Why you should love Monday

If you’ve spent any time on Facebook or Insta or whatever you would have seen them. Thousands of them! Some with cats and cartoons and animations and Spongebob and Garfield and Homer. I’m talking about the “Thank god it’s Friday” and “I hate Mondays” stuff that goes around.

It’s interesting that so many people are basically unhappy when the week begins and can’t wait for it to be over. Not that I don’t look forward to the weekend, I do, but I’m not a huge fan of Fridays. They remind me that the week is nearly over and I probably didn’t get to everything I planned to.

Mondays on the other hand are awesome! They’re an opportunity to start again! Re-focus, check that the goals still line up with where you’re headed, re-set priorities, get into another exciting week and get shit done.

Mondays are like a mini-January 52 times a year. Most of us use January to review how we’re tracking. How did we go on achieving our goals for last year? What are our goals for the year ahead? What changes do we want to make and how will we make things happen? As an aside, a client was telling me that January is one of the busiest months for online dating sites, so I guess people are re-setting goals in all areas of their life! But I digress…

So here’s a thought. Rather than complain about Monday, celebrate it!

Make use of each Monday to do a quick review of whether your plan is on track. Oh, and if you don’t have a plan, that’s probably one of the reasons you don’t like Mondays. I’m sure another week of going nowhere doesn’t sound too exciting to anybody. In that case, use Monday to map out your plan and then get into the week ahead.

Give Mondays some love! They’ve been badly done by for too long.

Free lessons I should’ve paid more attention to

In my mid twenties, I didn’t know very many really successful people. Despite my parents regularly reminding me that you have to choose the right friends and mix with the right people if you want to get anywhere, I wasn’t really exposed to much of an entrepreneur mindset.

Oh sure, I knew some business people, but their thinking revolved mainly around making enough cash to live on. There was no focus on building asset value or tax minimisation.

Then I met someone who opened my eyes – even though it took me a long time to realise the influence he had on me. This person was a highly successful Australian sportsperson. A household name now, you’d know him from his TV work. My accountant at the time introduced us both into a small venture, which taught me more than I realised at the time.

There were a number of things that struck me as a little strange about this person – and all the people he associated with – given my limited experience to date.

Firstly, they were extraordinarily happy. Even though they were working hard, they were enjoying the journey and seemed to appreciate the little things in each day. They didn’t talk about the past. Their focus was on the present and how that would affect the future. They were successful, but at the same time humble and grateful for the opportunities that life had given them.

This was at odds with what I had been accustomed to. Whilst I knew some reasonably successful business people, they seemed to be constantly groaning under the burden of their efforts. Some were bitter about things that had happened in the past – sometimes the dim distant past – and held onto grudges of relationships or deals gone bad. Some were arrogant about their success and used it to position themselves as somehow superior to those who were just working to carve out a living for themselves and their families.

In contrast, my new associates were much more down to earth. No doubt they were big thinkers who knew they had lots to offer, but were more interested in adding value than feeding their egos. They weren’t just focused on our business, but on the good that it could do and the contribution it could make.

There were other qualities too.

They were more disciplined than most. Maybe it was the rigours of training and competition that taught them that focus on the goal is critical. With each goal firmly in mind, working on the right things, teamwork, repetition, systems and processes became the drivers of success.

They weren’t afraid of problems. In fact, they seemed to relish facing and solving them. It was a different mindset; one that seemed to know that problems were just part of the journey. It was almost a game to overcome them. Importantly, they encouraged everyone around them to do the same. Coaching came naturally and they made great mentors, sharing their knowledge and positivity with the others in their team.

No matter how many issues, setbacks or challenges, they seemed to have the ability to stay positive. Rather than throw their hands up in frustration or change direction, their response was usually along the lines of, “that’s interesting, how can we fix that?” Somehow, they seemed to have the ability to stay relaxed and focused, even when the stress levels should have been high.

These people were fun to be around because they were excited, motivated, and passionate about what they do. Never once did I hear one of them moan about having to work late or it being Monday morning. They didn’t see their business as work. It was more about who they are, than what they do.

