The Value of Research

I recently watched a student who wants to start his own business, go through an experience that led him to say “this start-up process isn’t as easy as I thought, is it?” – he was learning lessons fortunately before spending vasts amount of money about what you need to know before making decisions in business.

When starting up it is unlikely that you will know all you need to avoid making costly mistakes. For those of you considering a self employed life here are some tips!

  • Ask someone you trust for some independent reality checking of your plans
  • Do your research, about your idea, the market you are entering, your prospective customers, your competitors and your possible suppliers.
  • Try not to view seeking paid for support as a cost, it can be the best investment you consider.

In the students case doing his research and discussing it led to me seeking more specialist help on his behalf, regarding intellectual property issues, saving him £££’s in the longer term.

If you are unsure of your next steps in start-up then speak to someone you trust and don’t just assume everything will be alright!

Till next time….

Leadership Focus

Leadership is based on two things:

  1. Understanding the motivation of the people who work for you, and
  2. Being able to get them to work towards your vision of where the business is going.

You need to look at what motivates people to give their best in the workplace. Without an understanding of this you may set up the wrong structures and simply be adding challenges to getting your team headed in the right direction.

In recent times there has been a move away from the ‘command and control’ style of leadership, where a leader basically imposes his or her will from the top down. These days, effective leadership generally involves giving teams and individuals a degree of autonomy and letting them find ways to work in the most efficient way possible. According to current thinking, you guide and motivate people by giving them frequent and informal rewards and encouragement. Rather than focusing on ways to impose discipline, leaders now focus on trying to ‘catch somebody doing something right’ so that they can reward them and reinforce a particular kind of behaviour.

This change has come about partly as the results from studies about what people really want out of a job. These studies typically approach this by getting employees to rank a number of items they think motivate their team, and then getting the team to rank them. Most commonly, the rankings are widely different.

Employees’ Rank Item Employer’s Rank
1 Interesting work 5
2 Appreciation and recognition 8
3 Feeling “in on things” 10
4 Job security 2
5 Good wages 1
6 Promotion/growth 3
7 Good working conditions 4
8 Personal loyalty 6
9 Tactful discipline 7
10 Sympathetic help with problems 9

From: Niebrugge, Vicki, Declining Employee Morale: Defining the Causes and Finding the Cure, NOVA Group

Note the things that are real motivators for employees. These are the things that you, as leader, need to keep in mind in building your HR policies.

So if the ‘leader’ is not out there looking for people who are doing things ‘wrong’ and directing them to do it ‘right’ what are they doing? Well, what they ought to be doing, what a leader’s primary purpose is, is to provide an overall sense of vision about where the company is going, and ensure that this vision informs all decisions on strategic and management issues.

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Materials Courtesy of RANONE

Working On Your Business – next steps…….

Michael Gerber suggests in his book The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work And What to Do About It, that it’s a myth that most businesses are started by entrepreneurs. Gerber suggests that many businesses are actually started by a person suffering from an ‘entrepreneurial seizure.’ That is, instead of creating a business that works independently, we create a business that can only work with us in it. This is when the day-to-day running of the business takes us over.

So, once you have stepped back and looked at what you are doing In your business and made some decisions about what you want and have identified some specific goals to achieve, you will need to take action:

The next step is to look at developing simple systems for some of the key functions that your business depends on. Many people are aware of the concept of the ‘This is How We Do it Here’ manual like that in a McDonald’s store franchise. In a small business owners can feel nervous of the work involved in creating this kind of manual, I will always encourage making a small ‘baby step’ approach and look at documenting say 2 key functions a week. This means extracting information that we usually just keep in our heads about the way something is done.

One of the benefits of writing it down, is that once done – SOMEONE ELSE can perform that task and importantly for those of us who become control freaks as owners, is that you can document not just what has to happen but to a degree you can define HOW it is to be completed too.

Once you start to put simple systems in place you will begin to see a number of other benefits:

  1. You can more easily delegate to people in your team if you have one and that can really motivate them to be more involved in your business.
  2. The unwritten rules of your business can be clearly defined and everyone can understand the culture of your business more easily, what you do, how you do it and the standards you set in the delivery of your products and services.
  3. Customer service processes will become more efficient and you will become more effective, so that your business doesn’t suffer from unexpected breakdowns.
  4. Once the business is independent of you it has more value as well.

