How much should I save?

How much cash should you leave in your business and how much should you take out?

The generally accepted wisdom is three month’s worth of costs. I don’t know the source of this figure, but this seems about right. If all your income stopped overnight, you would have three months to make plans.

In reality, unless there is a global pandemic, it’s unlikely that your income would all stop at the same time, so you’d probably have longer to find funding, start a new income source, or to ride out a temporary blip. Most income protection insurances take 3-6 months to kick in.

We should also have a similar amount easily accessible to cover our household bills.

The last eighteen months have been tough, but we need to rebuild our reserves ready for the future.

How long would your reserves last you?

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?

Myth busting: build it and they will come?

I’ve seen lots of startups think that, just by buying stock or building a website, they will automatically generate business but, as you experienced people know, it’s a lot harder than that.

How many things do we think will happen automatically?

I buy more books than I have time to read so I’ve had to replace my bedside table with a book shelf, not to mention my Kindle.

I buy new sports kit in the hope that it will get me one step closer to the gym. And don’t get me started on all those people who crowd into the gym in January but are nowhere to be seen by February/March.

I read business books or listen to talks and don’t implement the actions. These days I do make sure that they at least get written onto a to do list on Trello. I get some lovely comments about my books but I wonder if my readers are as bad about implementing as I am?

In an attempt to provide better value for money I set up online coaching programmes to work through the books and more. Each webinar is accompanied by an action list and we have three cohorts a year to work through these together. It may cost more than £14.99 for the book but, if you’re anything like me, it provides much better value because things actually get done.

What do you have to do to improve your business and make it work for you?

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.

Chairing effective meetings

We’ve all been stuck in ineffective meetings. They overrun on time, one person dominate the conversation and the wander off topic.

Whilst we can’t always control other people’s meetings (other than by being a considerate attendee) we can control our own.

Here are a few tips for chairing effective meetings:

  • Circulate a clear agenda including timings
  • Circulate any papers and other information beforehand. A couple of days before is best as, if you send things out too early, people set them to one side to read later and then forget
  • Only invite the necessary people, you can send minutes to others
  • Take contemporaneous minutes so that they can be circulated straight away rather than trying to find time to write them up afterwards.
  • All actions should be assigned a clear name and due date
  • Start the meeting on time. Respect the time of those who have made the effort to turn up on time rather than waiting for somebody who can’t be bothered. If you have a reputation for starting promptly most people will make more of an effort
  • If you need more time to discuss and item then schedule a separate meeting
  • Control the personalities; silence the overtalkers and encourage and listen to the introverts.

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?

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.

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)