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?

Workaholism is an addiction

Too many people seem to be adopting a long hours culture. It’s partly because of the lack of options during lockdown but now it is time to STOP.

Your productivity decreases throughout the day. My average work week is just 25 hours with perhaps 90% of the output of a 40 hour week. A lot of my work requires my brain to be firing on all cylinders and that’s not the case as I start to tire.

So why do people work 60-80 hours per week instead of employing a second person for the job? It’s usually because they’re not making enough money to employ somebody else. On a quick Twitter poll the other day 25% of respondents were making LESS than minimum hourly wage. And a further 8% (33% altogether) were earning a lower hourly rate than in their previous employment.

So increase your prices (we run regular webinars on this) so that you can afford to employ/outsource. When your own hours reduce you will probably find that your productivity increases so that you can provide a better service to your customers.

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.

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.

What to do when staff outgrow you

In a small business it isn’t always possible to provide a full career path for all your team. Even if you are growing your growth rate may not be the same as that of each individual employee.

So what can you do when a member of staff asks for more responsibility, a promotion and/or a pay rise?

  • Decide whether they are ready to take the step up with your support
  • Check your business plan to see if it is possible to accelerate any recruitment or restructuring that you had planned
  • Decide whether you want to keep the individual in your organisation by adapting your plan to include them
  • If you can’t accommodate their needs then switch your role to one of career mentor and help them to move on to the most suitable role outside your organisation.

It’s always sad to lose a good member of the team but sometimes their needs are no longer compatible with those of the business and you need to go your separate ways rather than force them to stay and become frustrated.