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

New year, new plan

Welcome to the new year. What have you got planned? Incremental business growth, a better work life balance (how long have you been promising yourself that?) or world domination?

Now is a good time to think about what you want and what that means for your business.

Here are some questions to get you underway with your plan:

1. What do you want your life to look like in 5 years time?
2. How much do you want to earn from your business?
3. How much do you need to earn from your business?
4. How many hours per week/month/year do you want to work in your business?

This will give you some idea of how much you need to earn per hour in your business. Don’t forget that you will need to cover your business costs and taxes too.

A good SWOT analysis will help you to decide how to earn the necessary profit. Look at your strengths, your weaknesses, and any opportunities and threats around you. Covid and potential lockdowns can provide both opportunities and threats to your business to make a plan to eliminate or buffer the formers and to be able to take advantage of the latter.

Take a close look at what you are actually doing. What will you sell and to whom? What problems do you solve?

Now you can start on the details of the plan:

1. Sales plan
2. Marketing plan
3. Staffing – who, when and at what level
4. Technology and other resources
5. Premises
6. Other costs
7. Taxes

If you need a hand with any of this then we’re running a Strategic Planning Day on 19 January. We’ll work through templates together to help you come up with your own plan for your best year yet. Email us to sign up.

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?

Even Baldrick had a plan

As we go into a new year, do you know what you’re planning for your business?

When you plan a holiday, you have a destination e.g., Spain or Scotland or perhaps a requirement such as Winter sun or skiing. Then you can work out how to get there, the cost of travel, accommodation, and any other extras. You may need to run your plan past others to get their agreement before you can actually book the holiday. And the holiday that you book will dictate what you need to pack.

And yet many business owners pay less attention to planning their business, the source of their income and the thief of their time.

We’re running a Strategic Planning Day online on Wednesday 19th January. We will take you through all aspects of your business plan for the year so that you set off with a clear direction and certainty of each step along the way. This will be run 10am – 3pm on Zoom for up to six businesses for £600. If you can’t make this date, or if you would prefer an individual company day for you and your team then contact us to organise a suitable date for £2,000. As we aim to avoid having competitors on the same session the businesses that sign up first can veto any later applicants.

To sign up for the day, or for further information, please email us.

Making a come back

It’s been a busy conference season and, for a professional speaker like me, that means staying in hotels where I eat far too much and don’t manage to do any exercise. And now I need to step up the training again and get back into good habits. The same can apply to stepping up your business as we settle into the next phase of the pandemic.

Mindset – moving from day to day thinking to looking forwards and investing in the future.
Goals – set some goals, even if they’re just steps along the way to a bigger goal.
Plan – get a plan in place to move you forwards towards your goals.
Action – make sure you actually follow through. JDI

If you’re okay for now then let me know your success stories. If you want a hand with how to move forwards or if you need some accountability along the way then call us about an individual or group session.

How to manage two businesses, write two books and look after yourself and your family

When I’m introduced at speaking events it usually includes something about how I run two businesses, write my books and look after two teenagers. It sounds a lot but here’s how I do it and how you can manage more too.

First, I try to limit my work to 25 hours per week to ensure that I have time for me and my teens. If I do something personal during the working day then I may choose to work an evening to compensate or I may accept that these is a quieter business week to make up for the weeks that are busier.

Pre covid I would try to book a holiday once a quarter. I think most of us have fallen into bad habits through lockdowns so do book your time off even if it’s just to pamper yourself at home rather than to go away. Rest is important to keep performing at our best.

I love everything that I do so no single part of it seems too onerous. I do find deadlines can be stressful so it is important for me to stay ahead of those by preparing early.

My life involves quite a bit of juggling so my diary is essential for my sanity. I have a default diary which schedules each morning to focus on a different aspect of my business. I split my main to do list between each of those 5 areas. The afternoons are kept free for meetings. If I have a speaking event that means that I can’t do one of my morning sessions then I move the appointment to another time.

On Fridays I double check my diary for the next week and move items from my to do list into an allocated morning slot.  My diary is usually pretty fully booked for two weeks ahead and probably half booked for the two weeks beyond that.

I’ve written elsewhere about the benefits of systemising, automating and delegating but please feel free to share your top tips too.

Do you invest in yourself?

As I write this I’m halfway through a two day coaching course which is really making me focus. I did my first coaching qualification about 10 years ago but never really used it until I set up Hudson Business Advice four years ago to coach accountants, bookkeepers and other business owners. In that ten year period I’ve forgotten a lot of what I already learned as well as picking up some sloppy habits.

I’m always very diligent about keeping my accountancy and tax knowledge up to date as that is a requirement of remaining a member of ICAEW. I also spend a lot of time perfecting my speaking as that is a newer skill for me and there’s plenty of room for improvement. I also go on business courses and read a lot around the subject so that I can improve my own business and also add expertise to my experience when helping other business owners.

I believe in continuous improvement of myself, my business, and the services that I offer. How much time and money do you invest in yourself?

Do some people work faster than others?

We’ve all observed that some people work faster than others but by how much?

The numbers I’ve heard (sorry I can’t find the source) are that the variation in manual work can be x2 and complex work like coding x16 between the fastest and slowest workers.

Whether these numbers are accurate or not we have all observed a discrepancy in work rate in the real world. A slower work rate benefits from roles that are paid based on inputs (hours worked) whereas a faster work rate is better paid on outputs as they can either achieve more in the same time or the same in a fraction of the time.

There seems to be a natural ability for this but there are also things that we can do to increase our own work rate:

  • Plan the work
  • Use the same process for repeat work
  • Avoid procrastination and time wasting
  • Have proper training
  • Gain experience, we all get faster as we become more familiar with a job
  • Do work that naturally motivates us
  • Don’t work when tired (my big argument for a 25 hour week)

If you run a business that effectively charges for peoples time you may have to adapt your business model to allow for this discrepancy in work rates.

Myths about setting up your own business

There are lots of myths about setting up your own small business so I thought I’d address some of them here.

  1. You can work shorter hours – I run my businesses on 25 hours per week and always have but that takes a huge amount of focus on efficiency. Most business owners work far longer than they did in employment, especially in the first three years
  2. You have more flexibility – true but this also means that you have the flexibility to work evenings and weekends.
  3. You can make more money – this may be true for a minority but most will be financially better of in employment. Combined with the long hours this means that most small business owners have an hourly wage below the minimum wage
  4. You have freedom to make your own decisions – true because the buck will always stop with you. There is nobody else to clear up if you make the wrong decision. You can buy in expertise and business coaches but ultimately you are driving the roller coaster
  5. Build it and they will come – have current business owners stopped laughing yet? Marketing exists for a reason. Every business needs a good idea, marketing/sales, and sound financial management. We cover the last bit in our Finance for Business Owners course.

When people approach me wanting to set up their own business I always ask “Why?” as many would be better off just finding an employer who offers better working conditions. But I also believe that we regret things that we haven’t done more often than things that we have done so, provided that they understand the risks and alternatives, we will always try to help them.

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?