+ About Lesley Ann Grimoldby
About Lesley Ann Grimoldby - Switzer Business Coaching
Lesley Ann Grimoldby has been running her own businesses for 27 years. She began her working life as a primary school teacher in Western Australia and after eight years, took up new challenges in the hospitality and entertainment industries, where she created her own positions in public relations and training. In 1980, she started her own public relations company and has worked with many businesses, both large and small, taking particular interest in their markets and integrated marketing, structures and strategic planning.
In the mid 90s, Lesley Ann discovered ‘The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to do About it’ by Michael Gerber – a book which was named one of the top selling business books of the Twentieth Century. Fascinated by the principles, she became a client of Mr Gerber’s E-Myth Worldwide and soon after travelled to the United States to train to become a Certified E-Myth Consultant.
In 2007, she co-founded Switzer Business Coaching with Peter Switzer, one of Australia’s leading business commentators and chairman of The Switzer Group.
Lesley Ann believes that when it comes down to it, it’s not really about your business, it’s about your life and the way to make that happen is through business development. Her greatest joy is to see clients create businesses that work FOR them instead of BECAUSE of them.
Friday, March 02, 2012
Our business has four salespeople. Three of us are focused and enjoy what we do. The fourth person – though great when we hired her – is not performing and has a negative attitude in the office. We have tried to support her by sending her to a motivation coach, but it all seems too hard for her. What can we do?
Have a one-on-one meeting with either her manager or the person who employed her to find out what’s going on. If you all hired her, your problem could lie in the fact that there are no clear reporting lines and it’s perceived as three against one. Her negative attitude may stem from something external, but if it’s internal, you all need to get to the bottom of it. Do this openly and honestly.
What did you promise her when you hired her? Has that come to fruition or is she experiencing disappointment and frustration? Does she have the necessary tools and training, and the capability?
Sending her to a motivation coach is a supportive move, but if the root of the problem is at work, you should be looking there first. Motivation needs a positive platform on which to operate.
If your discussion does not provide constructive answers, and the issue is not solvable within the business, maybe she should be in another role or even another company.
It’s possible you are using up a lot of energy worrying that this person may leave. If you can’t find a solution, your real worry will be the energy and focus expended by both parties if she stays.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Whether you are building a business or a career, you can regard each goal or major achievement as a rung on your ladder. These rungs are simply stages within the context of your own life, career or business’ bigger picture. If that picture or vision is to have any weight and meaning to you, it will be clearly written and be something you read at least once a week – if not daily.
When you know where you are going, the path and the steps become clearer. Once you know where you are going and when you plan to get there, you can put in place the goals, indicators and signposts which measure your progress.
Determine your goals
Goals come in all shapes and sizes and no two people will have the same set of goals. While the first goals that spring to mind will often be those related to your business or career, the keyword is ‘balance’. All work and no play can make life very dull. Set your goals in the sectors which give you balance. Choose to focus on a selection of career or business, health and wellbeing, family and relationship, education and learning, social, creative and spiritual, or indeed all of them.
- Why do I want to achieve these goals?
- Where do I want them to take me?
- What is important to me?
- What will put a smile on my face?
- What can I do that will make a difference to my family, my career or my workplace?
Take yourself off to a quiet space to do this. While the first goals to spring to mind will often be those related to your business or career, the keyword is ‘balance’ thinking. Take notes as you begin to formulate your goals, remembering that every word in every goal statement is important.
Reach for the sky
In his Full Spectrum Business Coaching Program, Alex Alexander sets out guidelines for setting strategic goals for a business to keep you on the path and motivated. These guidelines are equally applicable to personal and career goals.
Your goals should be:
- Significant. In other words, an important indicator for your successful achievement of a major step towards your bigger vision.
- Time-specific. Unless you specifically state a time frame, deadlines have a habit of whizzing by unnoticed. Having target dates gives you focus
- Realistic but challenging. If it’s too easy, it’s boring and de-motivating. Impossible goals cause you to give up before you start. Set goals that are challenging but reachable. And set up some rewards for yourself to make it worth going for.
- Actionable and focused. It has to be something on which you can take action and it must have an observable result. When you focus on specific results, your goal will be actionable.
- Trackable. There must be something you can measure or observe that indicates your progress towards achieving the goal.
Alexander believes that goal setting is both an art and a science. “The right goals and the right number of goals can and should keep you on the path to success and keep you motivated. The wrong goals can lead you astray.”
Plan to achieve
Write your goals down. If it’s not written, it’s not real. Just saying something to yourself, making a resolution in your head or simply thinking about it is not enough. How many new year’s resolutions never make it past the second day of the year and fall into that black hole that is filled with lost faxes and odd black socks?
Writing down your goals is part of your commitment to making them happen. Visualise them. See yourself clearly having achieved your goals and get a sense of what it will feel like. Think about how you will celebrate or reward yourself. Tell someone – a close friend or someone who gives you positive support. This will cement your goals and your commitment to them even further.
If you are not willing to either write a goal down or share it with a trusted friend or colleague, then ask yourself if this is truly something you want. At times the process of reaching a goal can become onerous and this is the point where it is dropped or diluted. It will only become onerous if your focus in on the actions and not on the outcome.
When your goal is time specific, actionable and measurable, you can cut it down to smaller indicators or elements. Set up a timeline showing the dates and if there are smaller elements within the major goal, note them on the timeline so you can mark them off as they are reached.
As important as knowing how to set and reach your goals is to acknowledge the obstacles and frustrations that might get in the way. Be aware of these, recognise them if and when you see them and prepare for them.
Stumbling blocks could be goals that are in conflict with others on your team or with the organisation as a whole; unclear or ambiguous goals, vague and immeasurable goals; goals which have an unrealistic or unreasonable outcome or time frame and goals that are unethical or without integrity. Stick to sound goal setting principles and you will be successful. And when you have achieved your goals, what next? Simply look for the next rung on your ladder!
Friday, February 03, 2012
I have never done annual reviews or appraisals with my staff, but I think I need to bite the bullet. Where do I start and how can I introduce them without making them sound threatening?
If you’ve never done them before, you will need to think carefully about why you are introducing performance reviews. If it’s to help them develop as an employee and a person, then go for it. If however, you only want to use it as a disciplinary tool, then forget it and check that the revolving door in and out of your business is in good order – because it will get some use as they depart and the next one comes in.
Having said all that, the key points in a performance review are:
- to discuss how they are going in the job;
- to receive feedback from their manager;
- to give feedback to their manager;
- to decide together what both need to do in order to optimise the effectiveness of the staff member’s work;
- to review goals set at last performance development and set goals for going forward;
- to discuss their professional development needs; and
- to give them the opportunity for action to be taken if their performance is outstanding.
A note regarding the elements to include in a performance review: don’t just focus on the technical or physical work that they do. Include the intangibles such as their attitude, team spirit, general behaviour, customer service, punctuality and so on. In some respects these are almost more important than the actual work.
You can have someone who is great at the administrative work they do, but miserable to deal with on a personal or day-to-day level and everyone walks on eggshells around them. A performance review is an opportunity to address these intangibles – but I would hope that you’re not waiting 12 months to do so if any such negative behaviour should show up.
There are several web sites that can give you some reasonable performance review forms. Look for those that ask the staff member to rate themselves as well as being rated by their manager. Switzer Business Coaching’s Full Spectrum program covers both position or job agreements and performance reviews – as well as every aspect of running a business.
Friday, September 30, 2011
In past columns you have talked about measuring everything. This seems to me to be a waste of time and energy. I realise there are things I need to measure, but where do I draw the line of common sense?
You’re right. Too much measuring confuses and obscures the issues and is just as bad as too little.
What you want to measure is anything that will give you clarification and help you make effective decisions about the direction of your business. Every business is an intricate web of interlocking systems – even if you don’t have them documented (and if you don’t then you won’t have consistency and predictability because the outcome of the system will be dependent on who is driving it).
Just measuring the dollars isn’t enough. You want to track and measure the things that make the dollars move in and out of your business.
Start to think of the key systems in categories. What are your marketing systems? Your sales systems? Your production and delivery systems. Do you have recruiting, hiring, training and management systems in place and how effective are they?
Now, out of these, make a start and decide which have the most impact on the business.
Of course, if you are going to measure anything, you will want to set yourself standards; what is acceptable, what is not and what is outstanding? All businesses are different as are their owners and the degree to which you really understand what is happening in your business – and act on it – will generally correlate with your success.
Monday, September 19, 2011
As a business grows, the need for organisation becomes imperative. Organisational thinking and structure are essential for getting the most from your business and yourself, as well as for being able to achieve balance between your business and your life. Your starting point is your company’s organisational chart. Creating one solves a lot of problems and answers many questions as to how you can co-ordinate the work of the business so that it runs efficiently and produces the results you need.
Some hints about an organisation chart: build it around responsibilities rather than ‘jobs’; Everyone only has one manager; don’t tailor positions around personalities, tailor them to the functions the business needs. Finally, organisational strategy and structure must evolve in step with the business or slightly ahead of it. Make it forward looking. (A useful practical hint is that there is an easy organisation chart tool in Word and Powerpoint.)
