Important vs Urgent: Using a Default Diary

Default Diary Template and Example from ActionCOACH Rob Pickering

One of the most effective ways to improve your time management is to create and use a “Default Diary”. The majority of us struggle to make the best use of our time. We all have the same amount, yet some achieve a lot more than others. Our days are busy, yet surprisingly few significant goals are achieved! Where does the time go? Well, it’s a symptom of things that appear urgent taking over and dominating our day. So what’s the alternative? 

If you consider the things that make the really significant impact on our long-term progress, they tend to be the things that are rarely ever urgent. For example, creating a business plan is never urgent, but it is very important. Other examples might include regular 1-to-1 meetings with our staff, checking progress on long-term projects, updating the website, and more. All these things actually tend to have a big impact on our success in the long-term, but there’s rarely any given day when one of them is drop-dead urgent! So consequently these things get deferred… and deferred… So how can we make sure we get these things done regularly? The answer is to identify these important activities and reserve time in our diary to deliberately work on them.A “Default Diary” is a plan of specific times in a week or month that are dedicated to important activities. It’s not your main diary, it’s a plan of what you will do by default or, to put it another way, what you would ideally do when your week goes according to plan. Do this however works best for you, but what I do is to have a printed sheet on the wall next to my desk showing my default dairy for a typical week. On a Friday, as I finish the week and plan next week, I plan as many of the default diary activities into my main (electronic) diary. Sure, I don’t always get to fit them all in, but mostly I do. And just by having it on the wall I know it all off by heart. If it’s Tuesday at 2pm it’s time to call a past client and just check how everything’s going. Ten minutes is all it takes, and you’d be surprised what I get out of it (and them too!). It’s the kind of thing that’s never urgent but makes all the difference. What’s in that category for you? What are the activities that, if you spent time on them regularly - even though they aren’t urgent - you and your business would progress much better? Some ideas include:

A “Default Diary” is a plan of specific times in a week or month that are dedicated to important activities. It’s not your main diary, it’s a plan of what you will do by default or, to put it another way, what you would ideally do when your week goes according to plan. Do this in whichever way works best for you, but what I do is to have a printed sheet on the wall next to my desk showing my default dairy for a typical week. On a Friday, as I finish the week and plan next week, I plan as many of the default diary activities into my main (electronic) diary. Sure, I don’t always get to fit them all in, but mostly I do. And just by having it on the wall I know it all off by heart. If it’s Tuesday at 2pm it’s time to call a past client and just check how everything’s going. Ten minutes is all it takes, and you’d be surprised what I get out of it (and them too!). It’s the kind of thing that’s never urgent but makes all the difference. What’s in that category for you? What are the activities that, if you spent time on them regularly - even though they aren’t urgent - you and your business would progress much better? Some ideas include:

  • Create/update your business plan
  • Create/update your marketing plan
  • Review the standard info on your website
  • Write a staff newsletter email
  • Write an update email to your key suppliers
  • Have lunch with an employee/supplier/customer
  • Review your own personal training plan
  • Learn a new skill
  • Read a trade/industry journal
  • Look at what your competitors are doing and learn from it

If any of the activities are very specific, use a more general description and each week do something different under that broader heading. To get you started, you might like to download a template that I’ve shared at Default Diary

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Do You Ask for Help?

Are you someone who finds it easy to ask others for help? Or are you part of the majority that hit barriers and just keep pushing harder and trying to figure it out on your own?

There’s a lot of truth in the jokes about men driving around lost and refusing to stop and ask for directions. Logically it makes little sense, but I know from my own experience whether driving or otherwise that there’s some sort of satisfaction in finding the solution myself. I noticed recently that as my wife and I walked into a large retail outlet, looking for a specific item as a present, my wife’s first aim was to find an assistant to ask. My reaction on the other hand was that even if it took all day, I was going to find it on my own! After ten minutes up and down the aisles my wife insisted on asking the assistant, only to be told that they don’t sell that product. I realised this is almost always what I do in shops, and it’s not very sensible!

If you hadn’t guessed yet - I’m drawing parallels with the work environment. My working days as a Business Coach are split between helping existing clients with whatever aspect of their business needs attention and the other half is talking to business owners who are “absolutely fine on my own, thanks” and busy working it out for themselves. The fact is that only a tiny minority of business owners look for help - or even accept it when it’s offered!

A very wise colleague of mine explained many years ago that we spend our formative years in an education system that discourages what is called “cheating”. In class we would have it drummed into us “better to make your own best effort than to cheat and get someone else to help you”. Copying someone else’s homework or asking a classmate what the answers became morally unacceptable and punishable offences. “It’s not about winning, it’s about taking part” - a worthy-sounding endeavour, but one which sets us up poorly for a competitive work environment. My colleague’s assertion was that we’ve all been programmed from an early age not to ask for help - that it’s better to try and try until we work out the answer ourselves.

When you look at it logically, it’s easy to believe that we’ll get much faster results by asking for help from someone who’s ‘been there and done that’ and can give us the shortcut. The very word “shortcut” can imply “cheating” and people avoid it. Seriously, I see it all the time, people in business being paid by the hour to work out answers to things that many thousands have already done before. It’s not a recipe for success.

So if you want to succeed to a greater level and much faster, how about asking for some help from those who know the answers? It could be your accountant, your bank manager, a solicitor, an HR advisor, or maybe it’s a virtual PA or bookkeeper to actually do some of the things for you that you’d take ten times as long to do yourself. Business can feel tough enough without turning every step into a personal challenge, so reach out and ask for some help - today!

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By: Rob Pickering

It's all about emotion

As we go through life and business, we tend to look at logic and operate in a transactional manner. Our paradigm - the way we view the world - is typically based upon logic. It’s how we explain things, it’s rational. For example, pay someone to do a job and they’ll do it. Offer what people want at a reasonable price and they’ll buy it. But the trouble is that actually we tend to be dealing with other human beings, and human beings are not based on logic, we’re based on emotion.

Motivation is much more about emotion than about logic. People only do things when they’re motivated. So if you want someone to work for you and do things the way you want them done, at the time you want them done, you’d better make sure they’re motivated correctly. And if you want people to buy from you and keep buying, you’d better make sure they’re motivated that way. If you want people to trust you, help you, like you… you need to make sure they’re appropriately motivated.

The key to all this involves knowing, and liking, people. By ‘knowing’ I don’t just mean you know they exist, I mean you really get to know what matters to them. When you know what matters to people, you can start to understand them. And when you understand people, you can find ways to help them. Business - when we get down to the root of it - is about helping people. In more logical terms it’s about delivering a product or service that people need or want, in a way that they like.