It seems to me that these qualities are just as important as they ever were – maybe even more so! Successful people still display the same characteristics and put them to good use each day in building their wealth.

Are you super savvy?

If you own a business, no-one will be surprised to discover you work hard. Long hours spent building, growing and maintaining a business are pretty much the norm.

Of course, small-business owners are dreaming of an enjoyable, financially secure retirement but not all have a plan for how they will make that happen. According to research from accounting firm Bentleys, only 57 per cent of SME owners reported having a “strategy” in place for their retirement. Less than half (48 per cent) are confident they will be able to afford the lifestyle they want in retirement.

The Voice of Australian Business Survey, a national survey of SMEs across all industries and regions, asked SME owners how they would fund their retirement. This is the breakdown of answers:

  • Reliance on savings – 38%
  • Income from rent or other investments – 35%
  • The age pension – 28 per cent
  • Downsizing the current house – 21%
  • Selling their business – 20 per cent

So, after years of working, spending so much time, energy and passion on building their business, a massive 65% plan to rely on savings, downsizing or worse still, the pension. Just over 75% do not have a self-managed super fund. To me, this is seriously disturbing data! Its fine to work hard building a business – I completely get that – but not having a good strategy for maintaining your income and lifestyle when you want to slow down a little seems almost negligent. Making your business work hard for you should be part of that strategy.

One of the key things to consider is investing in assets outside your business that generate income and grow in capital value. Another is taking advantage of the tax benefits in superannuation structures particularly through a self-managed super fund. Of course, you should also understand and implement effective tax strategies across all your activities to avoid paying more than you should. These are the things that will ensure your business looks after you long after you stop working in it.

You may be great at running your business, but more than likely, the things I’ve just mentioned are not your areas of expertise. Don’t wait for a new year, or new financial year or your next birthday to get working on your plan. Get some expert advice now and get your plan working for you. Get in touch to find out more.

Another year

I don’t know about you but to me it seems every year goes by faster and faster? Before you know it, it’s January! Here I am another year older, wondering where did the time go? What have I achieved this year? What will I aim for next year?

Around this time most people have recovered from all the hoo ha of the festive season. Then we made our New Year resolutions. You know about those right? They’re the monthly dreams that are all but forgotten by February. By then, we’re stuck into work, another year passes and it all starts again! Nothing changes.

If that sounds like you, that’s ok!  You’re not alone. There is another way. In January what I like to do is:

  • Review
  • Re-structure
  • Reset

Review what has been. What have I achieved? What worked? Didn’t work? What could I have done differently?

Re-structure plans, actions, systems, time and anything that is part of my personal and business goals. Keeping what worked, changing what didn’t and deciding on new adventures that get the adrenalin pumping.

Reset personal and business goals by getting really specific and ensuring that they are realistic yet bigger than you believe are possible.

By setting everything in motion early in the year, I feel better organised, refreshed, excited and ready to hit the ground running. I hope this helps you put your best foot forward.

New Year’s resolutions are a complete waste of time

Ok, I confess, I’ve done it too. Even though I know there are important things I should be doing, I wait. I wait until tomorrow, until Monday, until the New Year. But if I look back, the only thing that waiting has ever achieved is wasting valuable time!

At this time of the year, its easy to think “Oh well, its December, everyone will be in party mode for the next few weeks and then I have holidays, so I’ll wait till the new year – and then I’ll get myself organised…” No! Don’t wait! This is in fact a really important time for thinking and planning and most importantly acting upon the things that will literally change your life. I know that’s a big claim, but I’m very comfortable making it. Let me tell you why.

It’s a sad fact that most Australians will retire completely dependent on the pension for their survival; almost three quarters in fact. And survival is about all the pension will fund in your so-called golden years. According to a report from Rice Warner Actuaries, single women will be worst affected with many unable to maintain even a ‘comfortable’ lifestyle. The pension will make up more than 90% of retirement earnings for most people. I don’t know if you’ve had a look at what the pension pays, but its not very exciting.

