When I was seven I nearly drowned!
I was a strong swimmer so I was doing a personal survival lesson in oversized pyjamas as I was the smallest, skinniest kid in the class of older children. It didn’t take long before I was struggling to keep my head above water and fortunately one of the boys, two years older than me, noticed and held me up while the swimming teacher leapt in to rescue me.
My mother was teaching a different class in the pool so she sat with me for a few minutes to check that I was okay and then … SHE MADE ME GET BACK IN THE POOL. Minus pyjamas. (She wasn’t that cruel.)
I am eternally grateful that she did as water is where I am happiest; either in it or beside it.
In later years I went on to qualify as a swimming teacher and lifeguard myself and, if I haven’t bored you with my ironman triathlon exploits then you’re very lucky. But how different would my life have been if she hadn’t helped me to rebound from that experience.
Of course there’s a business analogy. How do you bounce back from disasters? Are there things that you’re too scared to try because of a bad experience?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
- Stop. You don’t have to respond fully right now.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- Can you do anything to rectify this now or put ego aside to apologise appropriately and compensate if necessary?
- Is there anything that you can put in place to stop the problem recurring on to prevent similar misunderstandings?
- Having learned the lessons go and read some of the positive things from your book of testimonials, awards etc*
- 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.