Businesses often fail - either completely (they cease trading) or partially (they’re less profitable than they could be) - because they lose sight of the fundamental point, ie helping people. They get too caught up in their own internal needs and wants, or they fail to understand what matters to their customers. And when this happens, customers buy less or stop buying altogether.

The key to your success in business is understanding people: Understand your employees, your suppliers and your customers and what really matters to each of them, and find a way of meeting all their needs simultaneously. It’s always a balance. Ask yourself, do you know what really matters to each of these groups and individuals? If not, find out, then act upon it. That should be at the core of all your plans and actions, but guided, of course, by what matters to you.

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By: Rob Pickering

What's really stopping you?

Often when I start working with a business owner, they tell me what they need to improve so that their business will be much better. What would that key thing be in your business? Better cashflow? Better marketing? Better staff? Better sales skills? Better time management?

If something just popped into your head, it might genuinely be that key thing holding back your business. But most often than not, I find that the first thing, and even the second and third, are the comfortable 'excuses' that can sound valid, but which really are not the true issue. They might be a significant symptom, but they're not the cause.

Now forgive me, I'm a Business Coach, so I need to be brutally honest in order to help. Don't shoot the messenger! The cause... is you... the business owner. That concept probably doesn't sit comfortably, and why would it? Most business owners seem to think they should be infallible, know all the answers, and never make mistakes. It's an unachievable level of performance, but few openly admit it to themselves, even if they admit it to others. Few business owners ask for help - they equate asking for help with failing, so they just resolve to try harder.

If your cashflow is poor, it's up to you to fix it. If you don't know how, ask someone that will know. Perhaps your accountant or bookkeeper. Perhaps you need to outsource the cash collection if you hate chasing people for money. But if you leave it as it is, then its poor state is down to you. Even if you've got someone doing it for you, if the results are poor, the corrective action is in your hands - it's down to you.

If your marketing or sales skills in the business are poor - it's down to you. Ask a marketing or sales expert for some advice on what to do. Or read some books or get some training. But if you allow poor results to continue - it's down to you.

If you feel your staff are the weakness in your business, why did you recruit poor staff? You need to ensure they're trained and motivated, or replaced. The solution is in your hands. If you don't know how, then seek some help. Ask an HR expert or perhaps even ask your staff.

Sorry if that all seems rather harsh. It's often said that it's lonely at the top, and it can be. The buck stops with the business owner. But just because you own a business doesn't mean you suddenly gain magical powers and know all the business skills! The skills are all around you in books and in other people. The only skills you really need to have to run a successful business are those of identifying the key problems and asking the right people for help. You might not like asking for help, but trust me, it's a lot better than struggling on alone and accepting poor results.

What's truly holding back your business and who do you need to ask for help? Ask today.

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By: Rob Pickering

Avoid Killer Clients

Ideal Customers

Do you ever dread answering the phone and discovering it’s one of those clients that’s always getting you down? Complaining or demanding more for less with unrealistic expectations? Asking you to do work you hate doing, at times you don’t want to, for prices that are too low? Then it’s time to fire the dud clients and hire the ideal ones!

I really like all my clients. I look forward to spending time with them on the phone or in person, and I really want them to do well. And I’d like to think think the feeling is mutual. I’m careful to work only with clients who I believe I can help, and with whom I feel aligned.

Many business owners I meet tell me that some of their clients are great, but others are a complete nightmare! It’s easy to understand that in any business there’s a pressure to find more customers. This leads people to literally work with anyone that can pay.

If you operate a retail business it can be hard to choose your customers, but they don’t tend to hang around long either. The real issue is in a business where you’re dealing personally with the same client over and over. These are typically service businesses such as accountants, financial advisors, lawyers, coaches, and many others. To enjoy our work we need to like the people we’re helping. Merely tolerating them or worse, loathing them, is no good and makes for a miserable working life.

I was lucky to have a colleague recommend a book called “Book Yourself Solid” by author Michael Port (Google it and download a few chapters free). The part that really struck me was what he called his “Red Velvet Rope Policy”. It’s like when you go to an event and there’s an entrance with a red velvet rope stretched across the door - only selected people are allowed through. Michael Port says we should all have a red velvet rope policy for the clients we work with. Further, they should be people who “inspire and energise” you. It’s some of the best advice I’ve had in my business and it means I enjoy what I do, every day.

What would be your “red velvet rope policy” for your business? What would be the attributes of your ideal customers? Probably they would appreciate what you do, value the service and not quibble about price, pay on time, show up on time, make reasonable requests and refer you to lots of other great clients. You might include attributes about the size and type of their business, their location, and more. Think about this carefully and get really clear on your ideal customer - then go looking for them and target your sales and marketing efforts toward them.

Remember that there’s not necessarily anything wrong with customers that don’t fit your ideal; Chances are they’re ideal for someone else’s business, but not yours. Be gracious and helpful and rather than just turning them away, be honest that “We’re not the best choice for you to work with” and consider recommending they try someone else who they would be better suited to.

The more you work with ideal clients, the more you’ll enjoy your work and the better the business will perform. In turn it will lead to you attracting more of the right clients.

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By: Rob Pickering

Reinvent Your Business

No business is immune to change. It’s often said that the only constant is change. For long-term survival it’s absolutely vital to take a step back and re-evaluate the products or services that you offer and the way they’re provided, which are separate aspects.

At the heart of every successful business is the product or service. You’ll be solving a commonly perceived ‘need’ or ‘desire’. Whichever it is, needs and desires change and you’ll be out of business if you don’t keep up with the changes or, better still, anticipate and be just ahead of the change. History is filled with lessons from the companies that manufactured mechanical calculating machines, typewriters, and more recent examples like photographic film, let alone examples from the world of fashion where today’s biggest hit is next year’s recycling.

Alternatively it could be the way that a product or service is delivered that changes dramatically. Electronic mail and cloud-based document storage has decimated letter writing and will undoubtedly remove the need for physical document mailing in time. e-commerce has adversely changed our high streets and the need for bricks and mortar shops (or perhaps not the need, but the commercial viability!).

Businesses that traditionally change most slowly are probably the ones most at risk because they’re not used to rapid change and probably don’t review their services and methods of provision until too late. Accountancy changed relatively little until the introduction of computer technology, and now it’s likely to all change again as we adopt cloud-based finance systems. Embrace change or die is the underlying lesson.

Planning for change

The first step is to recognise the need, ideally before you feel the pain. Every year set aside at least a few hours to analyse your business and the potential and likelihood for change. One of the oldest and most established tools for doing this is a SWOT analysis. For those who aren’t familiar, you basically write down a list of your business Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Ideally involve a range of people across your business and not just senior managers. Look at what your customers are probably thinking, saying and doing.

