Thursday, 21 August 2014

Stop Blogging and Think

If you wish to prove that your new business is just a run-of-the-mill and unoriginal, vanilla-flavoured company like the rest, just keep on banging out those quickly-written and, to be honest, shallow blog posts.

Every so-called social media guru screams, ‘Content is King’. No! Content is not King; Engagement is King. If you put out even more mediocre, average and truly uninsightful blog posts then you will simply be adding to the mass of mediocrity that clutters our inboxes.

Do you truly believe that your audience can differentiate your unremarkable and unmemorable little blog offerings from anyone else’s? Do your “10 Tips...”, “What we can learn...”, and “How to…” –type titles really make potential clients think, “Yes, I want to buy from them!”? I doubt it. No, you just look like a breathlessly over-enthusiastic start-up. Why would they look at your sheer predictable averageness? More relevant, who does find those titles attractive? I doubt it will be the people you are trying to attract...

Friday, 8 August 2014

Owner-Directors Do Not Need Silver Bullet Advice

Owner-managers (the smaller, younger naive businesses) find it almost impossible to sort the good from the bad in the sea of offers of help. Their very naivety excludes them from knowing what they don’t know and what it actually is that they need. As a result, they tend to jump from one exciting initiative to the next.

On the other hand, owner-directors (in larger and more mature businesses) are not taken in by the breathless excitement of those selling hope to the needy. However, they find it hard to find the right assistance (being too big for the owner-manager offerings and too small for the offerings of the big consultancy houses).

As a starting point I would suggest that asking, ‘Where should the owner-director look for help and support?’ may actually be the wrong question.

The right question might be to ask ‘Exactly what is the problem and what are the underlying causes?’.

Unfortunately most suppliers of assistance do not carry out the appropriate diagnostic. Marketing consultants assume the problem is marketing, social media consultants assume the problem (and the solution) is social media and so on.

I would argue that what the business actually needs is an objective diagnostic, a look under the bonnet that examines what the key issues are and some sort of prioritised shopping list. The systematic approach is especially required for the owner-director.

Too often, the focus of interventions is on the business and the business goals and performance indicators. While it may be easier to measure and report on the easily measurable (the things that we can enter on to a spreadsheet), this rarely tells the whole story. The items that are tougher to measure are often left out of the equation. This is ironic as these are often the really important things.

The sort of questions I am referring to are less tangible but more about many owner-directors’ definition of success: Is this business fulfilling its purpose? Have we created a team and culture that is positive and self-reinforcing? Is this business sustainable in the long-run? Does it allow me to do what I really want to do with the rest of my life? Is it going to provide me with the funds I need (now and later)?

As we come out of the recession and as a little bit of pressure is coming off businesses so more and more owner-directors, managing directors and CEOs are starting to question the very fabric of their business and why they as individuals do what they do. There seem to be more and more people searching for answers, if only to validate that what they currently do is ticking all the right boxes.

Businesses are looking to create far more of a well-rounded solution recognising the need to create balance as well as a sustainable future. This requires an understanding of the bigger picture as well as its component parts: aspiring to develop a flourishing team, sales processes, cash-flow and profitability that deliver on the greater goals of the business. It seems that it is no longer just about the profit and the ROI but now there is a desire to create a more complete business that it is more satisfying and rewarding to own and run.

The owner-director may have been duped into parting with their own hard-earned cash in the past; the last thing they need right now is another guru with a magic wand. 

While a dramatic transformation, a radical revolution in how one does business may sound exciting (re-stimulating the passion and excitement of the old days), the wise owner-directors realise that what they probably need is a more delicate and evolutionary approach to growing and developing the business. The quest for explosive sales results is replaced with a desire to achieve sustainable growing profit.

The owner-director is very different from the smaller, owner-manager.

They have too much to lose (the nice car, home and holidays that come with painstakingly nurturing and growing a business) and they are no fools. What they are looking for is far-more considered support from people who have a mix of: been-there-done-it expertise, grey-haired wisdom, background credibility and the ability to communicate and assist. At this point in the business, one is looking for support in the long game, recognising the benefit of consistent and constant improvements (3% here and 4% there) that will create an engine for growth.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Work Less, Achieve More

We are endlessly told that hard work creates more profit. Work harder to create more profit in your new business. Does more work really mean more profit? Do we have to put in ludicrously long hours to be successful?

We have been brought up to believe that working more equates to being more successful. More input equates to more output. Well, I am not sure I agree. I think the logic (and many of the assumptions behind it) is flawed.

Sure, if you are a one-person-business, charging per unit of time, then more units equals more money. But most businesses try to grow by employing people to spread the workload. Or, maybe you should simply charge more per unit of time!

For those of us who are not charging by the hour, then I would argue that it may well be more profitable to work less. I repeat… to work less. Less hours… less stress… less banging your head against a brick wall.

I shall be more specific.

Jim currently works 5 days a week. In effect, he contributes 20% of a week's value on each working day. He admits that if he only worked four days a week (ie took Fridays off), then he could easily do “25% days”. In other words, with a Friday off he could and would work more productively on the other four work days.

But the maths deceives us of the real benefits of the extra day off.

If Jim spends Fridays doing whatever it is that he wants to (gardening, household/DIY chores, playing guitar, walking the dogs) then he will spend much of that time ruminating and reflecting on the days that he does work. Consciously, unconsciously, or subconsciously, he will be thinking about what he does on the working days. And this is where things get interesting.

With a bit of space from the work environment, Jim returns on a Monday with a new zest and vigour. But that is not all.

While Jim spends his Fridays doing his own thing, he will come up with great ideas for the business. So, he comes back to work refreshed, reinvigorated, and ready to go. Except now he has a freshness and an intensity about himself. He has more focus. More focus on what is required.

FACT: You never come up with great light-bulb moments when sat in front of the computer.
MORAL: Spend time away from the computer.
ACTION: To help your business, book more days off! 

To be more effective you need to work less. My challenge to you is that you can achieve more by working less.

Working harder creates burn-out. Working harder satisfies the voice in your head, the monkey on the shoulder, who says, “If you are not working long hours then you are short-changing yourself".  What utter tosh. 

We have been sucked in by the protestant work ethic (which did apply to factory workers where longer hours equal more pay). However, most of us are not factory workers, we are knowledge workers, and our pay is proportionate to the quality of ideas rather than the number of hours that we work. 

So, what's holding you back?

Admittedly, you have to put in the hours in the early stage of your business in order to get the enterprise off the ground. If success is a consequence of the number of people that know about you then you need to meet as many people as possible. However, I would argue that there is no point being a busy fool.

Once the business is up and running, the quality of your time is more important than the quantity. You need to spend as much time working ‘on’ the business as possible, stepping back and making sure you are doing the right things. The risk of spending too much time ‘in’ the business is that you might become a busy fool where you can’t see the wood for the trees. You don’t want to build a business that is 100% dependent on you 100% of the time. You want to create a self-sustaining machine that will survive without you.

Taken to its logical extreme, anything that is a repeated task should be handed over to someone else. If you can give a task to someone who can do it for £6.50 per hour then your holding on to that task means that, in effect, you only value your time at £6.50 per hour. Surely it is worth more than that.

Here are my one-liners, to print and put by your computer screen:



Let others do the rest.