Friday, September 09, 2011
I try to give my staff responsibility by delegating work projects to them with varying and generally uninspiring results. What are the secrets of delegation?
Clarity and communication. It’s no good you having a picture in your head of what you want and expecting them to mind read.
Example: Jim, can you put together a report for me on xxx please? Depending on how Jim interprets this, you might receive a novel, a half page summary or something in between. That’s if or when you receive it, because he was given no clues as to length, content, timing or even purpose.
Good delegation needs precise details of what is required; the reason or purpose it’s required; the format; the inclusions and a time frame. And of course it’s preferable to preface the request with something like: Jim, what’s your day/week looking like? I have a project I’d like you to do for me, it should take a couple of hours, can you fit it in? At the end of the conversation the manager can check that task is understood and Jim should know he is free to ask for further information during the process.
Friday, September 02, 2011
Growing a business can be challenging, but a clear strategy and a set of systems can help take the pain out of growth.
There comes a point in most small businesses when the owner – you – stands back and acknowledges that it can no longer be classed as a start-up and that it’s time for it to grow to the next stage.
The challenge now is how do you do that? More of the same? Probably not.
You’ve done a great job to get to where you are now, but to get to the next stage will need a bigger plan.
Develop your vision
What do you want your business to become? How will it behave? What will set it apart from its competition? Decide what your growth goals are and set yourself targets and set some realistic milestones by which you can measure your progress.
These will include your revenue targets, the timeframe in which you will achieve this, number of staff and when they will join the business, number of outlets, profitability and so on.
Duncan Lugstein, managing director of Sydney-based Corporate Technical Services (CTS) believes the key is to map out a growth destination that is real, but stretches you and that can be broken down into smaller goals. “Planning growth in your business also needs you to work on developing yourself as a manager and a leader. Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone and grow as a person as your business will be a reflection of you.”
Your next task is to be really objective and honest about the business as it is now. If it has just come out of start-up stage then it is almost certainly still very ‘you-dependent’.
In other words, without you there it would not be able to operate effectively, let alone grow. This is a wake-up moment, and a very valuable realisation, because you are now able to ask yourself key questions about what really needs to be in place for growth to happen.
Time for action
The first thing is going to be time; specifically yours. Without you dedicating your time to business development, nothing will change. You are going to have to create some time in your working week.
Begin by identifying everything you do in a day, a week, a month. Work out which tasks you can delegate. (And if there is no one to delegate it to, you may have to consider getting in some office support – even if it’s only a day or two a week.)
Work out the instructions for each of the activities this person or people will be doing. Imagine that they are doing the work without you there to tell them what comes next and set it all out on paper. These instructions must include clear steps, standards and timing. This is a system.
Make sure each system is recognisable as such and follows the same format.
Aim to free up at least one hour of your time every day – and when you have done that, begin to work on your growth plans and the systems that will streamline the work that needs to be done.
If you were to use that time just to develop one system, at the end of the week you would have five systems; at the end of the month, 20 and so on.
Key areas of focus
Incorporate into your planning the key areas your business will need to cover to ensure that the growth will be steady, managed and sustained.
Once you have a plan and created your thinking and development time, look at what your business will need in order to grow. If the answer is more sales, then maybe you should be looking at your marketing strategy.
If you have enough enquiries but are not converting them to business, then examine what is happening in your conversion process. Are you confident that your customer service department can deliver your products and services faultlessly and seamlessly? If not, then start there. Iron out the glitches. There is absolutely no point in developing a marketing strategy to bring in more business unless you know your business can deliver on its promises.
Think of your business as having four key strategic areas: production, marketing, management and resources. Then break those areas down into key areas. To begin with, you are going to be responsible for developing the strategies in all of these areas.
Lisa Clarke of Cavalier Homes West in Victoria, says that one of the first things she and husband and business partner Rob had to do was to define their roles and responsibilities within the business. “With that done, it was important that we had confidence in each other and our shared goals for the business to keep the ball rolling. We constantly review out strategic objective and look at where we are today to make sure we keep on track.”
Systems for growth
Duncan Lugstein says that recognising that he needed to implement systems was a breakthrough. “But before I could do that I needed to ‘systemise’ myself and my own thinking. Without that how could I possibly expect my staff to understand and adopt the same principles? In the beginning the systems that made the most difference were the deceptively simple and small ones.”
Lugstein says it was through those systems that many of the daily frustrations and obstacles that prevented things running smoothly were eliminated. “Gradually we incorporated all the systems and guidelines into a handbook. Now everyone knows what to do and where they stand.”
Rob Clarke believes the most effective system he and Lisa put in place was what they call their Exception Report. “As most of the work we ask people to do is timeline-based we need to know if they can’t complete something by a given time as this affects other tradesmen coming onto the building site after them. This has made everyone more aware of how their work impacts on others,” he explains.
The Clarkes say the best advice they could give anyone wanting to grow their business is to know your target market. “Really understand who they are, where they are and what motivates them. And, document everything and anything you do. Do not underestimate the importance of systems. This means that as people come into the business they know how things are done and there is a clear road map to follow.”
Duncan Lugstein’s tips for growth planning:
- Look for opportunities outside the norm that will still fit into your business framework
- Develop your staff and yourself
- Be committed and prepared to do what it takes
- Lead by example
- Plan for everything
- Systemise your business
- Put the right support structures in place
- Employ those who complement your skills
- Be prepared to turn away the wrong clients
- Find good advisers (legal, etc.)
- Develop a handbook for your policies and procedures.
Lisa and Rob Clarke’s tips for growth planning:
- Get a business coach
- Define all the roles in the business
- Constantly review your strategic objective to keep on track
- Develop systems for everything and never underestimate their value
- See frustrations and complaints as opportunities to make your business better
- Delegate wherever you can
- Care for and develop your people
- Really know your target market
- Measure everything.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Q. I sometimes feel so close to the coalface in my business that I find it hard to be objective in assessing how it is performing and what I need to do next to keep it moving forward.
A. This is always a challenge in small business and akin to not being able to see the wood for the trees. However, the good news is that the minute you recognise the fact, you can step away and take a longer view. One of the things you can do at this time is a SWOT analysis and consider the external and internal forces that drive your business. The strengths and weaknesses are internal and things you can control, and the opportunities and threats are external and usually beyond your control. Draw up a four box grid and list the key points in each segment
SWOT is really a state of mind where you are always checking in to the realities inside and outside your business and processing the information. Your business’s strengths are elements within the business that will enable you to succeed. Ask yourself what are the conditions or abilities that put you first in the eyes of your customers or make you an innovator in your market?
The inverse of this are the conditions that put you at a disadvantage. These weaknesses could be poor or missing systems, untrained staff or anything that results in dissatisfied customers.
Once you have determined your SWOT and the impact each point has on your business, you can make the necessary decisions on the actions you will take to develop or correct. The whole process is not difficult, it just takes careful thinking and application to move your business forward.
Friday, August 19, 2011
In the spirit of open management, I asked my office manager what his biggest frustrations were so we could address them. Among those he listed were, ‘I don’t know what my job really is’ and ‘inconsistent direction and instruction’. How do I deal with this?
First of all, congratulations on asking the question. That is the biggest step towards addressing problems both seen and unseen and to being an effective manager. The two frustrations are related with the second almost certainly a direct result of the first. What happens in many small businesses is that the owner nominally gives someone responsibility and then takes it away, saying, ‘I know what to do here, let me handle this one’. The result is that the manager is never fully given the chance to manage or take on higher accountabilities. The missing piece here is a clear understanding on both sides of what the job entails.
With all our business-coaching clients we introduce written Job Agreements.
We have a simple definition of a ‘job’; it is the responsibility to produce a specific set of results. You either do the work to produce the results or you do the managerial work to see that other people or systems do the work to produce the results. To do that, the job must carry enough authority for appropriate decision making, to get resources and sometimes to supervise other people in other jobs.
A job agreement is an understanding between the business and an employee and a commitment to produce specific results. It has a stated purpose; it lists the different kinds of work inherent in the position; it sets out the reporting relationships and the authority to make decisions, get resources or manage others.
Having an agreement such as this in place will very quickly clarify the situation for you and your manager. You will both know exactly your roles in the business and move towards a more satisfying consistency and certainly clearer direction.
Friday, July 22, 2011
I’ve been reading your column and I think I’m beginning to get it. I understand the concepts, but where do I start?
Get a coach. Seriously. I know you might think, ‘Well she would say that.’ Look at the sporting world. Do you think Ian Thorpe would have achieved all he did without a coach? Can a team reach the top without advice and leadership from a coach? Doubtful.
Getting to where you want to go in business takes knowledge, application and discipline. I have no doubt you have discipline to do the stuff your business does every day. You wouldn’t be where you are if you didn’t. Building your business into something that will serve you instead of the other way around takes a different kind of discipline, which you don’t necessarily have right now, but which you can develop. It’s like exercising a new thinking muscle. And it’s committing to do the work that needs to be done.