Look at what your competitors are doing - even if you think they’re crazy. Ask your suppliers for input, because often they’re aware of changes sooner than you will be because they probably supply your competitors. These days you can search the internet and find what people are saying about the products and services in the categories in which you specialise. Consider technological advances and implications on costs, margins, and workforce. If your staff need to have different knowledge it can take a long time to recruit or train so it’s vital to identify needs and start early. Look at international trends too.

All of this information and opinion, once collected, presents the challenge of what to do in response. You might decide to take action in response to threats, or you might be eagerly anticipating opportunities to get ahead of your competitors or to add new products and services. Either way, a good approach is to sift through all the findings and identify the 5-10 points that are worthy of further investigation, then appoint small teams and team leaders to pursue them with a clear brief and deadline.

Once you have a few specific ideas, involve the appropriate people - often those closer to the day to day business rather than senior managers - and create a next level plan with financial values and resource implications. Once you know exactly what each point is likely to add or threaten to lose, the cost to address it and the resource implications (including people), you can create a plan of action.

Remember that people rarely like the the idea of change, so there will be a lot of pressure to keep things as they are and hope for the best! However, while change might appear a little scary, staying the same and not changing is likely to have much worse consequences. Your business is either growing or dying - choose wisely and proactively. 

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By: Rob Pickering

Who’s Stealing Your Time?

It’s not about having enough time, it’s about how you use the time you have. Most “time management” tips will tell you how to save some time. My view is different - when you know clearly what you should be doing and feel motivated by it... you’ll do it. Rather than trying to save time, focus on USING time in the most effective way and they greatly reduces the chances of you misusing minutes and hours on things. So here are my top 5 tips to use your time most effectively.

1. Have a plan Create a plan for the next five years, then for the coming year as part of it, and then for the next 90-days. If you don’t think you have time for this you should seriously question your commitment to running a successful business. This is a non-negotiable - you MUST have a plan. Everything else flows from the plan. 

2.  Schedule the goals for the next 90 days In your 90-day plan you need to identify a few goals that will be completed. For a sole-trader this might be one or two big goals and for a company with lots of staff it might be five or ten goals, but I recommend having one main theme per quarter (eg lead generation, training, sales, cost reduction, recruitment, or whatever). Allocate ownership of each goal to ONE person. Have that person create a calendarised plan containing a “what, when, who” breakdown of the tasks necessary to complete the goal. Agree milestones and review dates. Now here’s the most important point - put all the review dates and key actions into each person’s diary so that time to work on the projects is reserved ahead of time. Do this and you’ll be massively productive, fail to schedule the time and the goals will not be achieved and everyone will tell you “we didn’t have enough time”.

3. Follow-up and manage - top priority! As the business owner or manager, recognise that your most valuable time will be spent following-up with everyone assigned to achieve goals. Schedule meetings early in each goal and then part way through and before the end. A common mistake is to say “do this in a month’s time” and then leave them to it. After a month you find they haven’t started or they went down the wrong track! Don’t leave it so long that you catch them failing - it’s your job to ensure they succeed.

4. Productivity = Knowledge x Skill x Motivation Check that each of your assigned goal owners have the necessary knowledge. And also check that they’ve had the necessary practice and guidance to develop the right skills. Let me explain - you could read a book about brain surgery and work at understanding it, but the skill to actually perform it comes with guided practice. In the workplace, just because you’ve told someone what to do or even how to do it does not mean they will be able to do it! Then comes motivation. If someone is assigned a task that they lack motivation to complete, or lose their motivation, there’s little chance it will be completed to deadline or with quality. Check at the outset and continually check on the motivation of the team leader and team. If you think you’re not very good at motivation... a vital business skill... there’s a great goal for next quarter - get good at it! Give yourself the role of CMO (Chief Motivation Officer).

5. Show Gratitude Too many business owners and managers believe that their employees should be grateful that they have a job and almost never say thank you, let alone demonstrate gratitude in more imaginative ways. On the contrary - if they’re good team members you should consider yourself lucky to have them in your team and constantly show your gratitude. And if they’re not good team members - you either need to be better at recruiting or at training. Thank team members for arriving on time. Thank them for attending meetings on time. Thank them for completing projects even if they’re late (in which case you need to apologise for letting them down - no team will deliver late if you managed them well). When you show genuine gratitude, you’ll definitely have a lot more to be genuinely grateful for.

So who’s stealing your time? In case you hadn’t guessed, the uncomfortable answer to the question I posed at the start is that no one is stealing your time. The reality is that you’re giving it away. Focus on the important goals and let everything else be squeezed out.

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By: Rob Pickering

Attract the best employees

I was recently asked “How can I ensure I build a great team?”. After a bit of thought I summed it up as the following: Recruit great people, train them well, set clear goals, motivate and lead them. A great team with great leadership will achieve great things. No company with a poor team of people will achieve as much as one with a high performance team. In the next article I’ll focus on how to maximise the performance of your team, but first let’s look at recruiting them in the first place. However, the two are very much linked - new employees look at what it’s like to work in your business. 

Your ideal employee should have a great attitude, be eager to learn, eager to impress, tenacious, and competent. They also need to be reasonably confident in themselves, so that they’re willing to stretch and learn and improve without having to be pushed. Read “Recruit Based on Attitude and Behaviour” for a more detailed description.

Now put yourselves in the mind of your ideal employee. Where are they, what do they want, why do they want it, and how can you reach them. I’d suggest that few of them will be unemployed because the best people don’t stay unemployed for long, but it’s possible. Chances are they’re employed and being paid rather well - because they’re good. So first of all it stands to reason that they’re not looking for a pay cut - if you offer a job that looks as if it pays a lower salary, you won’t hear from them and you’ll think no one’s out there. But money isn’t everything. A great employee probably wants to work for a great company. Does your job advert, website, twitter, facebook page and LinkedIn page look like a great company? If not, why would they consider even getting in contact if their current company is pretty good?

I’d suggest that your ideal employee will also want to be treated well, to have a decent set of benefits on offer, a nice work environment, interesting people in your team and an interesting charismatic leader. They might check LinkedIn and read about you, look at your company page, look at who else works for you, and see how motivated they appear to be. They’ll definitely look at your company website. Do you have a section about what a wonderful team you have, with pictures of everyone and profiles of the key players? If you looked at your website and LinkedIn and any other sources - would you want to work for your company? If not, start fixing the image (and the reality!).

Probably your ideal employee wants to work for a business that provides a good and meaningful service. They want to be part of a company that is growing and going places and talks about their successes and ambitions. Face it, no one leaves a decent job to join a company that looks boring, complacent, pointless or even desperate! Actually that’s not true - you’d attract the employees who are even more desperate! To attract the best people, you need to look like an exciting place to work with good career prospects, and that means growth ambition. It’s great if you have an ambitious five year plan, but it needs to be visible - prospective employees need to see some evidence. So as you’re advertising for your ideal employee, or better still using a great recruitment company to find them, be sure to make it clear why your ideal employee should want to work for you.