Lets think about that for a moment. In this land of opportunity, many of us will retire needing a government handout to survive. I know what you’re thinking; “not me!” I hear many people say they will have passive income so they don’t have to work so hard in 10 years, or maybe twenty. That would be a good outcome, I agree. But when I ask about the plan for making that happen, the details are usually sketchy. And when I ask what they are doing right now to make it happen, that’s when the wheels really fall off.

Here is the frustrating thing: creating a financially secure retirement – and living a better life between now and then – is not impossible. In fact, with some good advice, a sound plan and consistent action, you could even say it’s not that difficult. And yet, for some reason, most of us don’t take action. I suggest that has less to do with not caring and more to do with not really knowing where to start. I’ve been working with business owners and professionals for almost 30 years. I still find that most people don’t have a plan and don’t reach out for help. That’s why we’ve added financial planners, finance brokers and property experts to our team over the past couple of years.

So, what to do? Get a plan. Get some help. Get advice. Take action. Make it happen and make 2017 your best year yet!

 

Why thinking outside the box is overrated

I’ve been working with business owners for a long time and I’m also in business. Now, I don’t want to brag, but I when I started in my first business 25 years ago, I took a small 10 thousand dollar debt, and in 12 short months… I more than doubled that debt!

Truth is, I didn’t know much about business. I had the desire, I found the opportunity, I had the courage to take the risk and start but I didn’t really know what the fundamentals were let alone how I was going to manage them.

25 years ago, the internet had just been invented, but we hadn’t heard of it. The founding of Google was still 9 years away. So information wasn’t as easy to find as it is today. Information is now very easy to find. And there is a lot of it out there about business. Establishing a business, growing a business, buying a business, selling a business. Webinars, seminars, YouTube videos, articles, e-books, real books, magazines, e-zines, blogs… the list goes on.

There’s also a lot of noise about the seven ways to do this and the three quick steps to that. Most of this is useful information. You can learn lots, get great ideas, see case studies and be amazed and inspired by other people’s success stories. I do it all the time.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot about “thinking outside the box”. You have to zig when everyone else zags, you have to create the game changer… but in my experience in working with entrepreneurs and business owners over many years, most businesses don’t notch up such lofty achievements. Most aren’t revolutionising their industry. Most just do what they do really well, have a good brand and story that goes with it and have worked hard to build a loyal customer base.

What I find interesting however, is that in our work with the owners of what would generally be called “smees”, there are two things we see over and over again, even if the owners have come up with a great idea, are thinking creatively and are getting lots of “likes” on things:

  1. The fundamentals are not in place.
  2. They struggle to implement.

Let’s have a little talk about fundamentals. Before you start taking over the world with your business, it’s worth asking a few questions to make sure you have the basics covered…

What’s your big picture plan?
Do you have a clear plan for where you’re going, and more importantly, why? A really clear plan. And do you want it bad? I mean really-really-do-any-bloody-thing-to-make-it-happen bad. What gets you out of bed in the mornings, what difference do you want to make? How will you know when you’ve succeeded and how and when do you want out?

How have you structured the business?
Are you going to work in your business alone or add partners, shareholders or other directors? Should you have one company or a number of them to minimise risk and taxation? Do you need a discretionary trust, a unit trust, partnership agreements or buy-sell agreements? Should you licence or franchise or have agents or representatives?

Who’s in your team?
Who will you need in your business to succeed? What skills sets, personalities and traits do you want in your business? How will you find, train and keep those really awesome people who help you get to where you want to go and make it more exciting and rewarding than you ever could yourself?

What do your finances look like?
What will your business need as it grows – cash, computers, people, advertising, an office and chairs? Not to mention something to sell. How much do these things cost, how long do they take to produce and then sell and how long until you get paid? Will you get funds into the business in the form of debt or equity or using a more sophisticated investment model? What are the pros and cons of each strategy for your long-term success and the asset value of your business?

