Bring it on

2022 is here and, one week in, I’m still hanging on to my business plan.

What helps is that I have a list of specific actions for all 12 of my main projects for the year. And the actions for the first couple of projects have deadlines and time allocated in my diary. I know some of them will slip, especially the ones for later in the year, but at least it helps to make a good start.

Have you turned your New Year’s Resolutions into an action plan? I really find that it helps.

Make sure that your goals are SMART.
• Specific
• Measurable
• Achievable
• Realistic
• Time-bound

Communication overload – how accessible should you be?

This is the busiest time of year for accountants and we’re often overwhelmed by contact from clients (in addition to the clients who never respond to any of our chasing letters/emails/calls). How accessible are you? And are you too accessible?

My preferred methods of communication is email and I’m able to file these in Outlook and in my CRM for ease of use if I need them later. Many clients prefer phone calls so I take notes and file them in with their other documents and my CRM.

So far, so good.

But I also do a lot on social media for my businesses so people often message me that way on Twitter, Linked In or Facebook Messenger. And sometimes via Instagram or WhatsApp which I don’t use for business. With so many different channels these often don’t get added to my CRM so I’m left with a vague recollection of a message and having to find which platform it was on.

If you have any ideas on how to manage all this I’d love to hear.

I do have some wonderful tools to help with accessibility:

• VOIP + Answer It takes messages and forwards them to me by email
• Melu chat on both my websites is run by human beings based on a series of FAQs that I sent to them and which they are augmenting. They also forward chat summaries to me by email
• Calendly.com is great for scheduling calls directly into my diary and I receive email notification of these too.
• Voicemail – if I don’t recognise a number on my mobile, or if I’m on another call, my voicemail will record messages for me to follow up later.

How do you manage all your incoming communications or are you too accessible?

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?

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.

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 )  

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.