Time to Take Action:

Are your team fully committed to you and the business? With a great attitude?  These things of course, don't just happen, YOU have to create the right culture and build the best team possible. Join us at one of our next complimentary workshops and let us show you how: 
So if you employ a team of 5 or more staff or manage a team within an organisation - then this is for you.   Oh, and there is such a thing as a free lunch!


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By: Rob Pickering


Create a Leveraged Business Model

Create a Leveraged Business Model

Some businesses have a fundamental model that means they end up working hard all the time, often for relatively little money. This typically involves getting paid by the hour: No matter how hard they work, they can’t earn any more because they don’t have any more hours in the day.

The concept of leverage is about multiplying the effort you put in, to get a greater amount out. For example, if you spent a hundred hours writing an e-book and publishing it, the number of times you get paid for those hours could be many thousand. If you invent something and then keep selling it, again you get paid many times over for the original time and effort. But businesses can’t see how to leverage in that way, so the alternative is to create leverage through a team.

Many self-employed businesses grow by taking on more clients then increase their prices. They start out charging £20 per hour for their service and eventually they’re booked solid every month. So they put up their prices and lose some of the customers that aren’t prepared to pay the higher price, but quickly replace them with some who want the quality and reliability. So they increase their prices again and that cycle can continue successfully until the price is at a level where others offer the same quality for less, and growth stagnates.

Once a business owner is charging as much as they can for their own time, leverage starts by employing people. Often they employ someone to handle admin and free up more of their own hours to sell. (A Virtual Assistant is usually a better solution, but that’s another story!). There’s less profit because the employee is now an added overhead. Eventually they employ someone to do what they’re doing, but pay them less than clients are charged for the service - that’s the gross profit. If this stage is left too long, the business owner is already so busy servicing clients that they don’t have time to train and manage the employee(s) and the business performance is poor. Or more often they just haven’t developed the knowledge and practiced the skills of leading and managing staff, so much of their time and the employee’s time is wasted.

In a business where the leverage is about people, the profitability depends upon good leadership and management. Suddenly the self-employed person doing the work has taken on the role of leader and manager, but often fail to realise how different their role should now be. They feel frustrated with their staff and with the business they created. They need to get some training and support, in planning, leadership, delegation and general management.

The purpose is all about leveraging their own time through their employees: Training a team and then getting paid over and over again for the work that the team does. The successful business owner recognises that the way to grow is through their team. It’s about recruiting the right people, training them (and continuing to train them regularly), and putting in place the systems and structures.

They understand that if they have an hour to spare, it’s better to use that hour to motivate and manage an employee and send them off to generate ten hours of valuable work - not to do an hour’s work themselves. Leverage through a team means making that team better and better so that they continue to multiply the business owner’s input. As a business owner, the job should increasingly be about setting the direction, setting clear goals, hiring and training good people, and motivating them to achieve the goals. The more effectively this is done, the more successful and profitable the business.

In fact once this is working well enough it can actually work without the business owner having to be there. That’s when they’ve successfully created a leveraged business through a team. And that’s what a Business Coach guides a business owner to do.  

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By: Rob Pickering

The Danger of Being Reasonable

The danger of being reasonable

We’re brought up to have an understanding of what is or is not “reasonable”. Is it reasonable to expect someone to help you for no financial reward? Is it reasonable to ask someone to complete something in half the usual time? Is it reasonable to request loyalty from employees or even customers? All such questions are a matter of opinion. But is it really good to be reasonable? My point here is that ‘being reasonable’ is often the route to mediocrity. Little is ever accomplished or changed in this world by being reasonable. Perhaps what we consider to be reasonable is actually a measure of what we are prepared to accept without pushing the boundaries?

Years ago my wife and I signed up to attend a personal development course that involved attending an evening every two weeks in London.

We lived about 40 miles outside London and had three young children. So when we were asked if we would commit to being there on-time, every time, and no excuses... we said what any reasonable person would say - “We’ll certainly try!”. We were challenged on this and asked why we wouldn’t simply say “Yes.”? Our reason (and for ‘reason’ you can substitute the word ‘excuse’) was quite obvious - we live outside London and traffic is unpredictable and we might have trouble finding babysitters and they might be late and sometimes I might be needed at work late and... and... and... The course leader smiled politely and said something like “You certainly are good at finding excuses, but what I’m asking for is commitment - for you to be here on-time, every time, not merely to try.”.

This was probably the first time I experienced someone calling me out on true commitment and, to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to say, because what we were being asked seemed so completely unreasonable.

After some further probing in which we were asked things like “Do you have any family?” and “Do you have any friends?” we were working through a series of excuses based upon it being unreasonable to ask family and friends to go out of their way to help us, simply because we would ask! Then the killer question - “If you asked family, friends or neighbours in a way that designed to result in them saying ‘yes’, what would happen?”. And further “If you told them that attending this course for the next twelve weeks is really important to you and you’d really appreciate their help and support... what would they say?”.

We were forced to agree that, if we put it like that, just about all of them would say “yes”. Of course I still felt obliged to say “But that would be unreasonable!”. If you wonder what the outcome was, members of our family left work early and travelled an hour to our house to look after our kids on each occasion we couldn’t get a local babysitter, and they were fine about it. In fact they were delighted to have the chance to do something for us, and to spend time with our kids too. And yes, the course was worth it - for teaching me the dangers of being reasonable if nothing else! I’ve learnt to be unreasonable with myself and with others. To ask the unreasonable questions and to gain extraordinary results. In business when a client has achieved a respectable 10% year on year growth for several years, I’ll ask an unreasonable question “Why aren’t you achieving 25% year on year growth?”. Or if that’s not unreasonable enough, how about 200%? And when they’re the last people in the office at 9pm and all the staff went home at 5pm, I’ll ask why they aren’t asking their staff to be there late?

Next time you catch yourself being reasonable, stop, and ask the unreasonable, especially of yourself.

"Reasonable men adapt to the world around them; unreasonable men make the world adapt to them. The world is changed by unreasonable men."- Edwin Louis Cole

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By: Rob Pickering


Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn

Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn

After hearing this from a client last week I’ve found myself repeating it to people all week. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn”. There are a lot of people and a lot of organisations that make the same mistakes over and over again. In fact many of the mistakes are repeated because no one that could change anything is even aware. And when they are aware, it’s put down to “just the way it is”. A great organisation embeds learning and continuous improvement at the heart of its business and its culture. But how would you do that? 

It starts with setting goals and creating a culture that expects continuous improvement. I have a conversations with staff that go something like this: “Whatever you are earning today, how much would you expect or want to be earning in one year’s time?”. Invariably they stare back blankly. Some might say “a bit more” and the pushy guy would say “double!”. I would then suggest that maybe they’d like to be earning 10% more next year? So then I ask “What do you think you would need to over the next year so that I would be saying “I want to give you a 10% pay rise because you’re worth at least that much more!”?