How about your brand?
Yes, you have a nice logo and some business cards, but your brand is much more than that. To me, your brand is what your customers think of you. Do they “get” you? Do they know what you stand for, understand what you do and how you can help them and are they prepared to make you their go-to place when they want what you offer? That’s the power of brand. It’s complex and needs good planning and constant managing.

Do you really know your market?
You may know your ideal customers are between 30 and 40 years old, you may refer to them as an avatar, but do you really know your customers. In particular, do you know what attracts them, what drives them? Do you know what keeps them awake at night? Do you know what they secretly hope for but are too afraid to put into words? That’s what I mean by knowing your customers, because these are the things that will connect you to them and spur them into action.

What are your products and services and how much?
Does your business have unique services or a unique approach to providing its services? Not all do of course, but if you have a particular angle that works for your market – great! If your product is unique or stands out from those of your competitors, or doesn’t have any competitors, you may have the ability to price it at a premium level. If you offer similar products to everybody else, how can you package them up to make them feel different from a customer perspective? Is there something you do that adds value in a way that others can’t? Have you looked at your competition, not just in your neighbourhood but across the world online, and then positioned yourself at the right level?

Have you thought about the business model, systems and processes?
How is your business structured? What entities do you have and what do you need to protect your assets and minimise tax? Can you use a different business model to attract capital and drive growth? Do you follow a process in conducting your business and if so, what does that look like? Is that process clearly documented so other people in your business can learn and apply it, or does everything live in your head? Have you looked for ways to automate and streamline your business operations so you can focus on the important things – like your team and your customers?

Who are your advisors and strategic partners?
There are very few people who succeed in business all by themselves. If you want to grow a business that can scale beyond the day-to-day effort you put in, you are likely to need good advisors, consultants, coaches and mentors. And if you have the ambition to grow, partnering with people in organisations that complement yours is a really powerful model. Who can add value to your existing customers and put you in front of theirs? Who can you add value to in return for another channel to market, an endorsement or cross-marketing opportunity?

And here’s the crunch:

What are you like at implementing?

I spend every day working with business owners and I speak at entrepreneur seminars and business conferences. I’ve had many people come to me afterwards and say something along the lines of – “we know what we should do, but its just not happening”. Success is not only in the knowing, but in the doing.

The reason you’re not getting things done will be unique to you, but if you struggle, believe me, you’re not alone. There are always a million priorities, competing demands for your time and focus and money. If that sounds like you, we get it. That’s why we talk a lot in our business and with our clients about getting shit done. Do you have a really effective process for making sure you identify the priorities for where you are right now in your business, stay focused on them and get them done – so you move another step closer to your goals?

These are the fundamentals that create a great business out of your good ideas and an awesome business out of your great ideas! They’re also key in making sure your business will be around long enough for you to make it successful and achieve your goals.

Where’s my mojo

I was told the boss wanted to see me. Do you know the feeling? You know something is about to go down, but you’re not feeling too concerned. In some strange way, you’re looking forward to it…

There he sat accompanied by his usual smug smirk and one of my colleagues. Quite a duo, but not in any way dynamic. My manager was about as useful as the proverbial mammary glands on a male bovine – if you get my meaning. He spent each day pretending to be interested in doing his job whilst building his own business he would soon leave to run. My so-called colleague was always happy to say or do anything as long as it made him look good in the boss’s eyes.

Their key message was pretty simple – I was fired. The reason, and I quote: I had “lost my mojo”. I was in sales and wasn’t performing to expectations. To some degree, what they were saying was true. I was demotivated, unfocused, and already planning my next career move. I may in fact have temporarily lost my mojo, but sadly, the business I was working in had lost its own many months before, and as it turns out, it would never be regained.

Years under poor, self-obsessed management, providing no leadership and churning staff at a rate of knots just to apportion blame and feed some over-inflated egos. That manager finally replaced with another, but still the directors had no real understanding of the issues in the business. They were focused on anything other than running the business they had spent years to build.

