Welcome to the minimum wage club

I recently did a wholly unscientific survey on Twitter to find out what hourly rate people were earning working for themselves and taking payment as drawings or salary plus dividends.

The shocking, but unsurprising, result was that 25% were earning below minimum wage.

A further 8% were earning less than they had in their previous employment. In spite of taking on additional business risks.

Whilst in start up mode it may feel necessary to reinvest your profits into the business or to work longer hours to save a salary. This is still a problem but there is a finite period. If you have not recovered your hourly rate by the 3 year mark then you need to get some expert help to tweak your business. (This may be me or another favourite coach)

Look at your pricing, look at the type of work that you’re doing, and look at your internal efficiencies before taking on any more work. It’s no good pouring water into a leaking bucket so fix your bucket first.

Please don’t continue working too many hours for too little reward.

Measure once, cut twice (why you need a business plan)

Anyone who has done any level of carpentry or even DIY will understand the benefits of measuring more than once in order to make the cut right first time.

The equivalent in business is to make mistakes on your business plan.

Try things out on paper, excel or one of the brilliant forecasting apps that allow you to run different scenarios. Make any mistakes at this stage rather than running out of cash in real life.

For instance, I allow 3 months for a new team member to get up to speed. During this training period my own productivity will also drop so I now build this into any of my forecasts.

What other scenarios are you considering in your future business?

Staying calm

My team always think that I’m very calm. Even when one of them has made a big mistake (which was rare).

I used to be much more excitable and respond to things without thinking but having kids has taught me that I am the grown up and the one who sets the tone for dealing with any problems.

And just being around for long enough to gather some experience helps. I’ve often seen this problem or something similar before. I may not have lived through a pandemic but I have traded through a recession and run a business with remote working.

Here’s how I handle crises these days:
1. Gather information and check facts
2. Reassure but don’t bluff. If you don’t know the answer admit that you don’t know but that you will find out
3. Limit any further damage before looking at the full solution
4. Do what needs to be done
5. Afterwards analyse and put systems in place to prevent it happening again. This is not about assigning blame!
6. Understand that we all make mistakes but if anybody is still making the same mistakes after adequate (re)training or deliberately ignoring the system then disciplinary action may be needed.

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.

“I don’t need a microphone”

With the return of face to face events this is one thing that I haven’t missed.

During Q&As the event organiser will offer a microphone to the audience member asking the question and a fair number will reject it announcing “I don’t need a microphone”

Well, I’m going to burst your bubble and tell you that you do. And here’s why:

  • I’m a professional speaker and quite capable of projecting my voice to a significantly sized theatre and I still use one to save the quality of my voice.
  • People fade as they speak. Especially if it’s one of those long questions that involves sharing your life history (don’t do this either; nobody is really interested)
  • Your voice mainly travels forwards to it will be fainter for those behind you
  • The event organiser will often be recording the event. If you don’t share your question via the microphone that is hooked up to the AV deck the speaker will have to remember to repeat the question “for the tape”
  • Those wearing hearing aids will set them to a particular position for the best sound reception from the microphone. Use it in order to be accessible.

Also remember that the slot for Q&As is often limited so:

  • Keep it brief
  • Ask a question; don’t make a statement
  • Ask yourself if it will really help the rest of the audience.

Are you getting enough rest?

It’s been hard through lockdown when there aren’t many fun things to do when you do manage to take time off but it’s a good discipline to build rest time into your week and essential to help you produce better quality work. While you might feel “heroic” right now, in a short time you’ll be burnt out from working 80 hour weeks.

Look for displacement activities so that your brain switches away from work. It’s why I take Spanish lessons.

Look for restful activities. I love to read in a bubbly bath. Either mind improving business books or mind numbing chick lit.

What sort of activities do you usually do to relax and how has that changed during lockdown?

Be careful what you wish for

We’ve all seen shows where the hero is granted three wishes and they don’t quite get what they had in mind. And the same goes for setting targets.

I used to work in supermarkets to fund my way through uni. One of these was in central London and with so many customers living close to the store they often took trolleys all the way home and didn’t bother to return them.

About once a month the trolley boys would be asked to come in on a Sunday and go further afield to collect them in return for £5 per trolley. Not surprisingly, on the Saturday afternoon they would pay local kids to ‘hide’ some trolleys in a pre-agreed location for £1 each. So the store ended up paying for trolleys that were never ‘lost’ and the trolley boys made £4-5 per trolley that they ‘found’.

We must always be careful when setting targets that they prompt the desired behaviour.

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)