When was the last time you sat down, took some deep breaths and thought strategically about your business?

bushbreath

The incredible truth is that most business owners do not take any time out to work on their business. Most are way too busy working in the business that they do not STOP regularly to work on the strategy.

“It’s no wonder the statistics for bush business failure are so high”

If this is you the good news is it’s never too late to start working on your business. Try these simple steps to insert “Strategy Time” into your busy schedule.

  1. Go back through your diary and Colour Code the events you have in there. One colour for Administrative type tasks (RED), one colour for revenue generating activities (BLUE) and another colour for when you actually do work on the business (BLACK). Now that you have done this, count up how much time you spent on the business and compare that to admin and revenue type tasks.
  2. Look at all of your non-strategic tasks and objectively and ask yourself if you really need to be doing that task yourself or could you delegate it to someone internally or potentially outsource it.  Some people find it hard to let go but the more ruthless you are at this point the better off you will be. Its better to over delegate than it is to under, but I’ll talk about that in a future blog.
  3. Now set a goal of getting to the amount of time you should be spending on the business, preferably weekly. I like to spend a third of my time working strategically but that might not suit you. Pick a goal and now start planning out the next 4 weeks and add in one third of that  time into each week. eg if you goal is to get to 6 hours per week then add in 2 hours to each week for the next 4 weeks. Add in an additional third into the next 4 weeks after that and in the third month aim for the whole goal.
  4. Once you have reached your target determine if it is enough or if you need more still and then repeat steps 2 & 3.

“A business owner works hard in their business for a wage, an entrepreneur works strategically to build a legacy.”

Which are you?

Probably the most common issue I see with business owners is they take on too much responsibility in the day to day running of their business. Often necessary when you are starting out but should not be plan going forward.

“Nobody does it as well as I can” they all say.

All well and good but what happens when you can’t be there, you’re sick, you want to go on holidays, you get busy…

The true value in a business is if it will run just as well without you.

Here are a few simple steps to help you achieve this.

  1. Break up your business into major areas such as Sales, Finance, Admin etc
  2. Create a process map for each of these sections so that you (or anyone reading it) can follow it.
  3. Now look at each of the sections of your process map and observe and document how you do it now.
  4. Look at your self documentation and objectively determine if there are any improvements that can be achieved.
  5. Now test the document and see if it works (you do it)
  6. Now hand it to someone else and see if it still works, preferably someone who has never done that process before.

Test the process, measure the results, refine and test again and ultimately LET GO.

Once you get the hang of letting go, also known as delegation, you and your business will prosper.

What’s your biggest barrier to letting go?

“WHAT !!” I hear you scream. “Have you gone insane? How is that even possible?”

In this economic climate, all I hear people saying is that we have to get out and sell more.  Does that sound familiar?

“I have one word for you

….LISTEN”                          Listen more than you talk

Spend some time with your existing customer base and instead of telling them about your new offering, start asking questions and listen for a bit. You’ll be amazed at what they tell you.

There are ample opportunities for you to provide your customers with exactly what they are looking for, if only you knew what that was.

Here are a few ways to help this listening process along:

  • One on One:Call them up and arrange a time to buy them a coffee. Make sure you don’t do all the talking, have a few exploratory questions prepared so that the conversation keeps flowing. This is a time consuming option but you are most likely to get the best responses.
  • Survey:Setup a survey and send them to your customers. Don’t make it too long. You can get to a heap of targeted people quickly but expect many not to respond. Think about adding an incentive to reply to up the response rate.
  • Web Polls: Put a poll on your website. Make it highly visible and make sure you have a great question as typically you can only ask one. The is an effective way to get heaps of responses in a short period of time. The audience is not as targeted but statistically you might get the largest number of responses.
  • Email:My least favourite but still an effective way to get some answers. Personalise the email to the recipiant and make sure it is relevant enough that the person is likely to respond. Again, you might not get as good a hit rate but it is fast and inexpensive to do.

Remember, the key here is to STOP SELLING and LISTEN and you might just surprise yourself as to how much more people will buy from you if your products or services meet their needs.

Is your list of to-do’s getting longer and out of control?  

I bet mines bigger than yours

I bet mines bigger than yours

Well you’re not alone. Most of us are getting busier yet we do not seem to be getting through as much as we used to.

Here are 5 quick tips to get you back on track.

  1. Stop doing tasks and start focusing on the result.  You are more likely to achieve the related tasks if you know what the end result will be.
  2. Set a specific time-frame to achieve this result.
  3. Know what tasks you need to do and what task others will be contributing to the result.
  4. Priorities the results to those that will give you the biggest gain. In a business this should almost always be geared to more profit.
  5. Share this philosophy with others around you.

Focus on the results and you might just get that list manageable again.

If you have any tips on managing your time better I’d love to hear them. Please feel free to comment.

The Global Financial crisis has had an impact on every business I read about or encounter, some worse than others. So what should you do in your business to ensure you are around to enjoy the growth that occurs after any downturn?