Now, I won’t pretend that this process is easy – it’s not! You are already overworked and under pressure and this work does mean more in the short-term – but this really is a classic case of short-term pain – long term benefit.

Why not have a go? You may surprise yourself….

If you try and get stuck – email me or give me a call 07760 767025 and I will make some suggestions about strategies to help.

Frozen Ps – Systems Development and Implementation – Alternatively – If you would like to know more or you know that you need to do this but do not want to spend the time or resources on making it happen then please get in touch, as this is a project management service that we offer our clients and with our help you can ensure that it is implemented, we have the resources and the know how and we can help you short cut the process and save you re-inventing the wheel!

Work On not IN your Business

Is this you?

You run your own business. You spend your time mostly sorting things out, answering phones, replying to email, or talking with team members, fighting fires, juggling all the elements of your business at once – winning new work, selling, managing all the day-to-day operational elements and juggling money, cash flow, chasing debt and income.

You are in early, leave late and regularly forget to stop to eat or eat at odd times grabbing snacks to keep you going. And then you take work home. In any small business this might have to happen occasionally in busy times but for you it’s become the routine.

Sound familiar?

This is what working IN your business means.  So what if you could work ON your business, you may have heard this phrase but what does it mean in reality?

If you were able to take a few steps back from your business and look at it objectively, saying, “If I wasn’t’ here what would happen to my business? What do I want to happen? What needs to be done differently to stop me having to work in it all the time?”

Imagine taking some time away from day-to-day tasks and looking at your business in the long-term. Putting plans in place to make the most of the opportunities that currently you miss because you are bogged down just getting by.

This is what is called working ON your business.

Think about why you went into business in the first place. What ambitions did you have then?

Perhaps, financial independence, persona success, being your own boss, building a legacy to pass on?

How many of those goals have you actually attained?

Interestingly most of us  fall into business and suddenly we are so busy with admin and firefighting that we stop looking forward.

Steven R. Covey, in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, says to “begin with the end in mind.” In other words, whenever you start a process, understand exactly what the end point is before you start.

So, why not decide to set aside some time for looking ahead – you may be surprised at what that will do for you and your business dreams.

The Power of Testimonial

One of the major headaches new business owners face is having the confidence in selling their services because they feel they don’t have a track record to shout about. This is a real challenge for many and one that has to be overcome quickly.

If you have testimonial about your products, services and how you work then, it is a fabulous way of demonstrating your value at a time when you might be feeling a little shy!

If the client or customer giving the testimonial has a high profile themselves, then others tend to respect and value what they have to say and therefore a more persuasive approach to support your other general marketing activity.

Generally, recommendations help raise your profile and possible introductions to new work opportunities, will often follow word of mouth testimonials from people you know, who know you and what you have to offer.

After all, we all seek advice and guidance from friends, family and associates when we are making a purchasing decision.

In my experience, testimonials are still not used enough and mostly for the following reasons:
• Not sure how to ask for one
• Nervous about the reaction you might get
• Assumptions that a recommendation shouldn’t be asked for at all
• Lack of confidence in yourself and in the value of the work provided, particularly in new and young businesses

So, which are the best ways of gathering some testimonial for your business? Here are a few ideas:

If you have had some positive feedback for your work, develop a habit of asking if you can use it in your marketing, you might say, “Thank you for that lovely feedback, would you mind if I used that in my future marketing?”

You can add that you don’t have to use their name if they want to be anonymous – there are some businesses where a level of confidentiality is required.

Some networking organisations encourage written testimonials which can then be displayed for all to see, that way your customer can also promote their own business by using headed paper.

It is essential that you do get permission to use testimonial in this way and many who are asked are usually very happy to agree. I have also found that happy clients will also become a willing advocate for your business and talk to prospects personally about their experience of working with you, which is also very reassuring for prospects considering using your products or services.

So, when is the right time to ask? Well, usually when the experience of purchasing from you or working with you is fresh in the customers mind.