If your team know what they need to do to be genuinely worth more - they might try and do it. But if they don’t know, and if you don’t ask them, they probably won’t even be trying.

The key is to help them understand that we can all do our jobs better, and that in turn creates greater job satisfaction, and higher profitability. Applied well it can also create better products and services, and happier, loyal, customers.

How could you achieve all that? By continuously testing and measuring, recognising potential for improvement, creatively implementing better ways of working - innovating continuously. It’s all about learning and applying the learning to be better.

Anyone in the organisation that is perfectly happy with the status quo is at best going to keep the business steady, and at worst hold it back. If you recruit people like that, you won’t have a great business. And if you tolerate people like that - including yourself - you won’t have a great business. In case I gave the wrong message above mentioning 10% pay increases, it’s not about money, it’s about taking pride in doing and being better.

Steve Jobs was a great example, never settling for just emulating the competition. And then when he had a great product, he and his team would assume they could do better, and look for innovative ways to improve - even when no one was asking for improvement.

Along the way you don’t always win every time. The harder you try, the more you can expect to make some mistakes. But a winning team will pick themselves up, dust themselves down, look at what can be learnt, apply the lessons and give it another go with enthusiasm. Be that leader to your team. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and either way, you learn.  

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By: Rob Pickering

The 90-Day Planning cycle

Planning a full year ahead can be tortuous if you get too detailed. I remember when I worked in a large company in the 90’s and held responsibility for a lot of the planning. I dreaded the end of the financial year when it had to be done. It was so detailed that by the time everyone had their say, it was usually 6 weeks into the year that the plan covered! You’d think that after all that time and effort it would be a great plan. And generally it was... but about 4-6 months into the year we might, for example, have gained a couple of key customers, lost a major supplier, the market had changed in some way, and we knew the plan needed rewriting. 

As I started working across a number of different companies it was easier to spot patterns and see the bigger picture. I was fortunate to meet Verne Harnish when he presented at our annual conference and I read his book “The Rockefeller Habits”. This now forms the basis of how we work with all our clients in a cycle of 90-day plans, and it works!

So here’s the secret:
You need to know what you want to achieve in the longer term (3-5 years ideally, but 1 year will do), but planning a whole year in detail is a waste of time. Too much changes during a year, and it takes too long to plan a whole year in detail anyway. So armed with long-term goals, take one day each quarter to work on a plan for the next quarter.

In your planning day, remind yourself of the 12 month goals and think which parts you could work on in the coming quarter. Shortlist about ten possible goals, then narrow it down to five. When choosing five goals, ensure that at least half of the goals focus on making money. The goals like staff training or developing systems are necessary, but make sure every quarter you keep some focus on increasing profit! Once you have the five goals, make sure each one of them is SMART (basically - specific and measurable with definite time scales). Then break down each goal into a series of the steps that will be needed to implement them.

For each step assign one person who will be responsible and a completion date. The goals should be for the whole organisation to work on during the coming quarter, not just what the senior team focus on. So you’ll need to roll them out to all levels of management/staff. Cascade the goals and their achievement down the organisation. And if that organisation is one person... this process still works, but the cascading process is pretty simple! Be sure that the whole company is focused on the 90 day goals.

Repeat this process - setting aside a day to plan prior to the start of a quarter - and by the end of one year doing that you’ll see that your business has gone further and faster than ever before! Failing to set aside a full day is where most businesses go wrong before they even start. If they plan at all, they cram it into a couple of hours or avoid involving everyone that needs to be there. This is why every 90 days we run a workshop.

We get about 50+ business owners and senior staff in a room then lock the door and don’t let them out until they have a 90-day plan! (I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea). Put YOUR full day of planning in your calendar now and get into the quarterly habit. To book your place at our next 90 day GrowthCLUB session - click here!  

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By: Rob Pickering


Six keys to a Winning team

As a business owner you have to wear many hats in the course of running a successful business: Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR, ...and so on. But particularly in smaller businesses the most important one gets forgotten - you have to be a leader. It’s not just about what you do, it’s not just about logical steps, it’s about the person you choose to BE from moment to moment and day to day. Are you the kind of leader that YOU would be inspired to follow? To help you get into good leadership habits, follow the six keys to a winning team. 

  1. Strong Leadership
  2. Common Goal
  3. Rules of The Game
  4. Action Plan
  5. Support Risk-Taking
  6. 100% Involvement and Inclusion

1. Strong Leadership
Definitions of strong leadership are many and varied, but I’d start by asking a question: Would people follow you if you weren’t paying them? In fact, would people pay to follow you as their leader? Maybe not, but it’s an interesting test. As a strong leader you need to know where you’re going, be able to articulate it clearly and with a passion so that others are enrolled into the idea and inspired. You need to be seen to have confidence and determination and to hold firm to strong principles even when the going gets tough.

2. Common Goal
You can’t lead people anywhere unless you know where you’re going. There needs to be a clear goal or vision that everyone knows. If they have to go and look it up in the company handbook - it may as well not exist. Everyone has to relate to it, to know how it will benefit them? Imagine everyone is hearing you tell them the goal and silently asking “What’s In It For Me?”. And everyone needs to know what their role is - their contribution - in achieving the common goal. If I came into your office and asked everyone to tell me the common goal, and to each tell me what they are responsible for doing toward it - would they all be able to tell me without hesitation?

3. Rules of The Game
In any organisation there needs to be a widely understood set of rules and they need to be in writing so that there’s no scope for misunderstandings. I recommend these exist in every business, not necessarily as a poster on the walls (though it can be), but neither should it be buried in a 50-page employee handbook that no one’s opened since it was handed to them. Perhaps 10-30 rules that every employee agrees to abide by. It could include the attitudes to customers and other staff, a promise to be on time, and perhaps a commitment to the common goal.

4. Action Plan
As the saying goes “Positive thought without positive ACTION leads to positively nothing!”. There needs to be a series of cohesive plans that cover the long-term (3-5 years), the current year, the current quarter, and the current week. At the detailed individual level it’s good for people to now what the plan is for today! Needless to say - today’s plan might be very brief and expressed verbally while the long-term plan must be in writing.

5. Support Risk-Taking
It can be tough to let people take risks, but the alternative where you micro-manage every decision and every action is a far worse alternative. It’s important to encourage and support your team in taking considered risks. And when something goes wrong - and it will - you need to say well done for trying! Yes, I know that can be hard. Ensure that the lesson is learnt and that next time the right actions will be taken. But if you want to move quickly and grow, there are going to be a few mistakes along the way. 100% Involvement and Inclusion

6. 100% Involvement and Inclusion
Involving people on a ‘need to know’ basis doesn't work. You can’t keep people continuously inspired and motivated by telling them the minimum. Let everyone know WHY things need to be done, and what the benefits are, not just WHAT. Get everyone feeling involved and ensure that there’s a culture where they feel valued, feel listened to, and feel they can make a difference.  