Don’t Panic: Too many companies have battened down the hatches, stopped spending and are bracing for the worst. You certainly have to be more prudent in these times but if everyone keeps to themselves, the crisis only worsens because money doesn’t change hands and inevitably, someone falls out the bottom.

Review your Outgoings: Take a good look at the money you are spending and make sure you know exactly where your money is going and take this opportunity to trim your costs. There may be savings to be had in every area of your business, even spending which is vital to your business such as your telephony costs. During this period, if you have a little cash left over, if possible try and build up a piggy bank and put some money away to cover the dips. Remember, cash is King.

Put some extra effort into your existing customer base: Make sure you don’t neglect those who are spending money with you. Take the time to make sure you are provided they a good quality product or service and that the customer satisfaction level is higher than average. Last thing you want is for your clients (and their money) to go else ware.

Improve your Processes: Take a good look at how and why you are doing things the way you do. Step through each major process and see if there are any steps you can remove, make more efficient or delegate to a lower cost resource. This will help make your people more effective short and long term and potentially difer or remove the need to add staff when things pick up again. ( = more profit)

Focus on your strengths: Review your strengths and weaknesses as an organisation and use your strengths as a way to differentiate yourself amongst your competitors. Pick something that you are particularly good at and use this as your value proposition to prospective clients. If you can stand out from your competition you are more likely to get noticed ultimately leading to more sales.

If you can spend some time now looking at each of these areas it will not only improve what you are doing today but help immensely when things get busy again.

What other strategies are working for you in these interesting times?

Cashflow is probably the number one issue for many businesses I come across. In these uncertain times even more so. Most peoples initial reaction is to slash costs out of the business. This is often a neccesary step to ensure your survival but what do you do when there are no more costs to cut?

Look at improving your profit.

A slight change in your mindset to take you from cost cutting to profit improvement will not only improve your general attitute but will most likely have a greater affect on your bottom line.

So what is profit improvement?

The obvious answer is to sell more, increase your prices or reduce your costs. But these are not always possible.

An alternative way to increase profit is to look at ways your particular business can improve productivity. For some that means producing more widgets, for others its providing more services. Whatever business you are in there will be a few areas where if you can improve productivity, you are likely to improve your profit.

Where to Start?

  • Define the primary things you do that make money.
  • Look at and document the processes to do these primary things. Something worth asking in this part of the review “is there a better, more efficient way to do this task?” if there is, now is a good time to look at making some changes.
  • Work out how long it would take your best performer to do this and take out any distractions that slow it down.
  • This is now your optimum target.
  • Now look at how this task is currently done in your business and take an average. I can alsmost guarentee that this average will be below the optimum target you defined earlier.
  • Now break that process into lots of bite sized chunks and look at ways to improve each piece.
  • Now use this to test and measure your employees on and work with each one to get them as close as possible to the optimum target.

By using these steps in each of the primary money making areas of your business you will have a greater and longer lasting affect on your profitability than short term cost cutting will ever have.

Work smarter, not harder!

It’s a tough economic climate right now. Many companies are running operations with fewer workers, and requesting more of remaining employees. Profitability can increase for the company, however the increased demands on employees can have a detrimental effect. Employee burnout and a loss of any work-life balance which may have existed, are frequent consequences.

So what can “work smarter, not harder” mean for a business owner?

One key aspect for me personally, is “mindset”;  for example, exploring other possibilities. I need to think beyond the normal “day to day” activities, look at the bigger picture and always strive to see a different solution to a challenge.

As a business owner, you can all too easily fall into many traps, such as:
– getting bogged down in day to day operational issues,
– assuming direct responsibility and associated workload for challenges which arise,
– an unwillingness to “let go” and let others actually do their job.

I’m sure you get the (bleak) picture. All you are doing it ensuring “you” as the business owner, remain FIRMLY working “IN” the business – you become a king-pin. Possibly good for the business in the short term to overcome a hurdle, however in the long term, it’s bad for the business and you personally.

I suggest a change in mindset will help immensely.

As a business owner one of your most important tasks is to grow the company and manage the growth in a sustainable fashion, after all “you” have the vision. You need to be able to take a step back; take that family holiday and allow your mind to rest easy that the business will continue – successfully!

Some pointers:

1) Keep an open mind – there is generally more than one way to solve a problem.
2) Systemise – use appropriate tools to help you.
3) Delegate – assuming you have a team – use them – that’s why you employed them!.
5) Utilise and build on your strengths; acknowledge your weaknesses.
6) Seek help and guidance when required.

I will leave you with three thoughts:

1) Think about your actions going forward. Ask yourself the questions:
Is this action/task going to make life easier or not? Am I working “Smarter” or simply “Harder” ?

2) Seek help, it is not a sign of “weakness or stupidity” – it IS a smart move. People are specialists in “their” field – use them!.

3) Don’t assume the “status quo” is correct! Question it, you will be surprised by the results …

Now it’s your turn. What do YOU do to work smarter not harder?