Sure we can make the commitment to ourselves, but how many times do we put those commitments on the back burner because an important client calls, or there’s a bushfire to be put out in the business? When an athlete makes a commitment to a coach, they focus on meeting it.
The same applies to a business coach. They are not there to do it for you (more’s the pity I hear you cry). They are there to show, guide and direct you in what you need to do and keep you on track to becoming the leader and manager you want to be.
Monday, July 18, 2011
I’m beginning to realise that doing business and running a business are two separate things. However, I’m not really clear on how I need to be thinking to run the business and make it really successful.
You are absolutely right. On the one hand you have ‘the practice’ and on the other ‘the business’. One is about what the business does and how it does it and the other is about the business of running and managing a business.
Too many practitioners think they are running a business, but really all they are doing is keeping themselves in a job.
Start looking at the business management side of the equation. Stand back and see the bigger picture and determine what you want it to be, remembering that if the business depends on you to function, all you are doing is keeping yourself in work and won’t ever be able to get off that treadmill until you or someone else turns it off.
Ask yourself what you really want to achieve. How do you want the business to be perceived by its existing and potential clients? Employees? Suppliers? In other words put some thinking into the business of business.
Your role is to formulate the vision and set the goals; to build the culture; to motivate and influence your people. Once you have done that, you can begin to put your thoughts into action – always with the end point clearly in mind.
How much time are you spending doing that now?
My guess, and your answer if you are really honest with yourself, is ‘not enough’.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Time seems to be in short supply. “I never have enough time to do everything I have to do.” “I seem to spend my time at everyone else’s beck and call.” “I could do with an eight day week and then I might keep up.” And the most common theme is “There’s so much to do and I’m the only one here who can do it. No-one else knows what to do or how to handle tricky situations/clients.” This is really the nub of it.
And you know I believe every one of you. No-one else knows how to do it. So whose fault is that? And would that be the main reason they are always interrupting you with questions? Did you employ them because they were not smart? I doubt it. Give them some credit. If you learned how to do it, I’m sure they can too.
Examine the interruptions and what is the root cause. More often than not you will find the issue is one of a lack of training and delegation. And confidence. Show them you have confidence in their decision making abilities. Help them get into the habit of prioritising their questions and ask them to develop a solution to the issue before they come to you. Gradually those interruptions will become fewer and your staff will be happier, knowing they can get on and do what you have employed them to do.
Friday, July 01, 2011
My biggest bugbear isn’t systems or planning – those I have pretty well handled, it’s interruptions. I never seem to be able to have clear time to focus on the task at hand.
So, while you have systems handled, you need to add a system to manage interruptions. Look at the interruptions and work out where they are coming from. Is it staff questions, or telephone calls or family wanting something or, heaven forbid, clients? Now ask yourself who gave them permission to interrupt you? Chances are there’s only one answer to that. You did.
Begin to change the situation by setting some guidelines.
Schedule some “do not disturb” time – usually not more than 50 minutes at a time, at the end of which you deal with messages. Ask your staff to put their query on paper or in an email, or even hold it till the next staff meeting. At the same time, tell them, if it is Drop Dead Urgent, you will drop everything and respond. Have them ask themselves the question: Is this DDU? If not, use another method to communicate. You may be able to set up a gatekeeper with clear guidelines to screen interruptions. These are just a few strategies. Once you examine the interruptions and see how they fill your available time, you will also see the patterns emerging, and think of ways to shift your behaviour and the behaviour of those around you. Try some or all of these strategies for a month and measure the changes.
Friday, June 24, 2011
The problem with most small business owners is not simply that they are doing too much work, but that they are doing the wrong kind of work. They should be looking at where their input adds the most value to the business.
Put a value on your time. What is it worth to the business? Here are two examples of how different business owners approached this question.
Brian was working with a business coach on some new strategies for his broking and finance business.
He resented the time he had to put into the exercise, complaining that to date it had ‘taken him away’ from his usual office work for almost 15 hours.
His coach persisted. When the strategies were finally in place, projections showed that they would generate another $250,000 in revenue in the ensuing six months.
Brian’s coach asked him what he would pay someone else to do the work he felt he ‘should’ have been doing. His answer was, grudgingly, $50-an-hour. “And yet,” his coach pointed out, “15 hours of your strategic work is going to be worth $250,000 or more than $16,500-an-hour.”
Was there anyone else in the business who could have done that strategic work besides Brian? No. He got the point and began reassessing where his priorities lay.
Mary Ellen runs a public relations consultancy. Her client time is charged out at $175-an-hour.
However, the amount of time she can give to this is curtailed because of the administrative work that needs to be done to support her consulting work. She doesn’t feel she can justify putting on someone else at this stage until she is bringing in more revenue. Problem is, there are no more available consulting hours left in the month.
Mary Ellen looked at what she would have to pay an administrative assistant; about $22 an hour. When asked if she would hire a $175-an-hour person and give them $22-an-hour jobs to do, she laughed. And then stopped laughing when she realised that was exactly what she was doing by doing that work herself.
Stop and look at the work you are doing. Put a value on your time and work out where you are spending it. Are you the most expensive clerical worker in your office? If so, reassess. Plan to work yourself out of that job and work yourself into the job that adds the most value to your business.
Don’t be like the man whose business was turning over $5m and he still worked all his appointments around getting to the Post Office every morning to collect the mail. This is what he had done since he started the business when he was the only employee, and was such an ingrained habit that he had never considered that someone else might be able to do it, thereby freeing his early mornings to attend to activities and meetings he needed to do.
Friday, June 17, 2011
I am that stage of my business where I know I need help. I have thought about a business coach but don’t really know where to start and what I should be looking for in a coach?
You’re asking this question of a coach – and by definition you may get a biased answer. I will try to be as unbiased way as possible. First be clear about what you want. Know that a coach won’t do the actual work for you (that’s what you might get a consultant in to do – but after the expense of that, it is quite likely that you and or your business will go back to doing things the way they were done before). A good coach will help you shift your thinking about your business and gain an understanding of basic and essential business principles and then guide you in the best way to implement them. Ask a potential coach if they have any personal experience in small business. Ask how they work; do they work from a structured program or is what they do dependent on their knowledge? Examples of structured coaching programs are E-Myth Mastery Program and the Full Spectrum Business Coaching Program. Ask if they have any testimonials or case studies. Check out the areas they cover in detail, such as marketing, finance, leadership, delivery, service and systems. While you think you may need one or two of these, they are all interdependent. Look for someone who can deliver in all these areas. Most coaches will tell you you need to measure and evaluate everything you do. Ask them how they do the same with the work they do with you. Perhaps the last word is that no matter how good a coach and their way of working is, the relationship is still only effective if you do the work you commit to in between meetings. Engaging a business coach and not doing the work required is like saying, “I bought the diet book, so how come I haven’t lost weight?”
Monday, June 06, 2011
I know I have to put systems in my business but I don’t seem to have the time. It just seems like another thing I have to do. How do I overcome this challenge?
We have addressed the question before, but it is such a predicament in small business, it bears repeating.
The challenge is threefold: how do I find the time? Where do I start? And what the hell does a system actually look like?
As indicated by your question, the time issue is the big one. To paraphrase: you don’t have the time to put the things in place that will give you back your time. You know what the response is going to be. If you don’t find the time, who will? And if you don’t start putting these systems in place, what will change? The answer to that is: nothing will change. And six months, 12 months from today, you will be asking the same question. So what are you going to do about it?
Well, you can first examine everything that takes up your time and if you can’t free up at least one hour a day by delegating appropriately, I’ll eat my action plans. The next thing to do, is to ensure that when you have found that hour, you don’t fritter it on other ‘stuff’. Develop and document just one simple system. Do that each day and at the end of the week, you will have five ready to go. At the end of the month – twenty, and so on.
Friday, June 03, 2011
I have a pretty good team who can handle most things, but I feel guilty if I’m not working as hard, if not harder than them and setting an example.
Thank you for this question. It gives me a chance to trot out my favourite analogy. On a ship you expect to find the captain on the bridge setting the course and taking responsibility for the ship as a whole and the safety and security of the crew. You do not expect to see him stoking the boilers and pumping the bilges (and other such nautical expressions). Sadly, in the ship of small business, that’s where you are most likely to find the captain, while the crew look on. If you ask them why he or she is doing what they are doing, you’ll get answers like: “He says he’s the only one who can do it.” “I don’t think she trusts us to do it.” “She has never shown us how to do it.” “He says he’s always done this and likes to get his hands dirty.”
So back to the ship. Will the crew respect the captain less if he doesn’t work in the bowels of the ship? No. They know he has paid his dues and done all the hard work as he or she has risen through the ranks. Get over the guilt by concentrating on where you want your ship to go and how you are going to get it there. And how you are going to get it there with a healthy and happy crew who understand their role and accountabilities.
Monday, May 30, 2011
My team seems demotivated. What do I do?
One of the truths about businesses is that they are a reflection of their owner. If your team is de-motivated, look first to your own behaviour and attitudes at work. See what they see. How would you rate your level of motivation? Where on the meter are you standing? Are you really motivated or just driven and cranky that people aren’t meeting your standards, so you feel you have to jump in and do the work yourself? What really gets and keeps you excited?