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By: Rob Pickering

You Get What You Tolerate

At times we all slip into Blame, Excuses and Denial. But in reality we can change just about anything if we start by taking Ownership, Accountability and Responsibility. WE GET WHAT WE TOLERATE, in business and in life generally. If that thought doesn’t make you uncomfortable enough, here’s another one: YOU”VE GOT THE BUSINESS THAT YOU DESERVE. Or if you’re an employee, you’ve got the job you deserve. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t change it and deserve something better. What it means is that our business is a reflection of our own attitude and behaviour. If we want different results, we need to take ownership and take some different actions.

Back to getting what we tolerate - take a few moments to think about something or someone that you continually complain about. The complaining could be when talking to other people or it could be in your own head - eg “I wish they wouldn’t keep doing that!”. This is a sure sign that you’re tolerating something. Tolerating undesirable behaviour is bad for business, and it’s bad for us on a personal level. The first time we see undesirable behaviour is ideally the time to address it. You ask someone to arrive at 8:50am. They turn up at 9:05am saying traffic was bad and you think “they should have set off earlier, but it’s not worth the hassle to make a big deal out of it”, so you leave it. A few days later they arrive at 9:06am and this time the car wouldn’t start or there had been an accident - not their fault so not worth a confrontation.

A few months down the line and you’ve lost control. Trying to fix this unreliable person is now an annoyance that crosses your mind on a daily basis, but never quite serious enough that it’s worth dealing with today. What happened in the above scenario? If you choose Blame, Excuses and Denial - this person has poor self-discipline, they should be able to organise themselves and it’s not your job to chase them (that’s all three: blame, excuse and denial in case you didn’t notice). And I could agree with that analysis. The trouble is... it isn’t very useful, it doesn’t achieve anything other than a feeling of self-righteousness. But it is what I would class as the ‘normal’ response. If instead you’re prepared to look at things in a different way, as a business coach I might ask if you have trained this person to be unreliable? If you had addressed the issue - in the right way - on the first occasion, would it have developed into an ongoing problem? Is addressing something like this an area where you lack the training and skill and need to develop personally? After all, that would be understandable if you’ve never had any training - how could you expect to know? Yet most business owners or managers have this nagging thought in the back of their minds that they ought to be able to manage staff effectively.

Actually like the vast majority of business skills they need to be learnt and practiced. If you run your business on the basis that everyone and everything around you should be perfect, you’re going to be disappointed and frustrated. You’ll end up tolerating bad behaviour and get the results that naturally follow. Instead, my suggestion to you is to stop tolerating unacceptable attitudes and behaviours and take ownership. Be very clear about the attitudes and behaviours you expect. State it verbally and state it in writing if and when it helps. But congratulate in public and criticise in private - don’t make casual remarks - deal with people confidently, head-on. State what is unacceptable and what you require. State consequences, but in a suitably pleasant manner. “In order to work here I require staff to arrive no later than 8:50am” is better than saying “If you arrive after 8:50am I’m going to fire you!”. State the behaviours and attitudes you want, and do everything possible to reinforce them. Don’t let it slip, discuss issues in private and straight away. You’ll soon discover that an environment where everyone knows what is expected of them and nothing else is tolerated is a good one. It creates success - for you and for your team.

What are you tolerating that you shouldn’t be? What action do you need to take? And what skills do you need to develop to take responsibility and be the best leader and manager that your team has ever worked for? Would this be an area that a Business Coach could help?

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By: Rob Pickering

Time to Play Big

If you run a small business with just one or two staff you might be wondering how to get to the next level of growth? The vast majority never make it to another level and get caught in the trap of owning a job instead of owning a business. It’s a trap because you’re probably already so busy that you don’t feel you have time to grow the business and can’t handle more than you already do. Your job as a business owner is not to grow a successful business. If you try to do that you’ll end up feeling burnt out. Actually your job is to recruit the people that will grow your business. Then you need to provide leadership, set goals, train and motivate. 

Often when I ask a business owner what their goal is for five years or even one year they don’t have a clear answer. Do you know the answer? Can you articulate it clearly to an employee or someone that could help you achieve it? Do you have it written down? Few small businesses have a business plan or even a marketing plan. The reason I’m often told is that it’s not necessary, especially when there are no staff, “why would I write a plan just to read myself, I already know it”. I don’t mean to be unkind but that’s just an excuse and one that will definitely hold back the business! So here’s my advice that, if you follow it, will set you free on the path to growth:

  • Set yourself a big goal for 3-5 years that scares you and at the same time excites you!

Don’t play small. Don’t forecast where you think you’ll be in 3-5 years if you keep doing what you’re doing and everything continues as it as. That’s not a plan, it’s a forecast and frankly it’s boring. Did you take a risk and start your own business just to be bored and to get by? Probably not, otherwise you’d have stuck with the safe route of being an employee, letting the business owner take all the risks... and all the rewards! What goal for your business, if you achieved it in 3-5 years, would make you smile and feel really proud? £1 Million turnover? £10 Million? 25 good employees? A thousand delighted customers? Four long holidays per year (and the business still there when you got back!)? Contributing significantly to a charity that matters to you? Winning a prestigious industry award? An award given in your name? What life do you want to lead, what legacy will you leave? These might seem like very lofty goals, but those are the ones that are inspiring and make running a business feel worthwhile - why would you aim lower? One more thing to consider when it comes to employing great people - Why would a really great employee work for you? Assuming they can take their pick of companies to work for, is your goal inspiring enough that they want to help achieve it? Great employees don’t work for companies that forecast based on ‘all things being even’, they choose companies and leaders that inspire them. That’s who you need to be. If this all sounds interesting but you can’t get started - give me a call and we’ll get you moving and achieving the goal too!

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By: Rob Pickering

Do They Know What You Want?

Whether in personal or business life we rely on those around us to help achieve what we want, so it’s important to make it clear. Ask yourself if those around you actually know what you want? And when you’ve said “yes, of course” or “well it’s obvious” test your assumption by asking those people to tell you exactly what they think you want. There is of course an assumption here that YOU know what you want!

Whether in personal or business life we rely on those around us to help achieve what we want, so it’s important to make it clear. Ask yourself if those around you actually know what you want? And when you’ve said “yes, of course” or “well it’s obvious” test your assumption by asking those people to tell you exactly what they think you want.

