anything that you can put in place to stop the problem recurring on to prevent similar misunderstandings?
  8. Having learned the lessons go and read some of the positive things from your book of testimonials, awards etc*
  9. Set the matter aside and get on with your business

I appreciate that this is all a lot easier to type than to do but the important thing is not to inflame the situation further.

*If you don’t already have a Positive Book then start collecting nice comments now ready for when you’re having a down day.

Seeing the other side

I like information in order to make decisions.

In order to understand both sides of an argument I need to ask questions. And I make my kids do the same. Those of you who follow me on social media may have noticed that I have strong views on Brexit but I still want my kids to think for themselves so, even back in 2016, I challenged them to give me 3 arguments for and against leaving. 

As business owners we often have to make fast decisions based on incomplete information but it is still important to look at the information that we have and to weigh up the alternatives. Throughout the pandemic and lockdowns businesses have been forced to pivot faster than the 32 fouettés in Swan Lake but pivots and fouettés are both about turning on the spot.

We run monthly Flyby sessions where business owners (accountants and others) can pop in to update their action plans monthly, quarterly or whenever, to that they are moving forwards rather than turning on the spot. It’s much more short term than our full Strategic Planning Day but it will keep you on track for the next month or quarter to ensure that you make real progress. 

How to manage a 25 hour working week

Initially I chose a 25 hour working week in order to fit around my small kids. These days they’re teenagers and (in normal times) busy with their own lives but I still continue to work shorter hours because, as the advert says, I’m worth it. But it’s not just me who is worth it, we all deserve a decent work-life balance.

It’s up to you whether you structure your time into fewer days a week, or 5 shorter days, or any other work pattern you fancy. Personally I prefer shorter days because I notice myself getting less effective as the day goes on.

Writing my first book made it quite clear to me that I have peak creativity and mental energy for about two hours per day. This is the time for tricky jobs or the really good quality stuff that moves my business forwards.

After that I switch on to less demanding jobs, the bread and butter of what I do.

Finally I move to admin and emails.

I flex the time to suit myself and I particularly like to take time to have lunch with friends or for language or singing lessons. This leaves the evenings free to focus on family. At the moment I’m using the time to get out of the house in daylight hours to get some exercise and increase my mental wellbeing.

Next week I’ll write about how you prioritise the work you do. (Or, if you’d like a hand to build a business you love, just book a chat about how coaching can help https://calendly.com/hudsonbusiness/consultation )  

Charlie’s MOT reminders

Are they helpful or salesy?

Charlie runs my local garage. As it’s just 15 minutes walk away it’s a convenient place to get my MOT done each year. And every year Charlie, or one of his team, sends me a reminder a month before my MOT is due.

I know that it’s now possible to get an email reminder via the .gov.uk website but Charlie has been doing this for years.

That reminder is true customer service because it helps me to ensure that my car is safe and compliant.

That reminder is good marketing because Charlie knows that I will pick up the phone and book my MOT with him. And, whilst doing the MOT, he may pick up additional work. And, as I see him as my regular garage he’s the first person I think about when the Service light goes on in my car.

What can you do to genuinely help your clients that will also lead to a sale?

How to separate amicably

… with the help of a shareholders’ agreement.

A shareholders’ agreement is a bit like a pre-nuptial contract. I always encourage businesses with more than one director/shareholder to get one drawn up and, if they can’t afford the legal fees initially, to at least discuss and document the important parts.

It’s all very well going into business with a friend but I really want them to remain friends when the business has ended.

The agreement includes details of how the company should be run and how each director shareholder will be remunerated.
• What if one wants to work part time while the other is full time?
• What if one is out meeting and greeting and bringing in new clients while the other is in the back office fulfilling all the ‘work’ or operations of the business?
• What if one invests cash instead of labour?
• What if one has a long term illness and has to be carried in the business for a year?

It should also contain details of how the relationship should end.
• Can a minority shareholder be forced to sell out because the majority has found a buyer?
• Can a minority shareholder be tagged onto a sell out by the majority rather than be left with a partner they didn’t choose?
• Can shares be part of a divorce settlement so that a divorced spouse becomes involved in running the business?
• Can shares be inherited if one shareholder dies or will the company buy them back?
• How will the business be valued if one or more directors decide to go their separate ways?
• Can shares be sold to third parties or must they be offered to existing shareholders first?

If you don’t already have a shareholders’ agreement in place consider getting one drawn up now.

How do you eat an elephant?

… One bite at a time. Or so the saying goes.

How do you complete a big project? One step at a time.

Whether completing a tax return, growing your business or constructing your dream house the steps are pretty much the same.

  1. Decide what the finished thing will look like and when.
  2. Work out the steps that are needed to get there
  3. Put the steps in order of what has to be done first and what can be done in parallel. Some steps will be dependent on others. Eg You can’t put windows into your house until you’ve built the walls.
  4. This is you project plan and can be mapped on software or just a simple checklist.
  5. Break each step down into bite sized pieces. I like to tie this into the Pomodoro 25minute cycles* but this isn’t always appropriate. Eg writing my books I can do about 2 hours at a time straight off (if I’ve already done the research) so it’s better without interruptions.
  6. Work out what resources you need for each step. eg You need all the paperwork etc before starting a tax return and you may want a coach or mentor to help grow your business.
  7. Now that you have the steps and resources add some timings; working back from the final deadline.
  8. Start. Don’t just dream but take action.

*For more on Pomodoro technique see Pomodoro Technique – Hudson Business Advice