Before you motivate them, think about what you need to do to motivate yourself. Do they know why they are doing the work they are doing?
I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the three men doing exactly the same job in a field. When asked what they are doing, the first says, “I’m breaking rocks.” The second says, “I’m earning a living.” And the third says, “I’m helping to build a cathedral.” Does your team know what they are building and what role they play in that? For that matter, do you know?
Motivation is not just about being aware of the big picture. It’s also about being valued for the job they do and who they are; being respected; being listened to and knowing that they have your support and backing. Consider beginning one-on-one weekly meetings with each of your team. Use these to set out what you expect of them and what they can expect of you; address issues and above all – listen! I know. I know. You don’t have the time. Just try it for a month and see what happens.
Friday, May 27, 2011
My partner and I are trying to grow our business but growth is painfully slow. We seem to take as many steps back as we do forward. We are both very clear on what we want, but it seems elusive. How do we get from here to there?
Both having a clear picture of where you want the business to go and what it will look like when it is there is the primary pre-requisite.
The second is having a plan or a strategy – in fact a strategy for each key area – marketing, sales, operations, financial, staffing, and so on - all of which operate within the context of your bigger picture. We call this strategic work. It is the work you do on the business as opposed to the work you do in the business. Not doing this work, not dedicating at least one hour a day to it, is negligent and delinquent. Saying you don’t have time to do it is like saying you don’t have time to stop and fill your car with petrol. Like your car, the business will stay in one spot with a lot of people in it who only look like they are going somewhere.
The third step is action. Determine what has to be done and do it.
Start planning the actions you need to take and spend time each day fuelling your business to get where you want it to go. It often helps to create a set of timelines to show when you will tackle and complete each action within the strategy areas.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Q: Everyone who calls seems to want to speak to me. They are coming to my business because of me or because they are a personal contact. I feel trapped. How do I change this without offending them?
A: This one also falls into the time-thief bag of questions.
First of all, make someone else the first point of contact and have them ask what the call is in relation to, and if you are not available, can someone else help? When you take a call and hear the request, even if it’s from your best mate, say, “You know, I’d like to have Bill look after this for you. He’s our expert on leasing. Let me put you through to him.” Mate happy. Bill happy. It’s not brain surgery.
Your bigger issue is to decide whether you are a sales person first or a business owner first. If it’s the latter, you may have to let go of a bit of ego. However, if it’s the former and you want the business to continue to depend on you then you should be prepared to sacrifice growth. If you want growth, sacrifice some ego and acknowledge that you have good people who can handle the enquiries and transactions without you. They and your clients will respect you for it.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Working on it not in it..
Taking business to the next level.
Systemising the business..
Managing outcomes not people..
Doing the strategic work of the business ..
Stop being the technician in your business..
The list goes on. Everyone in small business hears these expressions all the time, and no doubt nods sagely and agrees with them. But do they really know what they mean or is it just jargon?
We can all agree that small and medium business owners ‘need’ to do all of these things. Problem is, not many know exactly what they really mean, let alone how to put them into practice.
In more than ten years of business coaching, it has become clear to me that while small business owners know and use these phrases regularly, more often than not they simply pay lip service to them. Which seems curious. Don’t most of these owners want to build their businesses? Didn’t they all have a dream that one day they would have a successful and profitable business that would allow them flexible working time and more life, rather than handcuffing them to their desk till all hours?
The answer is that while everyone knows what they should be doing, few know how. And even fewer put it into practice? So none will really make any difference to their business until they understand what these expressions actually mean and how to make them work.
Many of the sayings listed at the top of this article were either coined by best-selling author, Michael E Gerber, or receive prominent attention in his acclaimed book, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to do About it. They have entered the small business lexicon as part of the vernacular.
So let’s unravel the jargon and look at what they actually mean.
Working ON it and not IN it.
I once had the co-owner in a printing business tell me that his partner worked in the business, and he worked on it. He went on to explain that while his partner was running the presses and churning out the print orders, he was busy on the road drumming up the business. He was less than impressed when I explained to him that he was as much working in the business as his technically minded partner. When I asked what the future plans were for the business, he told me that he wanted to carry on for a few more years as they were going and then close the business down, because no-one would want to buy it as it was a ‘unique business that depended on the two of them, and no-one else would possibly be able to run it.’ Sad on so many fronts.
To work on something, you need to first see it as separate from you, not part of you. Most SME owners are inextricably bound together with their businesses, so this is simply a shift of mindset to begin with; an exercise in imagination. Start thinking: if the business belonged to someone else, how would you advise them to proceed? If your business was able to stand on its own two feet without you, what would it look like and how would it behave? Draw as complete a picture as you can and incorporate the cultural values and behaviour of the business and its people, the sense of satisfaction of its customers and so on. This is the first step to working on; seeing it as a separate entity that you can influence from outside with your CEO’s hat on and then the work you do when you put on your manager or technician’s hat will have more meaning and more effect. The picture becomes your destination, and the more you keep it in mind the better you will get at working On it.
Taking the business to the next level.
Doing this requires the above ON work first. And then, how about describing what that next level looks like other than saying ‘more sales’. Everyone says they want to take their business to the next level, but are challenged to describe what that would mean. If you can’t describe in very clear detail what that next level is, you and your business probably aren’t ready. How could you be if you don’t know what it will entail. Alright – what if it is more sales? Pose the question: if your business was to double tomorrow, could you handle it? Could your staff manage? Would your customers be as happy with the service they receive? Would they stay on as repeat customers? Could you keep the back end administration running smoothly – assuming it is running as smoothly as you want now? If the answers to these questions are yes, you are probably already almost where you want to be. If they are no, you need to do some serious thinking about what has to happen in order for the business to get there and behave like a next level business. That is strategic thinking.
Stop being the full time technician.
Look, you have a small business. Of course you have to do technical or operational work in the business. However, don’t do it to the exclusion of the all important strategic work. Saying you don’t have time because the business depends on you to generate the revenue, will keep both you and the business where you are. Make the time to do the thinking and planning. And more importantly, make it during business hours. It is business development work – not home work. So you create the time – even though you aren’t yet brave enough to turn your mobile off for the little bit of time you have set aside – do you even know what it is you have to think about? And will the technical part of your mind even let you do it? Think about the way your business is going to do things. Think about the strategies your business has to implement. Growth strategy, marketing strategy, operational strategy, recruiting and hiring strategy, customer satisfaction strategies, financial strategies and so on. Don’t confuse yourself by thinking about how they’re going to be done – that comes later, after you are very clear on what has to be done. After this work out how and then do the work – or get someone else to do work you’ve always done, because now you have begun to work out how to replace yourself, even if it is for one hour a week. It’s a start.
Putting it all into practice
The quickest way to put all of this and more into practice is to find someone who knows how to do it and how to guide you as you do it. Our business coaches are expert coaches and mentors who work with a proven structured program. At times they will hold your feet to the flame and they will keep you accountable to yourself first and foremost.
I love Warren Buffet’s comment that nobody knows who’s swimming naked – until the tide goes out! While he was referring to hedge funds, in this climate his statement applies equally as well to small and medium businesses. If you were just coasting prior to the GFC, relying on the buoyant climate, now might be the time to tog up with some solid foundations so that you come out of the other side better equipped than most.
Monday, April 04, 2011
The most commonly stated small business frustration is related to time, people and money. I believe the solution to all of these begins with one thing, and that is focus. Unless we make or find the time to focus on these challenges, nothing will change.
Finding the space and time to focus at work can be difficult. How often do any of us give ourselves the luxury of pure thinking time? Some manage to squeeze in a bit on the drive to or from work.
A measure that many of our business-coaching clients employ is to take themselves completely away from their work environment for anything from two days to two weeks. They check into a hotel, go to a holiday house or somewhere they can clear their mind and focus on the business without interruptions or distractions. Then, with minimal daily contact with their business, they apply themselves to thinking about their business creating strategies to build the business they envision.
The depressing truth is, 99 per cent of small business owners will tell you they don’t have the time to do this. What they are really saying they don’t think their business is worth focusing their thinking and planning time on.
Friday, April 01, 2011
Knowing where your business needs to go and having strategies in place to achieve your goals is crucial to fuel future growth.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Just as Alice discovered, without a predetermined destination, the route you take is meaningless.
With a planned destination, all the signposts and markers along the way are significant as they indicate your progress towards your objective.
In other words, if you keep going the way you are without an end in mind, you will end up where you’re headed – nowhere. However, before you can measure anything, you need to know what you are measuring and why.
Creating growth goals assumes you have already developed a clear, written picture of what you want your business to be and do, how you want it to perform and by when.
Once you know where you are going and when you plan to get there, you can put in place the indicators or signposts which measure how you are travelling and the health of your business along the way. These indicators can and indeed need to be both tangible or measurable, and intangible or seemingly immeasurable.
Why measure and track?
- It helps you to manage your progress towards your end goal.
- As the business owner, you should regularly take the time to step outside the business and look at the big picture.
- This helps you to remain objective and ensures decisions are made objectively rather than emotionally.