Why does it happen? How does a business that had provided good services to great clients for so long go into such a steep downward spiral? It’s going to sound cliché, I know, but management completely forgot that your business is only as good as the people in it. Recruiting good people is just the beginning. Even good people need to be guided, trained, inspired; they need to feel like they are helping to build something worthwhile and that they’re progressing personally and professionally. It’s a big task for any manager or management team.

To help, here are some quick tips gleaned from my time at this business:

  • Don’t say one thing and do another. If you say you’ll do something, do your very best to deliver. Even if ultimately you can’t, people respect the fact you genuinely tried.
  • Don’t lie to your team members. Don’t promise you’ll provide an incentive for example, and then change the goal posts if it looks like someone might achieve it.
  • Micro-managing people doesn’t work. Want your team to perform? More spreadsheets and reports are not going to do it. Roll your sleeves up, get in there and lead by example. The rest of the time, get out of the way and let people do their thing.
  • Admit when you get it wrong. Don’t weave complicated stories, use half-truths and subterfuge. Got it wrong? Admit it, ask for help to fix it and move on.
  • You don’t have to take the credit for everything. No, the world does not revolve around you just because your business card says manager. Let your team members have the limelight, give them praise – regularly and publicly.
  • Back up what you say with facts. As important as your opinion is to you, it’s not reason enough for people to commit a big chunk of their lives to their work and your business.
  • Take a real interest in your people. Listen more than you talk. Know what’s important to them, what motivates them and what really cheeses them off. Don’t treat them like they are all in the same “human resources” bucket.
  • Don’t assume you’re always going to be where you are now. Just because you’re flying high, don’t get complacent or worse, arrogant. People – including your team members – will take
  • Don’t bother with big performance reviews. Most of them are counterproductive. Give feedback every step of the way – good or bad, discuss it, improve, get on with it.
  • And finally, be yourself. People appreciate authenticity, and it’s a lot easier than pretending to be someone you’re not.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about my mojo, I got it back the moment I cleared my desk and walked out the door. Funny how that happens.

Knowing is not doing and doing is everything

I hope the pic I’ve attached to this article won’t offend anyone. It’s a pretty common, quintessentially Australian phrase, so I hope you’ll be ok with it.

It’s simple message is a really important driver in establishing, growing and succeeding in your business. You’ve heard the expression “knowledge is power”, right? Well, its not. Knowledge is everywhere and its cheap; in fact its often free. You can find all the information you need on growing your business online. There are podcasts, webinars, courses, ebooks, articles, posts… Type “how to grow my business” into YouTube and you can watch videos non-stop until you keel over!

So it’s not about the knowledge. It’s about the application of that knowledge in a way that moves your business forward and moves you toward achieving your goals. If you’re like most business owners, you know what you should do, but you struggle to implement! You struggle to DO. There are some common reasons for this.

You think you need more information
You want to make good decisions in your business and avoid the pain that comes with making bad ones. So before you decide, you try to map out every possible scenario. You research, ask, think, research again, check what others are doing… In the meantime, the decision isn’t made and your business has stalled. An average decision is usually better than no decision. Make it and move on. If it’s not a great decision, make a better one. And then another one and keep moving.

You’re not quite ready
You know you should do something about that issue or opportunity, but things are not quite right yet. You need a better business card. Your website needs updating. There’s a new model coming out soon. You’re not sure you have all the necessary information. You want to get it just right. Perfectionism is admirable – as long as it doesn’t strangle your business. Things are rarely perfect. Make the best move you can with what you have available to you now.

You want to get the team’s buy-in
I understand and fully encourage a collaborative and inclusive approach to running your business, but if you turn it into a committee, not much will get done. Have you ever joined a school committee, local group committee? Then you may know what I mean! Everybody has a view and whilst I understand you want to take them all into account, sometimes you have to bite the bullet, make a decision and move on. Not the best decision? Make a better one. You get the idea.

