I’m currently reading Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller which is about getting the right marketing message for our business. It’s very good and I recommend it.
Miller suggests that we make our customer/prospect the hero and that we are not a hero but their guide. As you can imagine it set off a train of thought as I reimagined my own business in this light.
How do you and your product/service guide your clients to solve their problems and reach their goal? Now, how can you build this into your marketing?
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.
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
6. Other costs
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.
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?
It’s something I read on Twitter that got me thinking. Far too often we talk about “deserving a rest” but we don’t earn rest.
Rest is fundamental to a good performance. When I coach athletes or do my own triathlon training we build in time for recover each week and after each large event. In the business world these are often called evenings and weekends.
If you are working most evenings or weekends you are probably not giving your mind time to recover so take a break. Not because you deserve it but because you need it! And because your clients need you to function at your best too.
Top athletes allow their bodies to recover and you should too.
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.
It can be lonely running your own business.
You are expected to present a positive (but not dishonest) image to your clients, prospects, and even to your team. It is important that everybody feels confident in you and the business prospects.
But what is the private truth behind the public image?
It may be serious mental health issues but, more commonly, it could be the 80 hour week that you’re working just to break even. The award you’ve just won could be your “reward” for never getting home for bedtime with your kids. The constant anxiety about whether there will be enough cash to pay the team and your own mortgage.
As a fellow business owner I really get this.
It’s why I write my books, and these tips, and the regular webinars for those who can’t afford our group or individual coaching. Obviously investing in the latter will help you to make any necessary changes faster and more effectively but I appreciate that they may not suit your budget right now so help yourself to the cheap and free stuff until you’re ready to invest in yourself.
For now I just want you to know that you’re not alone. We all have a pile of laundry to do, an overflowing inbox and an interminable to do list. That’s just the reality of life as an entrepreneur.
Don’t beat yourself up for being normal. Enjoy the highlights and work your way through the rest making one tiny improvement to your business each week.
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.
There are lots of myths about setting up your own small business so I thought I’d address some of them here.
- 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
- You have more flexibility – true but this also means that you have the flexibility to work evenings and weekends.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
Whilst I would encourage people to value price where possible it is often more practical to quote fixed prices.
Here are some of the things to consider when setting your prices for services:
- How long will it take?
- How complex is it?
- Does it need any particular expertise? And do you need to pay extra for this?
- How much does it cost in terms of hourly salaries?
- Can you use software to speed up the work?
- Are there other costs?
- How easy is the client is to work with? eg clear specification, providing information promptly, approving promptly and paying on time
- What is the acquisition cost? (Time and money spent on marketing)
- What proportion of overheads should be included in the fee?
With new clients there maybe a lot of unknowns and they may also take time to set up contracts, software, direct debits etc as well as more general familiarisation. These set up costs need to be covered too.