What are you measuring and tracking?
‘Key strategic indicators’ are the measure of your company’s condition compared against the key elements of your strategic intent, the finished picture of your business.
- First identify the key components of your big picture – all the things that you can measure and track. These include projected revenues, growth rates, product or service lines, profits, number of outlets, number of employees, to name a few.
- Set up a key strategic indicator chart, which will act as your guide.
- Measure and monitor all the elements on a regular basis.
- Use this as a guide for your management and marketing decisions and planning.
- Determine the intangibles, such as quality, service, customer satisfaction, staff knowledge, staff morale and team spirit.
Think differently about the business
The phrase coaches hear most often is: “My business is different; it depends on me”. And every time we hear it, we know it’s true. This is a sad situation for many businesses today, because as long as your business depends on you to work, its growth is instantly limited.
There is only so much you can do in the allotted hours in each day of the week. These people identify the business as part of them rather than separate from them.
To allow a business to grow, the owner needs to begin to work out how, over time, it can begin to operate independent of him or her.
Just like children, your business needs to take on its own life; become an entity in its own right in order to progress. You need to see it and think of it as separate from you rather than a part of you. Once you do this, you can think about it differently and make the right strategic decisions about its growth and how you can track and measure it.
Create a systematic way to measure
If you are going to track the growth of your business you will need to create a systematic way to measure and track your progress. So, what are the measures? Examples are mentioned above: revenue, growth rates, profitability, number of employees, number of outlets for a start.
You can add many other elements such as the revenue generated by different product and service categories, the number of enquiries that convert to sales, average sales/unit prices. The list is endless, as long as each measure helps you make well-founded decisions on future strategies.
Establishing goals: one page planning
There is a practical way to set up your indicators and see them on one page:
- Set up a chart with columns showing your time frame in months, quarters, half years and years as you go further out, finishing with your goal time in the last column. From today’s date, go forward for one year in months.
- Down the left hand side put in your measurables. Your first line is revenue. Working forwards from the current month and back from your goal date, fill in your targets. As you look at the end date, ask yourself, ‘if that is the target revenue in that year, what is my target revenue for the year before that, and the year, half year or quarter before that’?
- At the same time, move forward from this current month. What is this month’s revenue going to be? What is your target for next month and the month after that?
- How many people will it need to do this? With this chart you can begin some broad brush planning about when your next staff member should be employed. Then you can start looking at which products and services will be generating the revenue.
- Categorise your services or products into broad categories. Look at what percentage of your business’ revenue they are currently responsible for. Ask yourself if this is the right balance and if this is how you want it to be. Project these figures forwards to your goal date.
Define your strategies
Now stand back and look at it. What are the supporting strategies that you will need to enable your projections? These may include:
- Marketing strategy – how are you going to create the awareness your business needs in the short and long term? What kind of budget does that need?
- Recruiting and hiring strategy – where are you going to find the people? Do you know what sort of people you need? What are their attitudes and qualities? What are their skills?
- Financial strategy – how will the business support and fund short and long-term growth?
- Management strategy – how are you going to manage your people and their accountabilities as the business grows? Who is going to manage the processes those people will be driving and how will you measure the results?
The importance of a satisfied customer
So far we have focused on indicators that are measurable, however there are other indicators that have as much, if not more impact on the success of your business, yet these seem pretty difficult to measure or quantify.
Think about all the reasons you return to any business with which you have had dealings. Why do you choose to return to them or not? Usually it will be because of the way you were treated, the quality of the service, the way you were made to feel, the staff knowledge, etc. And when these are negative, you generally vote with your feet and your wallet and don’t return.
The owner will never know why and will blame the downturn of his or her business on the economy, interest rates, public holidays, the price of petrol – anything but the fact that his staff are not treating the customers with respect, the service levels are poor or the goods are shoddy.
Your customers are constantly making decisions based on criteria similar to these, and if you don’t recognise this and build it into your planning, you could be in trouble.
Set your targets: chart your progress
You may not be able to specifically measure these elements, but you can work out a way to quantify or rate them. For example, you could describe worst case, best case and somewhere in between and give them a rating on a -10 to +10 scale. Decide where you are now and what you have to do this week/this month to lift the standard.
Just setting out your growth targets is not necessarily going to make it happen, but it will help you make judgements about your progress and decisions about what to do next as you formulate your long and short-term strategies.
For example, say it’s June and you have set a sales target for September that is 20% above this month’s. You know that your sales cycle from first contact to confirmed sale is generally six to eight weeks. You also know that your business is currently working on 60% lead conversion rate.
This means you have to have firmed up your lead generation strategy by this week, in order to get everything in place to set the wheels in motion so that you will see the target results in September.
You know how many leads you need to generate and by when in order to meet your target. And at the same time you will be reviewing your October targets and so on. All of this will have a bearing on your marketing plans and marketing budget, which in turn will impact on your financial planning.
Your staffing needs will impact on your management decisions, recruiting and hiring strategies and so on. As the months go by you can chart your progress towards your goals and begin to feel in control of your business as it takes on a life of its own.
Friday, March 18, 2011
I am that stage of my business where I know I need help. I have thought about a business coach but don’t really know where to start and what I should be looking for in a coach?
You’re asking this question of a coach – and by definition you may get a biased answer. I will try to be as unbiased way as possible.
First be clear about what you want. Know that a coach won’t do the actual work for you (that’s what you might get a consultant in to do – but after the expense of that, it is quite likely that you and or your business will go back to doing things the way they were done before). A good coach will help you shift your thinking about your business and gain an understanding of basic and essential business principles and then guide you in the best way to implement them.
Ask a potential coach if they have any personal experience in small business. Ask how they work; do they work from a structured program or is what they do dependent on their knowledge? Examples of structured coaching programs are E-Myth Mastery Program and the Full Spectrum Business Coaching Program.
Ask if they have any testimonials or case studies. Check out the areas they cover in detail, such as marketing, finance, leadership, delivery, service and systems. While you think you may need one or two of these, they are all interdependent. Look for someone who can deliver in all these areas. Most coaches will tell you you need to measure and evaluate everything you do. Ask them how they do the same with the work they do with you.
Perhaps the last word is that no matter how good a coach and their way of working is, the relationship is still only effective if you do the work you commit to in between meetings. Engaging a business coach and not doing the work required is like saying, “I bought the diet book, so how come I haven’t lost weight?”
Monday, March 07, 2011
How can any small business owner do everything you suggest? How do I make sure our clients are looked after properly? How do I train staff to do it the way I do it? How do I systemise everything?
You’re right. It’s all very daunting. However, I suggest you shift your focus. You are thinking entirely about the ‘how’: how to do stuff and how to ‘fix’ things. It’s time to shift your approach. Stop thinking about the how. Start thinking about the ‘what’ and the results.
Begin with: what do I want to create with this business? What are the results that will show me I have done it? Then focus on the outcomes and results.
Once you start with the desired end result clearly in mind, you can go back and work out the ‘what’: what needs to be done, what systems need to be in place, what it is you want to measure to show you are heading towards your result. From there you can develop the how, from a far more effective standpoint.
It might seem like a lot of work, but weigh that up with the alternative. Would you rather keep stumbling along, being constantly stressed because things are not being done smoothly and efficiently? Do you want to continue to expend your energy on ‘fixing’ all those things you don’t like or want in your business? Or would you like to eliminate them?
You won’t get rid of them all at once, but you can remove them one by one. It doesn’t happen by magic. You need to find the time to do the thinking and the subsequent work. Believe me, it’s worth the effort.
Monday, February 28, 2011
What are the secrets of delegation?
Clarity and communication. It’s no good you having a picture in your head of what you want and expecting them to mind read.
Good delegation needs precise details of what is required; the reason or purpose it’s required; the format; the inclusions and a time frame. And it’s preferable to preface the request with something like: Jim, what’s your day/week looking like? I have a project I’d like you to do for me, it should take a couple of hours, can you fit it in? At the end of the conversation check the task is understood and Jim should know he is free to ask for further information during the process.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
My time is often spent responding to staff questions, from aspects of their normal everyday work to unusual situations and how to handle them. As a result I never seem to get my own work done. How can I get them to think?
This is one of the key reasons small businesses rarely become bigger businesses. The owner is so busy sorting out day to day issues they can’t focus on the higher level work they should be doing on the business.
For most, it stems from an open door policy and desire not to be seen as unapproachable. By giving staff permission to interrupt and by giving them the answer every time, you are embedding the practice and indicating that your work is of no consequence.
It’s time to change all that. Introduce the ‘bring me solutions, not problems’ principle. In other words, encourage them to do the initial thinking. Respond with: I’m in the middle of something right now, can you give some thought to the issue and come back in half an hour with two or three options that you believe might be ways to handle it.
Monday, February 14, 2011
I have quite a few systems in place. On the whole, things are working quite well. However, there are still some staff who either don’t ‘buy-in’, or decide to alter the process to suit themselves. Also, there is still a constant need for me to solve problems. How do I handle all of this?
Not getting buy-in will often happen if employees feel that systems have been imposed on them, or if they can’t see the point. And I have to assume if you have a system in place, that it’s there to achieve a result or an outcome.
