Business systems — Liber8me

Which is more important… delivery or sales? Should you be in doing or out selling? Learn the 5 steps to the ‘The In-Out Dance” here…

sync swimmingAs a small business owner you’ll be familiar with ‘The In-out Dance’ I’m sure.  It goes like this.  You are busy in the business, delivering your service or product, working hard, working hard.  There’s too much to do and you need help.  So you hire some people and now you have to spend more time training them and managing them as well as doing all the work you already have on your plate.  There’s no time to think about getting out there and selling your wares.   Busy in, bum down, doing it, doing it, doing it.  You’re working hard, putting in the hours, no time to sleep, worrying about dropping balls and hoping your delivery meets client expectations.

Then suddenly the work dries up.

You’ve got the team, but no income on the horizon.  So you have to get OUT there and sell you butt off.  Out, out, out, sell, sell, sell.  The pressure is on, there are mouths to feed and everyone is relying on you to bring home the bacon.  It’s a frightening and stressful time and the buck stops with you.  Now you’ve got time to sleep but you can’t because you’re worried about money. So out you go.  Pick up the phone, network like crazy, press the flesh and try to keep the desperation out of your voice when you talk to people.

Hopefully your efforts pay off.  The orders pour in and back you go to the coalface.  Doing it, doing it, doing it.  Work, work, work.  Late nights, no time to sleep, on and on until…

Suddenly the work dries up.

And out you go again.

You get the picture.  It’s ‘The In-out Dance’ and very exhausting it is too.  It can be really, really stressful – especially when you have to lay people off because you can’t afford to pay them in the quiet periods.

So what do you do to change this pattern?

You need to learn to dance better.  You’ve got the steps all wrong.   Instead of in, in, in then out, out, out, the dance needs to be more like in, out, in, out, in, out.  A gentle rhythm set to an even beat.  You must be out as much as you are in, or at least have a marketing system that allows for constant out focused activity.

 Here are 5 pointers to Strictly Come Dancing In-Out Style:

  1. Understand the in/out balance.  Business is a balance of sales and delivery – you cannot have one without the other.  If you put all your focus on sales but not delivery you will disappoint customers, damage reputation and lose business.  If you put all your focus on delivery and not sales, you will run out of business and the best delivery in the world won’t matter.  So you must ensure you dedicate time to both no matter how busy you are.
  2. NEVER take your eye off sales.  When you are too busy to think about sales, this is the time to think about sales.  Ensure sales and marketing activities are in your weekly work in progress and given equal priority. Try not to bump the sales activity off the to do list because you and your team are too busy.
  3. Keep the pipeline full.  You should always have a number of hot prospects waiting for conversion, a number of proposals in progress, a number of leads to follow up, a database to make irresistible offers to.  This can only happen if you keep the pressure on your sales and marketing at all times.
  4. Have a marketing system.  Create a marketing process that happens every week.  Make sure you have a hot list of potential clients you are targeting and a regular campaign underway.  With a system in place you can get other team members to help with the logistics.
  5. Hire people out of cash flow. Don’t hire new people on the basis of today’s busy period alone.  This can lead to disaster down track if the work dries up.  Try to use contractors to start with if you can until the workflow is more certain.  Ideally you’d be hiring people you know the business can afford, or at least ensure you have money in the bank to cover salaries should there be a quiet period on the horizon.

There is a reason that marketing and sales make up the important pillars to business growth.  You can’t grow without them.  Life for a small business owner is a constant juggling act in the early years.  Your job is to remember to keep both sales and delivery balls firmly in the air.  And learn to be a champion ‘in-out dancer’!

Dance on!

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From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every business owner free

 

Tired of being tired? Here are 3 steps to overcome business fatigue.

tiredI talk with small business owners every day and there are two words I hear all the time:  “busy” and “exhausted”.   It’s a common ailment of the business owner operator.  I’m sure you know how it feels.

So how can you look after yourself and try to minimize that feeling of overwhelm that sometimes feels like it will consume you?  Here are three strategies I’ve found useful…

 