One response at this time can be: “Yes of course – what do you want me to say!

Some customers will be comfortable writing a few words based on their experience. Others just unsure of exactly what you need and in what format.

If you want to really capture their appreciation of your work – you might suggest some areas that you want to highlight, for example:
• Why they purchased from you?
• What value did the product or service give them?
• What was it about how you delivered the product and service that impressed them?
• Why should others consider you?

Often the words and language a customer uses is much more appealing and accessible, than the jargon we can sometimes use in our own business. They will describe you and your business in a way that your prospects are more likely to engage with.

Another increasingly popular method would be to ask for video testimonial, which you could use in its entirety or edit for some few good ‘sound bites’. This you can use on your website or You Tube account if you have one.

Remember, you want the whole process to be effective, so ask people who you know will feel comfortable and who will enjoy the experience – it is also an opportunity for them to promote themselves at the same time.

The process of building testimonials and recommendations for your business is an ongoing one and that also means that you need to be mindful of their relevance and whether a testimonial needs updating.

The way you do business needs to reflect your attitude to the experience your customers have working with you and maintain the highest standards so that your testimonials keep coming.
What people perceive about your business has an enormous effect on whether or not you attract the kind of customers you want, however you will only maintain your reputation by delivering product and services of quality that add value.

So, for those of you who are a little nervous, think about someone you have worked with recently who was thrilled with what you did and you haven’t a testimonial from them – will you ask?

Time Management Tips

Managing time seems to be one of the most frustrating challenges we face and causes a huge amount of stress in our daily lives. Everyone knows the theory but we all find implementing better habits almost impossible. Our daily routine seems to have become dominated by the NOW and we feel compelled to action everything instantly. Technology introduced to make life easier, quicker and more effective seems to have turned us into gibbering wrecks.

An interesting article on time management published by RANONE  described how Ohio State University in the US has classified the major time wasters into external and internal categories.

This analysis enables you to consider the original cause of the time management challenges faced in a slightly different way.

The article considers the following:

“By looking at these it is possible to establish the cause of an individual’s lack of efficient time management and pinpoint the old habits that need to be broken.

The external ones are: telephone interruptions; meetings; visitors; socializing; lack of information; excessive paperwork; communication breakdown; lack of policies and procedures; lack of competent personnel and red tape.

The internal ones are: procrastination; failure to delegate; unclear objectives; failure to set priorities; crisis management; failure to plan; poor scheduling; lack of self-discipline; attempting to do too much at once and lack of relevant skills.

To overcome these time wasters, employees must not only change their behaviour, but also maintain and persist with it.

Self-discipline and control is needed to ensure that behavioural changes will become habitual.

However, a sense of balance is also needed – there is no need to be too rigid, as the classic time management rules don’t work for everyone. There may also be some elements of an individual’s work that cannot be controlled, or don’t need to be controlled”.

Original Source “Easy Time Management” RANONE 

The start point for those of us trapped in the cycle of constant ‘to – do’ has to begin with putting the brakes on and taking an honest look at how we are working and that can be difficult.

I have recently met two individuals who came to me absolutely overwhelmed with their work load and very unsure of what to do to change their situations. They invested a couple of hours with me looking at how they were spending their time, using me as an independent sounding board they were able to honestly reflect on what activity was taking their time, the unhelpful habits of thought and behaviour they had fallen into over a period of time and were able to make some clear and informed judgements about their real priorities.

What I realised working with them, is that even before they tried to prioritise they needed to go back several steps and using a framework developed talking with them, look at their lives as a complete picture – many of us tend to tackle time management issues by dividing it into work or home, when the reality is all of our commitments impact on each other.

In both cases, we were able to identify a vast range of side issues that influenced their decision making processes and discuss these fully and establish new and realistic priorities in a workable routine for them to implement successfully.

It is not always possible to timetable every part of your life and nor should you want to – some spontaneity is necessary, however peace of mind and a sense of well being comes from not feeling constantly pressured by our commitments and responsibilities left undone.