Are they clear on why it’s there? Have you discussed it with them or asked for their input? Rather than saying, ‘We have a problem here so now we are going to do it this way’, try a more collaborative approach. For example: ‘This process doesn’t seem to be working as well as it should. I welcome your thoughts as to how we can change or improve the way things are done so we have a more consistent outcome.’
Even if you believe you know exactly what needs to be done, listen. Then with the team, set it out in written form (hello – a system) and agree on the optimum way to approach this particular task. When you take this approach there is less of a tendency to short-cut or ignore the system.
Regarding the need for you to solve problems, I’m guessing this is because you have always been the go-to person for problems. Turn it around. Start asking them what they think the solution should be and discuss it, and then have them action it.
Introduce the concept ‘bring me solutions not problems’. This has huge benefits. It gives them the freedom to make decisions (and mistakes, which are OK as long as they learn from them). It develops confidence, makes them potentially better employees and team members, frees up your time (to do more strategic thinking) and generally improves the whole workplace environment.
Friday, February 11, 2011
I have drafted an organisational chart and my name is in practically every box. I now know why I’m constantly exhausted! What do I do next to save my sanity?
Look for the position you would most like to work yourself out of as soon as decently possible. More often than not it involves routine work. List the duties, activities and responsibilities that you do when you are in that box. Prioritise them; there will almost certainly be a top three or five things that get done there, that if you had a set of written instructions for them, you would be able to hand them to someone else.
Develop the instructions with clear outcomes (call them systems if you like) and find someone to follow the instructions. The rule is: throw systems at a position before you throw people into it. If you can have someone else manage those responsibilities without the need for you to stand over their shoulder and teach them, you will have freed up a significant chunk of your time – leaving you free to concentrate on something else!
Seriously, that is the way you will gradually work yourself out of the boxes that eat away at your time, allowing you to spend more time focusing on the areas where you are more valuable to the business.
Monday, February 07, 2011
No matter how I ask or tell my staff to do everything they need to do, they invariably take their own time in doing it and don’t seem to care about the standards. What do I need to do to be a better manager?
There are many different kinds of management and the two extremes showing what we do and don’t want I call Management by Imposition and Inquisition (‘you do it because I said you gotta do it’ and ‘have you finished that work yet?’), and Management by Agreement and Exception.
Clearly the first is not going to be hugely productive. The latter starts with the organisation chart and a written Job Position Agreement which states very clearly the objectives of the role, the standards (job specific and company specific), the actual work, any supervisory and resource authorities entailed and finally a signature page on which denotes agreement to be accountable for everything detailed in the document.
When both the manager and the direct report agree on what the position entails, and what support will be given, everyone gets on and does it, and there should be no more need for any over-shoulder watching, nagging or ‘bossing’.
The Exception part comes into play when the direct report realises that a commitment can’t be met and advises the manager as soon as possible and gives a reason and a solution and a time by which it will be done. In other words, when they know exactly what they are there to do and take responsibility for it, they are more able to manage themselves and the manager handles the results that the direct report is there to accomplish.
Friday, February 04, 2011
My company has been operating for around four years and I am making steady progress. However, I think that I could ramp up from a small business to a mid-sized one by buying a competitor or two, with staff. What are the pros and cons?
Big question. And an entrepreneurial one at that. Instead of giving you pros and cons, I will pose questions for you to consider.
How ready is your current business to double or treble in size? Are all your systems in place? Are you clear on your future organisational structure and what needs to be in place to get where you want to go?
Leadership and people management are going to be key. You can have great entrepreneurial skill and fantastic technicians, but you also need tremendous management skills to tie the two together.
Every business – even in the same field – has a different way of doing things. Be aware of the pitfalls of blending cross cultures. Do you have a clear strategy to merge the cultures and do it in such a way that everyone is comfortable and still feels reasonably safe and willing to buy into your vision and way of doing things? Mergers, particularly with smaller businesses where everyone knows everyone else, are like impending marriages.
Once you have identified your prospective ‘partner’, spend some time getting to know them. In other words, date first, then get engaged and learn more about each other before walking down the aisle.
Do you have training systems in place? How are you going to position the change with the clients so they still feel important and cared for? The last thing you want is a mass migration of unhappy clients. With the right elements in place, your strategy can certainly ramp your business up.
Monday, January 31, 2011
I have two loan consultants flat out and desperately crying out for support. My initial answer is to employ a new loan consultant to lessen the load – is there another solution?
The answer lies in your organisation chart, if you have one. If you don’t, draw one up to show the business not as it is today, but what you want it to grow into. I’m sure that it will include some form of administrative support.
You say your consultants are desperately crying out for support. Why not look at putting on an administration person first? One you can train your way, who can free your consultants up from the paperwork and allow them to be more effective in what they do best – going out and getting the business, which is how they add value to your company.
Approaching it this way will almost certainly be the more cost effective option, and, if you do build it into your recruiting and hiring process, you might even find someone who ultimately would like to be a loan consultant themselves. When they are ready to make that shift, they can be charged with the responsibility of training their replacement.
Friday, January 21, 2011
What characteristics should I look for when hiring a manager? So far I have had two who have not worked out and I’m gun shy about hiring another.
Michael Gerber, author of the best-selling small business book, The E-Myth Revisited, believes there aren’t any bad managers, only untrained managers, unmanaged managers, managers operating without a management system, or managers expected to produce miracles without the right perspective and without the right tools and training.
If you can apply any of the above scenarios to your previous managers, put some thought into what actually was missing.
Decide on the why and the what, then the who and the how. Why do you want a manager? To take over from you? To free you up so you can do more strategic work? Move away from the business? Spend more time selling? Hopefully it’s one of the first two. If it’s the third, your time might be better spent training someone else to sell the way you do.
What exactly do you want them to do and what are your expectations? What do you have in place to support them achieving the results you expect?
Then work out the who. What sort of person will perform this position? And perhaps more importantly, do they have values around work, people and service that match yours?
Now think about the how. How do you want them to do what they have to do as a manager of your business? Have you documented how things are done in your company, or if they’re not being done right now, how you want them done?
Set out to have a good, trained, managed manager, operating with the right tools and systems.
Monday, January 17, 2011
I have a reasonably successful business and capable staff, but I find I am forever having to get in and do the work myself to be sure it’s done properly. I want the business to grow, but growth seems painfully slow.
First of all you need to get out of your own way. It sounds to me as if you are spending too much time micromanaging and doing the technical work of the business.
Didn’t you employ others to do that? You can help them by developing and then implementing those processes as well as the process that will help you all track the results.
Do this right and you will also be able to catch problems as they emerge, rather than when they have become entrenched and are therefore much tougher to eliminate.
Micromanaging has the effect of retarding or holding back growth. It also sends a message to your managers that you lack confidence in them.
Take a look at the strengths in your senior staff. They are almost certainly being under-utilised and probably aching for more responsibility and a chance to demonstrate that they can take the stretch.
If you don’t give them the responsibility they are wanting, they will go somewhere else where their skills are more appreciated – and you will be left doing all the technical work, which is what they think you want.
Work with them to develop the processes that will achieve the desired results. Talk to them about the tracked results. And get out of their way.
As long as you are there doing the work you employed others to do, you are not doing the work they need you to do.
Your role is to define the bigger picture and develop the strategies the business needs in order to grow.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I hear all this talk about systems and processes and know I should put them in place, but really don’t know the first place to start. What should a system look like?
This is one of those questions that falls into the ‘too afraid to ask because I should know the answer’ category, and it’s one that many will be pleased you asked.
So I will start by defining what a system is. It’s a way of performing any given task in a consistent way that will give a predictable outcome.
The next question should be, in relation to a specific task, what does the system need to accomplish and who is responsible or accountable for the outcomes?
Then get their buy-in and contribution to the development, because without that they will have little incentive or enthusiasm for its success. Now begin developing the system by stating the outcome.
Next: what are the resources that anyone driving this system will need? These may be as simple as a pen and paper, computer database, application forms, a script or any number of various resources, including people.
What are the key elements or steps that need to take place, by whom and by when? Keep the steps simple. If a single step sounds complicated, break it down into smaller steps.
Finally, define the standards by which you want this particular activity done. Standards usually relate to quantity and quality; how often, how many; what manner; courtesy and politeness, correctness of data and so on.
Once it is done, it doesn’t mean you are done. You may need training (cue for a training process). You will need to ensure that you understand why this system is being put in place.
To have your new systems implemented seamlessly you will need to draw on your own bank of leadership and management skills.
Systems need to be adopted not imposed if they are to be assimilated into your business.
Your question is really such a big one, there is so much more to the answer than could possibly included here.
Our business coaches and their clients dedicate weeks and months addressing systems and developing business systems strategies.
This answer is just the tip of the iceberg but I hope it helps you get started.
Thursday, January 06, 2011
My operations manager has also taken on the responsibility of managing the marketing for our business, however, I am not sure how to guide or advise him on marketing strategies. And right now we need it. Please help
Big question, but I will try to condense the answer down to its salient points. The real key to marketing is measuring. Measure everything.