  1. Schedule ‘time out days’ in advance. Make sure you keep a calendar that shows a month at a glance.  Look at your calendar for the next 6 months and see where you can find two whole days that you could take off each month.  They don’t have to be consecutive.  If you can’t see two days, then juggle things around.  Shift appointments onto other days.  This is a discipline and a habit.  I schedule the first week of every month ‘off’. I have no appointments during this week and I won’t allow any to be scheduled for me.  If this means I have some pretty crazy days during the rest of the month, so be it.   Once you have these days scheduled let your team, clients and suppliers (or anyone else who might want a piece of you) that you will not be available on these days.
  2. Plan how you will use your time out days.  Remember the purpose of these days is to help you with those feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion.  However, if you are anything like me then you won’t be able to just lie down for the day.  Your brain will be too busy thinking and worrying and going over every little thing that you should be doing.  The guilt will get the better of you and you will be on the phone or answering emails before you know it! So rather than take the time ‘off’, take the time ‘out’ and use it to work on your long term planning and strategies.  Or to write that blog you’ve been meaning to write.  Or to catch up on some important reading that you never have time for.  Use the time constructively but with relish and gusto.  Enjoy being productive rather than busy.  Believe me, it will re-energize you as much as a day at the beach!
  3. Plan your to do’s a week in advance.  A business owner’s to do list is a scary thing and more likely to keep you awake at night than any monster under the bed.  The overwhelm you often feel comes from a sense of being out of control. This happens when the to do list gets longer than the hours in the day and starts to encroach into your personal space in an unhealthy way (you know what I mean don’t you?).   My personal discipline to help combat this involves getting up extra early on a Monday morning (I can’t bring myself to sacrifice my Sunday evening) to map out my to do’s across the week.  I use a paper diary (shock horror!) to do this.  Once I’ve put my appointments in for the week (taken from my online diary) I then spread my to dos across each day, taking into account what else I have on that day.  On days that are quite full I give myself less other items to do and on quiet days I make the to do list longer.  Of course I prioritize them by importance and urgency as I go too.  If my to do list is looking particularly ominous for the week then I won’t allow any other appointments to be booked in.  I make a conscious decision to put my health and well being first at this point.  And note:  my running and yoga times are already scheduled in the diary for the week and are not to be moved.

It does help to know that you are not alone in the feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion.   Many before you have trodden that lonely and sometimes depressing path.  Most survive and as your business grows and  you build a good team around you, it improves I promise.

In the meantime, try my three steps and let me know how it goes.  I’d love to hear of any suggestions you have for managing the busy side of business too.  Share them here and I’ll pass them on to other business owners out there.

Be kind to yourself

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From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every business owner free 

Why the best business people fail… and how you can be a successful failure too

failureYou might think failure doesn’t enter the vocabulary of successful people. But willingness to fail is a key criterion for success. Here’s an unavoidable truth about business – you’re going to fail in your business at some stage. You will probably do some really dumb things and at times you may feel like an idiot. You could make bad decisions, decisions that cost you money. You might make poor employment decisions or lousy client decisions. Failure is guaranteed. What’s important is having the ability to pick yourself up and say, ‘That was stupid, I feel like a fool, but what have I learned?’ Successful people learn from their mistakes and carry on.

I love the story about IBM from the 1960s. A manager made a decision that lost the company $10 million. He was summoned to the office of the CEO, Tom Watson. When asked why he’d been called there, the manager said, ‘So you can fire me.’ Watson replied, ‘Fire you? Of course I’m not going to fire you. I’ve just spent $10 million educating you!’

All business people fail at something at some stage. The smart ones learn and use the experience to their advantage next time.

So next time you think you won’t do something important in case you fail… remember Michael Jordan’s famous quote:  ”I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying”.  And get out there… do it!

This was an excerpt from Liber8 Your Business – The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free.  Pre-order your copy here.

What’s the one question every business owner should ask to decrease owner dependency and increase value?

question markWhen I interviewed 2012 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Sam Hazledene, I asked him about his strategy for growth.  This is the guy who built the largest medical recruitment company in Australasia from scratch in a few short years.  He told me that he’d grown organically, starting out with just himself and his wife travelling the country trying to convince hospitals to use their recruitment service.  With a great point of difference and a lot of passion they rallied customers remarkably quickly.

The business expanded and Sam needed to grow his team.  He hired from the bottom up – firstly filling the more logistical roles until he could afford more specialised senior people.  This was exactly the same approach I had to growth with my first business.  When you are funding growth out of cash flow this can an effective way to do it.

At first, Sam told me, he was reluctant to let go of things, not believing anyone could do a job as well as he could (sound familiar?).  But he began to ask himself a question, which enabled him to get his ego out of the way.   It’s a question I now share with my mentoring clients and once asked, you just can’t forget it.

The question is this:

“What can I and only I do?”

Start asking yourself this question on a regular basis. Make a list of everything that you do.  Then go through the list and highlight the things that only you can possibly do.  Check the list and then sleep on it.  In the morning go through the list again and make sure you are being honest.  There will be things still on that list that others could do if you let go, trained them well and trusted them.  So ask yourself again:

“What can I and only I do?”

Be willing to let go of all the things you could hire others to do as well as, if not better than you.  These should include pretty much all administration, book keeping, project management, HR, legal and other operational roles.  And as quickly as you can afford it, replace yourself with people who have the skills and experience for all of the other roles within your organisation too.

Ultimately you want to get yourself to the point where the answer to the question is vision, strategy, business development and culture – in other words being the leader of a great team.

This is what Sam did to grow his business.  It’s what I have done with my businesses.  And it is the key to creating true value in your business.  A potential buyer will find your business far more attractive if you are leading a team rather than doing all the work.  So the next time you find yourself in overwhelm and wondering how on earth you can decrease your business’ dependence on you… remember the question and start letting go!

From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of the book Liber8 Your Business – pre-order your copy by emailing laura@liber8me.com