There is of course an assumption here that YOU know what you want! If you don’t employ anyone directly, think people like your web designer, accountant, or other paid advisors instead for the following. The key to success, theirs and yours, is knowing exactly what would represent success, in clear measurable terms.

If you employ someone to do telemarketing, how many calls do you expect them to make in an hour or a day, and what results would you consider to be poor, acceptable, good or excellent? If you employ a cleaner what do you expect to be done and to what measurable standards on a daily, weekly and monthly basis? If you employ a salesperson, how much revenue or profit do you expect them to achieve, what balance between different types of products or services should they sell, and what mix between existing and new customers?

Most people get a positive feeling from achieving or exceeding goals. But without clear goals it can feel like a never ending chore. The motivation goes, teamwork erodes and job satisfaction plummets.

Imagine sending out two football teams on the pitch but with no goal posts. They could run around the pitch and pass the ball and tackle their opponents to a high or low standard but it doesn’t really make much difference. You need to be able to keep score - we all need to know how we’re doing, measurably. No score = no satisfaction. Make sure that you’re being clear with people about what you want in clear, measurable terms. Then give them positive feedback. If you believe that achieving a good standard of work is what you pay someone for and therefore it’s not worthy of comment, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll soon have a poor level of performance as a result! Earning the wage is not enough.

As the leader of manager in business or life, your role is to keep people motivated toward the goal. You’d be amazed how well people respond to being told “well done” and “thank you” even if they’re doing what you’re paying them to do. But you can only do this if you’ve set the measurable goals in the first place. Once you’ve got measurable goals in place on a short-term basis, and you’re recognising their achievement, you’ll find the positive effect starts wearing off after a while. It’s because once we know what we’re doing in the short-term, day to day, month to month, our mind starts to question “but what’s this all for?”. You need to set and measure progress toward long-term goals and it needs to be inspiring to you of course, and also to those helping you achieve it. Again, the fact you’re paying them to show up is not enough.

The more inspired people are by the goal, the more productively they’ll work - and enjoy doing it too! If I were to come in to your business and randomly pick members of your staff “What’s are the main business goals this quarter” and “What are the main business goals for this year?” - would they know? Would they be able to tell me? And would they be able to tell me exactly what they personally need to do as their part in achieving the goals? If you want everyone pulling together in the same direction - you need positive answers to all the above. But as motivating as it is for your team to know your goals and be playing a part in achieving them, they need more.

They need to know their own medium and long-term goals too. In quiet moments they’ll be wondering “Do I still want to be working here next year?”. Do you know what THEY want? Have you asked them, and have you helped them determine a positive path forward with you? Tell them what they would need to do in order to get that next promotion, pay rise, bonus, or even a huge “Well done” from you. When they know exactly what they have to do, there’s a chance they’ll do it. Until then, there’s no chance.  

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By: Rob Pickering

Are you a Business owner or just Self-Employed?

Many people who believe they own a business are in reality self-employed. Now, if you’re self-employed by choice it’s fine by me. However, make sure you fully realise the risks and negatives:

  • It’s hard to take holidays and days off
  • Your business has no value - no one will buy your ‘job’
  • You need to make sure you’re fully insured against being too ill to work
  • Be sure you have an exit strategy and strong pension/investments
  • Keep cash in reserve - you need to be able to weather a storm
  • Beware - if you aren’t working, you aren’t getting paid!

If you have all the above covered and choose to stay self-employed that’s great! It’s good to be doing exactly what you want to with a secure future.

But if you’re working alone and don’t have all the above covered, you might want to build a business. Our definition of a Business is a profitable commercial enterprise that can work without you.

If you’ve set up a limited company and call yourself a Business Owner, just consider whether you really own a business or you’re actually self-employed with a business name. The vast majority of ‘businesses’ consist of one person and don’t meet our definition, don’t have all the above points covered, and the owner runs in circles trying to do everything. Many tell me confidently that they don’t ever want employees. The reason they don’t want employees is because either they can’t afford them yet, or they don’t want the responsibility. Isn’t that interesting? If you employed someone and, as a result, the business made less additional profit than was being spent on the employee... it would be a bad choice of employee! Let me be clear - the reason you employ staff is so that the business makes more money.

Say you spend £25,000 per year on a new employee, you’re going to want to see the business generating £50,000 or more additional profit per year as a result. This might seem obvious, but I continually speak to people who haven’t got their head around this and think that an employee is a cost they can’t afford. In terms of employees being an extra responsibility or hassle, I understand, but it’s often a feeling or a fear that comes out of a bad experience or misunderstanding. Someone recently commented “I’m not sure I could generate enough extra business to cover the cost of one employee, let alone a team!”. My question in response was “would they be working for you, or would you be working for them?”. I admit there are plenty of bad employees around who will sit and do nothing unless you’re hassling them. But if that describes someone who works for you - why did you employ them and why do you continue to? Deal with it, you get what you tolerate. When you think of employing someone, consider whether there is potentially enough business out there that your company can gain to more than cover their cost?

Next, consider who’s going to get that extra business. Do you need to prioritise employing a salesperson or marketing person to get more business before or at the same time as an employee that will generate more work or handle more admin? Then, when you’re interviewing and certainly when you recruit someone, make certain that among other goals they know exactly what they need to be generating to keep their job and maybe to achieve a pay rise or promotion. If you have work that isn't yet or never will require a full-time employee, consider the alternatives.

You could employ someone part-time, or you could use a Virtual Assistant (VA). Using a good VA can be an excellent solution because you can contract as little as an hour at a time as needed, and get the specific skills you need at the time. What takes you three hours might take a good VA only an hour, so the saving potential is excellent. The necessary skills to manage employees are relatively easily learnt - there are hundreds or probably thousands of books on the subject and endless training courses. But first you need to start with a clear understanding and belief that you employ people to generate more profit for the company and that you don’t do the work for them. If someone has to work late... it’s the staff. If someone needs to get more money in to pay the bills... the staff need to do it. Your job is to set the direction, employ the team, make sure they know what they have to achieve, then make sure they’re constantly motivated and achieving the goals.  

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By: Rob Pickering

Where will you be in 5 years?

Do you have a 5-year business plan? I know from experience of asking that question that only a tiny proportion of small businesses (under 25 staff) have anything resembling a one year plan, let alone a 5-year plan. Or even a clear goal such as the size of the business, number of employees, types of product or service, or anything else. 

Without clear goals and a written plan, it’s really difficult for you, your staff, your suppliers and other stakeholders to understand what needs doing and to help you progress in the right way. Part of it is about vision and leadership; it’s human nature that we follow natural leaders - when we see someone being inspiring, we get behind them and push them further ahead. But try inspiring people with vague goals - or no goals at all - and you’ll find it difficult. Your company vision is also part of the ‘identity’ - how people understand and perceive the company - your brand. It’s hard for staff and customers to get excited about a business that has no clear identity. Think about any successful business and I bet you can describe what they do and what they’re all about. And if it’s something you believe in, you’ll probably recommend them to other people.

