Being there

As you may know I do a lot on social media. Whilst I may not follow the advice of experts I do get business this way, and last year I was ranked 4th in ICAEW’s “social media influencer” table.

Here’s my talk on how to use social media to punch above your weight

But the thing that you must do is BE THERE. People often ask for referrals online and I love to be able to recommend experts that I have worked with. It is very frustrating as it creates a negative impression when that expert does not pick up the referral for a week or more. If you can’t be online every day then do set up notifications.

Trading through the tough times

Some businesses were founded during a recession:
Disney, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Hudson Business Accountants and Advisers.
No matter how bad things are, we all have to do the right things in order to produce the best possible results:

  • Build robust internal systems for maximum efficiency
  • Recruit a service focused team to be the friendly human interface between these systems and clients
  • Be clear on who our ideal customers are and focus our marketing accordingly
  • Have consistent marketing and sales systems rather than relying on good luck
  • Nurture our clients through the early days and reward loyalty
  • Look after ourselves in order to look after everyone and everything else in the business (it’s why I write so much about self care)
  • Look after our team (whether employees, subcontractors or outsourced) so that they will look after our business
  • Get your pricing right

If you can manage through the tough times you will be a roaring success in the good times.

How to balance working on and in your business

Small business owners usually do a mixture of working on and in their business. It’s very easy to get sucked into working IN your business to generate profits and income today but it is also essential to work ON your business to grow and generate future profits.

So how do we get the balance right?

I use a default diary to try and ensure that I get a good balance at the planning stage.

Monday: ON catch up on admin, clear my inbox, follow up leads.
Tuesday: IN Write, rehearse and record webinars and talks for the speaking and training parts of my business. 
Wednesday: IN Minerva Accountants work.
Thursday: ON/IN Marketing and content writing for myself and third parties as I write content and articles for fintechs and accountants.
Friday: IN/ON Individual and group coaching for my various online programmes and then my own business development time, implementing ideas from books, webinars and conferences that I have attended.

Of course, in the real world, it isn’t easy to stick to this but having it in my diary in the first place means that I am more likely to move my work slots around than to cancel them completely.

On a Friday afternoon I like to plan out any remaining work in my diary so that I can hit the ground running on a Monday morning.

How do you structure your week?

Working from home – the long game

As some parts of the country are in local lockdown and we’ve all been encouraged to work from home again we need to get set up properly for working from home.

For 7 months now businesses have been making excuses for poor service and blaming working from home. Frankly, apart from a few badly hit sectors, if you haven’t adapted by now then it sounds a bit hollow. (If you want ideas on how to adapt then watch Hudson Business Advice’s old ‘One for All’ Covid videos or book onto their 30 day Makeover course starting 1 November – see for further information).

Employers still expecting their team to work from their premises need to have a pretty good risk assessment, and some types of business may also be called upon to explain WHY they can’t mitigate risks by working from home.

Make it easier to work from home with:

  • VOIP phone system for external calls or an alternative method of contacting the team. I have a VOIP phone but I also use Answer It answering service to take messages or redirect calls.
  • Paperless systems. Even the smallest businesses can store information in the cloud for free or cheaply. Where possible send out information electronically to minimise the number of people touching a document. I use the business version of Onedrive.
  • Online signatures for contracts, accounts etc. I use Signable and Accountancy Manager for the two sides of my business.
  • Internal communications for managing work. Invest in a workflow system. I use Trello, Active Campaign and Accountancy Manager for the different aspects of my businesses
  • Informal internal communications such as Slack or Microsoft Teams.

There are plenty of other cheap or free ways to run your business from home now that we have time to catch our breath and plan.

What is decision fatigue? (part 2)

Decision fatigue is the exhaustion that comes with making constant decisions. My tip this week is to remove some more of the smaller decisions in your life, so here are some ideas for deciding what to eat AND trying to keep it healthy(ish).

I really admire those people who spend a day each weekend bulk cooking for the whole week. Although I love cooking I’m not that organised.