 

 

The framework I developed is now documented and available to purchase at only  4.99 GBP – either via the website or by contacting me directly patricia@frozenps.co.uk and includes a SPECIAL OFFER – If on completion of the work book you wish to have a follow up implementation discussion – I will discount the price against the consultation call fee.

 For more information visit: Frozen Ps

The Benefits of Planning to Improve Business

So, you are working away dealing with queries, answering emails and calls, meeting clients and trying to engage new prospects. There is a long list of activity you have tried to complete over the last few months but you never seem to make any tangible progress. Every so often you think about your early days when you had all that excitement of running your own business, all those hopes and dreams of independence, making a decent living and being in charge of your own destiny.

With your head down fire fighting it becomes more difficult to see how, even if you could you can change the path you’re on, what you can do about this in a practical way that will work.

This is where the process of planning has its value, I am not just talking about ‘writing the plan’ – I am talking about taking an opportunity to put the brakes on for a while, stepping back and taking a good hard look at your business and how you run it. You might be very pleasantly surprised at what can happen. So what is business improvement?

The way you work can include some bad habits and unless you stop, take stock and review you just don’t notice, sometimes until those bad habits lead to unexpected challenges that seem sudden but have actually been bubbling along under the surface for a while. Like losing a customer or staff member, sometimes you might be offered a business opportunity and it’s hard to decide if you should take it, just because you don’t know if it’s a good fit? or you may be trying to develop a marketing campaign but not sure where to begin.

All of these business events are entirely normal – how successfully we respond to them depends on how much preparation or planning we have done.

So, how do you set about planning.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Set aside  some quality time – preferably away from your business environment where you can think more clearly without distraction
  2. Divide your time into specific areas – Big Picture thinking – your vision – what you want the business to achieve, the actions that you need to take to make that happen, the resources you will need to support the plans and how you want the business to run – your unwritten rules and then operational areas like, operations – how you deliver your products and services, marketing and sales, finance, admin and legal, systems and processes, people/HR and contingency planning.
  3. Have someone with you – you can do this with your partners, team or an independent person you trust to give you good feedback.
  4. Allow yourself the freedom to browse ideas without limitation
  5. Use flip charts or mind maps for recording ideas – there is enormous value in seeing ideas become tangible by writing them down
  6. Understand what is happening in your business right now – the good, the not so good, the opportunities that are there waiting to be developed and the actions you can take to safeguard your position.
  7. No. 6 is important because you are developing key information about your business performance that provides a benchmark for where you are right now – which means that you can measure your success in changing your business over time  against that data.
  8. Highlight some key priorities for change, document simple actions steps to address them and schedule them against a timetable. Select 2-3 for immediate action and timetable lower priorities accordingly. Use a format that you are comfortable, excel spreadsheet, word document or project planning tools if you prefer.
  9. Take action – do it….. any time you invest in planning is a complete waste of time if you don’t do anything as a result.
  10. Monitor what happens and tweak as necessary.
  11. Instil this way of working so that review and continuous improvement become a way of life.
  12. Make better use of the specialists you use to help you in your business, for example discuss with your accountant what extra management information can be provided that gives an up to date financial snapshot of your business?
  13. Outsource activity that you identify you really shouldn’t be spending your time on
  14. Look for quick wins, these are very motivating and help you stick at change! An example would be to review your client list and make contact with any that you haven’t spoken to in a while, or go back and follow-up on interest shown that you have just let slip. 

The process of planning can seem daunting but the steps outlined are quite straightforward and can add huge value to your business. Once you take back control you will find that you can make more informed judgements about your business, your decision-making will become easier, you will identify opportunity to make more money, to look after your customers and clients better, motivate your team and work more efficiently. All of which makes for a successful business and a much happier and motivated owner!

If all this still seems daunting then I have developed a new service! 

Improve your business in less than 120 minutes for only £99, guaranteed value or your money back! No quibble….

We will cover all areas of your business and some!  For information: Visit frozenps.co.uk or call Patricia direct on +441582 733327

You will be required to complete a questionnaire about your business online (60 Minutes), this will be reviewed, analysed and recommendations prepared and we will discuss in a SKYPE call (Minimum 60 Minutes), so that you can implement the outcomes with ease .