F irst of all, start by looking at where your best business has come from in the past. Which marketing initiatives have been most effective? Which haven’t? Do you know if the reason they didn’t work was a direct result of the actual message or the channel you used to spread the message?
Sometimes the message can be right, but the channel off track in terms of reaching your target market and vice versa. List your various marketing channels: database, referrals, website, advertising and so on. Then examine how many leads came from each method. What percentage were qualified leads and matched your target market? What percentage of those converted to business? Also be equally as critical looking at the business you didn’t win and why.
Once you know in actual numbers what’s occurring you can improve on the processes that generated those numbers and then determine a sound strategy.
Armed with that information, you can plan the two key elements of your sales process – how you generate leads and how you convert leads.
If the qualified leads are there and they’re not being converted in satisfactory numbers, then you may need to retrain people in using a more effective lead conversion process.
Another valuable resource for fine-tuning your processes and service is what your clients think. Do you ask for their feedback and analyse it?
Discuss all of this with your manager and develop a plan to gather all of this information.
I know I’m in the ‘money’ business, but I’m ashamed to admit (and thank goodness for anonymity) that I really neglect this side of my business because I don’t really know what I should be watching, or what questions I should be asking. Can you advise?
Not knowing what is going on with money in your business is an abdication of your responsibility as a business owner. You’re not alone; we come across many businesses where the owner only watches the bank balance and makes decisions based on that.
To make educated decisions on the direction of your company, you need to know how everything it does impacts your numbers and the health of the business. As well as a big picture strategy for your business, you need to have a financial strategy that meshes with that big picture. If you find profit and loss statements, balance sheets and ratios a mystery, and prefer them to be someone else’s responsibility, then perhaps the business should be theirs also. However, if you decide you really want to be in control of your business then get help and learn to love and understand those figures that tell you how and where you are going.
Get a business coach or a good accountant and learn how to read those reports and interpret the significant points they reveal. Train yourself to measure costs accurately and continually. Figures were never my thing, but now after years of practice and self-discipline, even I can find budgets fascinating and informative – sometimes even exciting. Who’d have thought?
I have been noticing that our customer service is erratic and generally dependant on who is dealing with the customer. Some are great and some are ordinary. How do I begin the build a culture where it is expected?
Customer service is not an accident, or something we do because we like that particular customer. It is a state of mind and it is a business function. As such it should be built into your business as an integral part of your product delivery process. How your customers perceive your business and the way it treats them directly affects the way they talk about you and refer you – or not.
Good customer service should never be underestimated; it directly affects your revenue. Think of the times poor customer service has driven you from a business. It could have been a surly waiter at a restaurant, and the owner of the restaurant has no idea why you didn’t go back a second time.
When you assess the customer service your business delivers, look at it from the customers’ point of view. Consider your attitude – are they respected, valued and appreciated? Look at assistance – they want to be helped and have any hassle minimised or eliminated. Is that happening? They want information and advice; are they getting it in a timely and polite way? Is service only focused on before sales, or do you still show you care after the sale?
Ask and answer these questions and then educate and train your staff so that everyone understands and knows how to deliver good, if not outstanding customer service.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
I am considering getting a business coach and have discussed this with my accountant, who said I don’t need it and that he can provide what a coach provides. The question is difficult for me to assess, because I’m now unsure that what he can give me is the same as I would get from a good coach. What do you recommend?
We love our accountants. Truly. They ensure that we comply with all the regulations, pay the right amount of tax (preferably no more than we need to), help us interpret figures from a regulatory point of view and assist us in understanding where we stand financially. However, they are not in our business.
You have a role as the leader of your business to do a number of things. One of the most important is setting the vision and path for your company. No-one else can do this for you; it is your business and your vision.
As the leader, you must set the course, develop the systems and processes in all areas of the business; make sure your staff are trained in those processes and understand the need to stick with them; develop your marketing, sales and customer service strategies and systems and so on.
Another important thing you have to do is to learn how to develop and bring out the best in your people. That’s what leaders do. Many leader/managers simply ‘boss’, supervise, or, sadly in the case of a few, bully, or even abdicate. Effective leaders become the coaches of their own team, empowering those around them to manage daily operational problems, rather than running around themselves constantly fixing things.
Effective leaders also know how to ask, listen, encourage, inspire and give constructive feedback. And a lot more. These are just some of the aspects in which a good business coach can help you. If your accountant can coach you in all of these aspects of the business then take him up on his offer. If not, then consider taking on a good business coach.
I am frustrated. I know my business is a good one and our services are good, but recently I seem to be losing staff to competitors or businesses outside our industry, which results in me starting all over again finding and training a new person. Is there something I should be doing to stop the outflow?
Without knowing the full situation I can’t answer this precisely. However, there may be some suggestions in the answer to the previous question around bringing out the best in your people.
Perhaps you can consider what keeps people in a position. The real answer is rarely money – that is more often the excuse. Many of us think that pay is one of the strongest motivators and for some it can be. Sometimes people won’t take a job if the pay is too low, but high pay isn’t what motivates them to go above and beyond the call of duty.
Most people are more motivated by opportunity for growth and advancement, recognition, interesting work and responsibility. With that in mind, ask yourself if you are building a culture that promotes these motivators and values.
Are you communicating them to your staff? Or, are these things being promised in the initial hiring interview and not carried th rough or being lost in the rest of the daily pressure? Don’t you hate people who answer a question with a question?
Friday, December 10, 2010
Finding good staff is a constant challenge and yet I’m sure they are out there. We have had mixed success in the last two years. Do you have any advice? You’re right. It’s a bit like finding and starting a new relationship – finding the right person makes a difference and committing to the wrong one can be a nightmare. In business it all boils down to having a really good recruiting and hiring system. It takes time and effort, but so does patching up mistakes and getting rid of a wrong hire. Better to spend it at the front end of the process where you can be positive, than at the other end where you will be annoyed and frustrated. I have two key pieces of advice. The first is take your time and never hire out of desperation or urgency. This is when you overlook or ignore the little warning signals, telling yourself they are only minor and won’t really make any difference, and that you’ll be able to address them later on. Wrong. The second is to interview for qualities. Once you have determined your required skill and experience levels, set down a list of the qualities you want in this employee. Think back to the best you have had and write down the qualities that made them so good. Then interview for these. Depending on the position, some qualities are likely to be enthusiasm, strong work ethic, willingness to learn, attention to detail, team spirit, attitude and a whole swag more.
Finding good staff is a constant challenge and yet I’m sure they are out there. We have had mixed success in the last two years. Do you have any advice?
You’re right. It’s a bit like finding and starting a new relationship – finding the right person makes a difference and committing to the wrong one can be a nightmare.
In business it all boils down to having a really good recruiting and hiring system. It takes time and effort, but so does patching up mistakes and getting rid of a wrong hire. Better to spend it at the front end of the process where you can be positive, than at the other end where you will be annoyed and frustrated.
I have two key pieces of advice. The first is take your time and never hire out of desperation or urgency. This is when you overlook or ignore the little warning signals, telling yourself they are only minor and won’t really make any difference, and that you’ll be able to address them later on. Wrong.
The second is to interview for qualities. Once you have determined your required skill and experience levels, set down a list of the qualities you want in this employee. Think back to the best you have had and write down the qualities that made them so good. Then interview for these.
Depending on the position, some qualities are likely to be enthusiasm, strong work ethic, willingness to learn, attention to detail, team spirit, attitude and a whole swag more.
Monday, December 06, 2010
Staffing questions seemed to be recurring in the latest batch of questions. Our coaches find that the most common questions, issues and frustrations generally boil down to three key themes: people, time and money. So this issue we address some of the typical people questions.
How do I apply the things you talk about in your blogs to a one-person business?
We have worked with a number of sole proprietor businesses over the last decade. In most cases the owners wanted to see significant growth, and in some, they simply wanted to optimise their time and find a smarter way of working. Either way, the solution is always about the systems – finding a way to do more of the work that adds the most value to the business and less of the repetitive work.
The process is quite simple. Start by writing down everything you do in a day, a week, a month. Then begin by looking at the routine things – like paperwork, loan submissions and the like. At the same time, look at where your time is best spent and evaluate the impact on your business if you were able to spend more time doing that.
If your calculations reveal that doing so would make a noticeable and measurable difference to your income, you will decide whether it’s worth doing the next step. Which is: set down clear instructions for each routine task. Imagine that you won’t actually see the person who might take over these tasks and they will operate from your written instructions, sometimes called – you guessed it – systems.
Don’t do this and you will defeat the purpose when and if you employ someone to do these tasks because you will spend your entire time answering their questions about what to do next, or looking over their shoulder to make sure they are doing it correctly.
When you have someone taking care of the routine, you can focus on meeting and converting more leads a week because the routine is taken care of.
At what point do I put on my next staff member? Do I wait until I have the work or put on someone new and then get the work? Each one seems to me to involve a level of stress.
We have a motto: before you throw people at a problem, throw systems at it first.