You don’t have the time, money, people…
Its unusual for any business to have all the resources it desires at its disposal. Almost every business I have ever worked with or in has needed more time, money or people – especially in the small business world. Whilst waiting until you have all these things might seem sensible, it usually means you are missing opportunities. Work with what you have. If it’s not much, that’s ok, start small, but hustle and get on the path to growth.

Most business people intuitively understand this, but many of us fail to fully commit to it. I think that’s one of the reasons “get shit done” seems to have caught on as our unofficial tag line. Our clients and even our friends seem to have embraced it as a good reminder that knowing is not enough – we have to act, we have to do!

Ice, ice baby

Never let it be said that you can’t get good advice from some early 90’s pop. On the way home tonight, Robert Matthew Van Winkle (you might know him better as Vanilla Ice) dropped a gem that made me think.

“Stop, collaborate and listen…”

In the context of business, it seems to me these three things are becoming more and more important.

Stop
Have you noticed that when you ask someone “how are you?” they often respond with “busy”. Whilst we accept the response, it’s not actually an answer to the question. We’re all busy. There are more things on the to-do list than we could actually ever do. We run from one meeting to another to the gym to home to a family thing to ballet and footy and back again… The art of thinking is being squished by the epidemic of busy. When was the last time you just sat, and pondered? We don’t often allow ourselves the time to think things through, slowly, calmly, without a deadline or email or our phone or a pressing task to attend to. Perhaps your business would benefit from some solid thinking time. More than likely, you would benefit from some time to just let your thoughts do their thing.

Collaborate
It’s a competitive business world. We all scramble for the next job, the next sale, the next client, the next payment… We keep a keen eye on our competitors but in doing so, we may miss one of the most important opportunities – the chance to collaborate. In a scarcity mindset, we guard our turf, are suspicious of anyone who wants to know too much about us and wonder what people are trying to “get” from us. If we switch to an abundance mindset, we realise that there are many more opportunities than we could possibly take advantage of. We can in fact gain more benefit and add more value by working cooperatively with others.

Listen
A discussion with a client today reminded me of the importance of listening to our instincts. We were debating the merits of a particular strategy and she said, “I’ve thought about it, and it just feels right”. I admire that; the ability to tune in and pay attention to that instinctual guidance system. We’re all so busy trying to make ourselves heard that sometimes we forget to listen – really listen – to ourselves, our team, our clients and our mentors.

So, thanks Vanilla Ice, and errr, sorry I can’t remember what the rest of the song was about.

It’s actually your fault

Calling yourself an entrepreneur is pretty sexy these days.

Just mention the word and images of high-flying success, fancy cars and travel to exotic places spring to mind for most people. The reality though, is usually very different. Along with the title of director or boss or whatever you like to call yourself, you get the added bonus of responsibility.

Most of us are comfortable being the boss when things are going well, not so much when everything seems to be going wrong! Ah, I can hear your thought process already; well, its not always my fault, sometimes my team gets it wrong, sometimes clients are entirely unreasonable, sometimes our suppliers are unreliable. Maybe so, but don’t make excuses, don’t look for people to blame because ultimately, its all your fault.

That’s the thing about being the boss. If your team isn’t delivering, you haven’t instilled the mindset, provided the training and created the culture that enable them to do so. If your clients are unhappy, its time to create new products and services, review your processes and find ways to add more value. If your supply chain lets you down, maybe its time to consider bringing things in-house, or outsourcing abroad, or finding multiple suppliers to ensure continuity.

This may seem a little harsh, and I know it doesn’t seem fair for all the blame to go back to the boss all the time. But then leadership was never about fairness and was always about capability and responsibility. So if your people in your business are underperforming, or leaving to go work for your competitors, if people are not engaged in what they are doing and passionate about creating the outcomes that matter, its all your fault. If on the other hand, business is going well and success is flowing, it’s your fault. Take a bow!

Take a look in the mirror and give yourself a little talking to. Provide some constructive criticism, praise where its due, and keep on rising to the challenge of being an entrepreneur.