Think about your own business and consider how clear you goals are and what the company stands for. If I randomly picked on any of your staff, would they be able to tell me clearly the top 5 company goals? If I randomly picked some of your customers and asked them what your company stands for - would they be able to describe it the way you want to be described? Would they sound interested, satisfied, impressed, even excited about it? Think also about your ‘extended team’ - you know, all those people that you’re paying but are not actually employees - your accountant, bank manager, web designer... How would they describe your company, but also do they know what your goals are? If they do, are they involved in helping you get to where you want to? When you get your extended team to understand your goals and fully behind you to get there, you’ll get there a lot faster.

Here are a few suggestions for Action to take:

  • Write a description of where your company will be in 5 years, eg revenue, profit, number of staff, number of offices, services you provide...
  • Write a description of WHY your company exists, its purpose, in a way that’s inspiring to others
  • Write 5 clear goals for where your company will be in 5 years, expressed in ways that are absolutely measurable. Then state what each of those same goals will be in 4, 3, 2 and 1 year’s time
  • Write your company values. 5-10 is typically good. Only include things you truly believe and are prepared to stand by
  • Communicate an appropriate version of the above to all stakeholders; this can be different for internal and external as long as they don’t actually conflict!

Having a clear vision for the company becomes a blueprint against which key decisions can be made. For each decision you should ask yourself “does this take me toward the goals, away from the goals, or make no difference?”. It’s surprising how many companies have no clear vision and struggle to make decisions. Getting the vision clear and communicated creates clarity and promotes fast growth.

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What’s Your Personal Best?

A great way to drive ever better performance is to know and monitor your personal best performance as one or more measures. For example you might focus on a number of sales in a month, a number of calls in a day, the number of products manufactured, number of orders shipped, and so on. 

When we focus on something that we want to improve, and measure it, then monitor it regularly, we can improve it. Break it down into the steps that create the achievement and look at what you can do to make small improvements here and there. I remember that years ago in a start-up software company I not only did programming, I packed boxes too! If I had a stack of boxes to pack I would naturally start to time how long it took to make and pack each one and try to make each one more quickly than the previous one. I’d get into production line ways of thinking - what order did I need the components laid out in, which way round did each need to be placed... anything to shave a second here and there. In sales I would be testing and measuring - what were the words I could say to get through to the person I needed to speak to? What was the best way to describe what I was offering to get the best conversion rate in the shortest time? How many calls... and how many successful calls... could I make per hour?

So if you look at your own performance in business, what measure would represent your most important personal best performance? If you find you think of one and shy away from it because it feels too difficult - that’s probably the one to choose!

Create a measure so that you can express your Personal Best (PB) as a number, or two or three numbers if that’s what it takes. Write that number large and put it on the wall in front of you, or on a sticky note on the corner of your screen, or wherever else you’re going to see it frequently. Underneath it put a target of what you want to achieve as your new PB, and a deadline such as by the end of the day, week or month. Many people need someone to hold them accountable. We find it too easy to set goals and then sweep them under the carpet when we don’t feel like working on them. In which case a coach would help - that’s one reason why athletes and successful business leaders work with a coach, to keep them focused on the goals they’ve chosen. Your coach could be a business partner, friend or partner. Tell them your PB, your goal, and your own deadline. If they say anything along the lines of “no way you’ll do that!” go find yourself a new coach, you need someone who tells you that you can do it and will be supportive. Someone to ask difficult questions and push you into action when you don’t feel like it and to cheer from the sidelines when you do.

If you have a team of people working for you, get them focusing on their PBs. Make it all about their personal achievement, not about doing it for you. Allow them to pick a PB that interests and inspires them. Now imagine how much better the whole company results will be when everyone is beating their own personal best performance.

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Train to be the best you can be!

“Never wish your job were easier, wish you were better” - Jim Rohn I like that quote, but I don’t consider ‘wishing’ to be a viable strategy! You have to work at being better. Gaining knowledge and practicing skills will make you more productive, and that means more profitable. Learning and training (assisted learning) make an enormous difference in a business. In larger well-run corporates, training is recognised as important and staff expect to be provided with regular opportunities to improve their skills. Yet in smaller businesses where staff have to be far more multi-skilled it’s common to find zero training. 

Audit your past 12 months - out of 365 days, you had

  • 104 weekend days
  • 8 Public holidays (in the UK)
  • 20 days holiday (maybe more)
  • = 233 working days

How many days of informal learning did you do? And how many formal days learning or attending training? When I look into most businesses of under 50 staff the answer for the owner and many of the employees is none! And they’re often surprised when they realise.

If you were not thinking about your own business where it’s easy to get caught up in excuses, but looking at someone else’s business, with 132 days of holidays and 233 working days, what would you say would be a reasonable number of days to spend training? As a percentage, 10% learning how to do the work better and learn new things sounds entirely reasonable, but express it as 23 days and most business owners laugh. Last year I spent 43 days learning and in training. I don’t suggest you do that much, but what would you consider reasonable - 5 days, 10 days? If you were going to spend 10 days on education over the next 12 months, what would be your priorities? Is it marketing? Sales skills? Planning? Recruitment? Appraisals? Finance? I recommend that you create a Personal Development Plan (PDP).

Your staff should all have one too. It would highlight the areas in which someone needs training either to be better at their current role, or prepare to expand or change their role. Once you know the skill gaps, you can work at identifying the relevant training. Often business owners tell me their staff are not very good. I ask about their recruitment methods and they assure me that they’re good at recruiting - they only employ good people. Yet here they are complaining their staff are not achieving the standards they require. So what happened in between? Nothing - and that’s the trouble.

If you employ good people and then just put them to work and expect them to learn on the job, they lack any external input and their opportunity to learn is severely limited. The thing about training is that it’s never urgent. It’s easy to have good intentions and find reasons to defer. But over a period of time it becomes a serious problem that limits the business profitability, slows or stops growth, and leaves people lacking motivation and enjoyment in their work. Here’s an interesting question for business owners. Imagine you are owner and chairman of your business, looking at the return that your Managing Director is delivering from your business. Would you fire yourself and get someone better? Maybe you’d tell yourself to get booked on some training courses and get up to standard.

Training is one of the best ways to invest your time and money. Invest wisely and you’ll get a huge return on that investment. Create a PDP and decide how many days per year you need to dedicate to your improvement and that of your staff. Do it today.  

If you’ve found this blog useful, why not subscribe to my monthly newsletter for more – click here! Don't forget to pop on over and 'Like' our Facebook Business Page so that it's bookmarked and easy to find in future! Daily updates, quotes and useful articles to help grow your business!