Take the message from the above answer. Create an organisation chart for your business around the functions – not the people – the business needs. Often you will find there are functions that aren’t full-time jobs in their own right. If this is the case, as it often is in small businesses, some of these roles can be combined.
Some of those roles might include reception duties, administration, data entry, marketing assistant, personal assistant, CRM management and so on. A combination of a couple of these might be rolled into one position. Each position should either generate more than it costs, or free up others, to generate more revenue.
How do you get new staff, especially the young ones, to do the work they way I want it done?
This is becoming a common cry, particularly from Baby Boomer bosses. The times are a-changing. They were when Bob Dylan voiced it in the mid-1960s and they still are. Use management styles practiced 40 years ago and risk being labelled out of touch.
Don’t just expect that the young people entering the workforce will think the same way you do or did. The more senior and mature business owners need to recognise that your newer, younger recruits don’t necessarily come equipped with the same inbuilt set of work ethics and values that you started out with, but they can be taught them.
Explain and set up your expectations right at the start of the relationship. Even before you do that, show them the big picture of what the business is there to achieve and where you intend it to go. Then make sure they understand their role within that context.
Give them objectives and standards, as well as key performance indicators. All of these can be set out in job agreements – as opposed to position or job descriptions. A job agreement by its very name indicates that there is agreement that this is what is expected of them and what their job entails.
Make sure it shows the key objectives and the actual work expected of the role. Set out the standards in the areas of quality and quantity of work, timing, attitude, behaviour and appearance.
In other words, be really specific so no-one can say to you, ‘I wasn’t told that’, or ‘That’s not part of my job’, or even ‘You can’t make me do that!’ Make sure that they understand acknowledgement, rewards and consequences.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
I have a great loan writer who looks after the majority of my clients, however, I feel as if I am losing personal contact with them. They don’t know who I am and if she leaves, she could very easily take some of my clients with her. How do I reconnect with clients without overstepping what my loan writer is doing?
It would seem that the current client loyalty is with the loan writer rather than the business. Therefore, your task is twofold: build customer loyalty to the business (rather than you personally – because that will inhibit your growth), and get everything that happens in the sales area onto paper in the form of a system.
It’s not so much that you need to reconnect with the clients, more that you need to connect the clients with the business so that they associate the service they are receiving with the business name not just the loan writer.
There are several ways in which you can reconnect and also offer them added value service. Set up a regular form of communication with them, such as a letter or email newsletter from you. Institute a bi-annual or annual review of their portfolios at which you can become involved together with your loan writer.
Develop a status report on the property market in your state and nationally for the past and future six months and discuss the ramifications for them of the near term trends. Offer seminars on similar subjects.
In this way, you are letting them know who you are, and affirming your credibility and that of your company, and giving them more reasons to stay with the business, not just the loan writer.
I know I need systems and I know that systems will improve my business, but I work 70 hours a week now. How am I ever going to find the time to devise and then implement systems on top of this workload?
Your challenge is that you are the only person who can make things change. It is your business and no-one else can make that change happen.
The questions to ask yourself are: What are the ramifications of you not implementing the systems you know you need? And, what will be the benefits of those systems once implemented?
The problem is not that you are doing too much work – you are simply doing the wrong kind of work.
Start by listing all of the things you do in a week and how much time you spend on them. Categorise them – client work, office administrative work, administrative support work, bookkeeping, etc.
Ask yourself what you would pay someone hourly to do each category of work. Chances are a lot of it will be $15 to $25-per-hour work.
Add up the hours. Consider what you value your time at as the owner of the business. Now work our how much are you costing the business by spending so much time working in the lowest paid sections of the business.
It is only when you can get a picture of what you are costing the business in this sense that you can come to terms with what needs to be done.
Start working on the systems in those areas and then get someone in on a part time basis to follow them, freeing up some of your valuable time.
When you have that extra time, don’t just throw yourself into more of the same. Remember why you did it – and use the time wisely to develop some more systems that will free up more of your time, which you can then spend on activities that have significantly more value to the business.
A business is going to take a very long time getting to its objective if the owner is its most expensive clerical worker.
We have a great team – 20 of us work really well together – but there is one fly in the ointment, who just doesn’t fit within our culture. Although he is experienced and very capable in his field, and from that perspective an asset, he will never take responsibility for any mistakes and always has an excuse or justification. How do we manage this?
You said it yourself: he is not a cultural fit. When a platoon is marching on parade and one is out of step, does everybody else change step to fall in with the one out of step?
Probably time for you to part company and recruit someone who is willing and excited about marching to the beat of your drum.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Each year we spend significant money on advertising (Yellow Pages, etc), but I don’t know how effective it is. I feel I’m not getting commensurate results. Am I spending it in the right area and how can I get better results?
First measure your results. Do you know where your business is coming from?
Is your marketing and advertising targeted towards your most likely or ideal customer?
Do you know who your ideal customer is? If not, start by creating a composite picture of your best customers. What are their likes and dislikes about dealing with businesses like yours? What are they looking for in terms of service?
What are they most likely to see, hear or read? In other words, where do you need to advertise?
Once you know more about them, put yourself in their shoes and look at your advertising from their perspective. Is your existing marketing a fit? If your marketing is random, you are almost certainly having a scattergun approach and the customers who find out about you do more by good luck than design.
Once you know your target market you need to look at both the channel and the message. The right channel and the wrong message or the right message and the wrong channel can be a costly exercise.
I am a Baby Boomer boss. I have recently employed a number of younger staff in their early 20s and am finding my management style is not really working. How, as a Baby Boomer, do I manager these Generation Y employees?
Generation Y-ers are a fact of business life. Born between 1978 and 1994 they are the ‘now’ generation, meaning they want it in an instant: life, experience, position, salary, the lot.
The Baby Boomer business owner can pretend it’s not happening and just employ fellow Baby Boomers – but they are getting a bit thin on the ground (and on top) – or can accept and embrace change and adapt.
Unlike the steadier Boomer, the Gen Y employee will probably move on in two years – sometimes less, but don’t take it personally, because they don’t intend it to be so.
Take care to mentor and train them, not patronise or hold back as a result of knowing they are likely to move on just after you have expended great energy on training them. Get your systems in place and reduce the impact of this trend.
The businesses likely to be least negatively impacted by these moves are those that have a documented way of downloading the information from their heads and of training their replacements in a systemised way that makes the transition seamless.
Have a great recruiting and hiring system in place so when the time comes, it’s not panic stations, you can swing into action – if you haven’t already anticipated it. Look at the areas the business could be negatively impacted by the loss of such a staff member and work out how you can minimise that through sound systems.
If you work on the principle that the systems drive the business and the people drive the systems, then your main focus, once you have the right processes in place, will be on recruiting, hiring and training.
The bottom line is, if you plan to remain in business, you will need to learn to live with the changes. They do.
One of my loan writers is always returning to the office with a significant number of leads and I think we are really going to get some new business happening. Disappointingly, they all fall over and he fails to convert the leads to clients. How can I help him?
Selling isn’t about ‘selling’. It’s about uncovering the needs, finding the match, and providing a solution, or creating the value in the mind of the customer – or all three.
You have to understand that nobody wants to buy what you have to sell. They want to buy what it can do for them. If your loan writer is only thinking of his commission, then he will rarely make a sale.
He needs to turn his focus to the customer’s needs and the value. What difference will your service make to their lives? Do you have any added value service features that make the difference between just making a sale and creating a client relationship?
What can you do to shift the customer’s perception of your product from that of a commodity they can get anywhere to a choice of your brand above others?
Often that’s a service or added value detail. (I bought a car because it had a picnic table. Someone else I know bought one because it had a great coffee cup holder. Go figure!)
If your loan writer gets this right, they will most likely reap the rewards of loyal repeat business too, not one-hit wonder sales.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
As your business grows, it should begin to take on a life of its own and unless it’s structured to do this, its ability to grow will be limited.
If you have structured your business well, it will need less and less of your input in the day-to-day technical work. Your capacity to be everywhere and do everything is no longer as important as it was in the early stages – and indeed your recognition of this is one of the factors that will allow the growth. Your role becomes more one of providing direction and identifying and developing the management skills your people need, in order for you to focus on the more strategic elements. It becomes critical that you think ahead and plan, and your planning needs to include the resources upon which you can draw.
Preparing for growth
- Books – the business sections in bookshops are full of information for small business owners, although not always helpful in showing you how to implement the advice.
- Business courses – local Business Enterprise Centres are a good starting point.
- Mentoring – find someone who has proved themselves as an expert in running a successful business and ask them to mentor you.
- Business coaching – the most effective. Seek out a style of coaching that will help you look at your business as an integrated set of systems; one that has a structured program and is not solely reliant on the personal experience of the coach.
Expertise comes in many forms from many experts who have the skills you don’t.
- Accountants and bookkeepers
- Tax advice
- Legal advice
- Sales skills
- Market research
- Graphic design
- Web design.
Lesley Ann Grimoldby is the managing director of Switzer Business Coaching, a coaching business which has proven, guaranteed systems for helping business owners achieve the life they truly want for themselves through their business. Click here for a free one-hour business assessmentwith a Switzer business coach.