  1. Plan your meals a week ahead so that you don’t end up ordering a takeaway or snacking on junk just because you’re hungry and can’t decide what to eat.
  2. Cook double quantities and freeze half for a busy day.
  3. Order a veg box. You just have to cook what turns up, whether you like it or not. If anybody has any recipes for courgettes where you can’t taste the courgettes then please send them to me. It’s not just the veg box but the only things I have growing in my garden are tomatoes and … courgettes.
  4. Order a fruit box. Healthy snacks! Also pots of dried fruit and bowls of homemade popcorn instead of crisps for those who prefer something savoury.
  5. ‘Hello Fresh’ and similar meal boxes. Choose them in a matter of minutes ready for the following week. It’s great for trying new things and they come with brilliant instructions so the teens are able to cook a meal without input from me.

Give it a try and let me know how you get on.

What is decision fatigue?

Decision fatigue is the exhaustion that comes with making constant decisions. My tip this week is to remove some of the smaller decisions in your life so here are some ideas for deciding what to wear.

I’d like to think that I simplified my wardrobe long before Steve Jobs or Barack Obama but I don’t know when they started to wear their ‘uniform’ rather than spending time deciding what to wear each day.

  1. The simplest thing is to limit your wardrobe to one main colour so that you need fewer changes to match outfits. You may have noticed that I’m almost always wearing blue with black footwear.
  2. I also wear branded polo shirts and jeans for normal work days. They’re as comfortable as a t-shirt so can be worn when working from home but the collar makes them slightly smarter. Choose something that matches your business image.
  3. These days I follow a 333 clothes system where I choose 33 items of clothing (excluding underwear and sports kit) to last me 3 months. Any seasonal clothes get stored in a box in the loft. I’m pleasantly surprised that I haven’t needed to cheat yet but you set your own rules.

Give it a try and let me know how you get on.

Minimising your interruptions

Interruptions can be a real pain when you’re trying to get on with the real work or the sort which requires concentration.

Here are a few ideas of how you can reduce, or at least manage, your interruptions:

  • Calendly is my best friend. Linked to my diary people can book phone calls at a convenient time. No more of those emails backwards and forwards trying to find when everybody’s diaries are free. The first tier of Calendly is free.
  • If you have a PA or receptionist then give them clear instructions for managing your phone calls
  • If you’re on your own then invest in an answering service. We use Answer IT who will either take messages or put through calls like your own receptionist. They can even manage your diary. You can divert your phones to them whenever you need to focus.
  • Turn off your notifications or leave your phone in another room. Yes, I know you’ve been told before but actually do it please.
  • A default diary makes it much easier to control your week. I block time out when I need intense concentration.
  • If you have a team then an open/closed door can be a good indicator of when they can and can’t interrupt you

Try one or two of these suggestions and let me know how you get on.

Too many ideas and not enough time

Some people struggle for ideas for their business. They have read so many books and been to so many talks but they don’t have time to implement everything or don’t know where to start.

I’m a bit like this. The ideas make it as far as my ideas folder but sometimes don’t go any further. In all honesty some of them probably don’t deserve to go any further as they were bad ideas in the first place. But it isn’t just a waste of the money and time that I spend reading/listening/watching, it’s the lost potential for a fabulous business.

The best way I found to get out of this dilemma was to work with a business coach. Yes, I know I’m a coach myself but I still work with a coach for exactly the same reasons that you may need one.

  • She helps me see the wood from the trees when I’m too busy
  • She is a critical friend who will challenge me when necessary
  • She has experience in my industry so is great to bounce ideas off
  • She helps me to plot a clear path and turn my ideas into an action plan
  • She (metaphorically) kicks my backside to get things done before our next call
  • She helps to celebrate as she know how much work really went into those “overnight” successes.

Anyway, a big thank you to my coach this week as we’re set to launch the ‘ScaleUp Blueprint’ course and my ‘Growing by Numbers’ book moves further along the publisher’s pipeline.

Mastermind or business coach?

Masterminds can be really good. I belong to one for my speaking. We are all at about the same stage in our speaking careers but with different business models. At the moment we are all learning and sharing what does and doesn’t work and why. It is really helpful and costs nothing, but we don’t have all the answers and we all have a long way to go.

But I’ve just been selected to speak at a very prestigious event later this year (more later when I’m allowed to talk about it) which could really make my speaking career. None of my peers have the experience to help me. So I’m about to invest several thousand pounds in a speaking coach who will help me to refine both my content and my delivery to make the most of this 30 minute opportunity.

So, whilst masterminds can help with regular, day to day support it still takes an experienced coach/mentor to push on towards excellence.