From Breakdown To Breakthrough

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” Too often we decide to actually stand up and DO something about our unsustainable situation when we reach crisis. Our business has been built like a house of cards, and on one hellish day, it all comes tumbling down.

Our business is at a breaking point if it has been built like a house of cards with no structures to sustain growth

If you’re at that point of breakdown, drowning in admin and To Do lists that never get shorter, I am excited for you. The moment of break down ushers in the moment of breakthrough. If you think you’re not quite at that catastrophic point, but your days are too long and filled with stressful pressure, you are in a great spot too, because you can catch your situation before it catches you. No matter where you are in your business, pop your head up out of your bunker for just a brief moment to evaluate. Is your work sustainable? Is it effective? Is it getting you where you need to go?

There is a way to create new outcomes, and it starts with making the decision to start. It won’t be easy at first. As much as I wish it could change instantly for you, the truth is, it’s taken you years to get where you are now, so it might take a while to get you out of the forest into wide open spaces. By following these five steps you will not only reduce the overload and increase your productivity, but you will develop an entirely new set of management skills which transform your business by transforming you.

Document:

We start the reinvention of our business operations by documenting the tasks that we do, or those done by our team. This step cannot be completed in a fast morning burst. It’s best done over a few weeks as you go. You will never be able to remember everything that is actually done in your workplace. Your routines are likely sporadic and fluctuate with the urgency of unexpected demands. Invest the time to turn the chaos into some sort of organised list of tasks. This workflow is about to get a makeover.

Systemise

Having all the jobs roughly documented will give you perspective to start creating a more stable, predictable, and productive routine. It will also allow you to see ways to improve your current performance by removing unnecessary tasks, and adding tasks that maximise what you are already doing. Start grouping similar tasks together to minimise the amount of transitions in your work days and create daily checklists so that you move through your work more efficiently.

Delegate

WIth your task lists organised and systemised it’s time to delegate repetitive tasks that could be done by someone else. You’ll experience the first FEELINGS of your business breakthrough after you have written a step by step set of instructions for your new helper and handed the job over. These instructions should be foolproof. Provide URLs, logins, a task overview statement, numbered instructions and screenshots for confirmation. You’ll get the biggest breakthroughs delegating tasks like answering your phone, emails, social media posting, scheduling, client liaison, stock control, catering, event set up and follow up, and cleaning.

Automate

Now you should see your thumb doesn’t need to be in every single business pie. Automating other aspects of your work will really shake things up and boost your productivity. There are websites, software programs and apps for just about everything you manage in your business. Investing first into research, then into purchases and subscriptions is the fastest way to sustainable growth. Ask around your networks and spend some quality time with Google to find electronic solutions to your unique workflow problems.

Outsource

Your business is well on the way to breakthrough now. We’ve organised the labour intensive jobs that were consuming your time. Now they are well organised routines delegated to others in your team, and automated with electronic tools. At this point you are still managing all of this work. While it’s certainly flowing faster, you’ll obtain the most benefit in this business breakthrough by outsourcing entire chunks of your operations altogether. Find companies who offer specialised services in content creation or administration, data management, accounting, order fulfilment, stock management, staffing and recruitment, cleaning and site maintenance, catering and event management, email automation, graphic design, audio engineering, copywriting. The list is endless, so the opportunities for your business growth are infinite.

Business Like A Boss

Do you want to make eyes widen and jaws drop when people see what you are capable of in your business? Here are seven super fast ways to impress your colleagues, clients and curious passers by. Here’s how to strut your stuff in your business.

Consistency is the key to being seriously hot stuff in your business

Daily Checklists

To do Business Like A Boss all your work should be set up before you start. Nothing should be done without having it scribbled in a notebook at the very least. A diary or calendar filled with jobs and appointments will keep you productive and on task so you don’t waste time wondering what to do next, or moseying your way across to the water cooler because you have no sense of just how much needs to be done by the time you call it a day. Move fast and cross that list off like there’s no tomorrow.

Project Management Software

Project management software is like next level checklists, and this is where you really start doing Business Like A Bosss. These let you map larger ongoing tasks, then note progress milestones along the way. I’ve heard Trello software is great, and we currently use Asana for managing daily tasks and ongoing development projects. We’ll move to RTMS early in 2018 to measure our performance ratings against KPIs. It’s a subscription based model with upgrades rolling out faster than the North Korean army.

Electronic Calendars

EVERYTHING must go in your calendar if you’re doing Business Like A Boss. Appointments, meetings, phone calls, deadlines, events and reminders all need to be in there. The person doing Business Like A Boss never makes an appointment without checking their calendar and entering the details. I cry inside when I see my colleagues pull out paper diaries. Electronic calendars are accessible from your phone, desktop or other device, and can also be managed by an assistant so you don’t have to do it all.

Phone Apps

I had a business idea once that remains in the shadowy corners of my enterprising mind … what if we could sell our micro time? You know, the time we spend waiting for a public bathroom, get on a train, purchase our groceries, or even the time we spend waiting for a screen to load because the internet in our country is shamefully slow. Apps for our banking, accounting, shopping, social media etc give us new ways to invest even these tiny units of time. How many micro moments might an ordinary person be able to offer an enterprising employer who knows how to maximise resources?  With phone apps, anyone could help their employer do low level tasks like reconciling transactions, managing a calendar, monitoring emails, and ordering just about anything online. As entrepreneurs doing Business Like A Boss, we should be using these micro moments to save our larger chunks of time into the real work.

Email Filters

Most of our emails are important but not urgent. They require us to read them regularly but not daily. Using a filter to make your important emails bypass your inbox and pop them aside until it is time to read them is how you do Business Like A Boss. It keeps your inbox clear and filling only with items that must be seen immediately. This assumes of course that we are ruthless with our unsubscribes and blocking unwanted senders. An email filter with a calendar reminder to check these emails is a Boss combination.

Presets and Scheduling

Technology is the gift that keeps on giving. We are increasingly able to set things up in advance to roll out when we choose so it all flows without us. We can preset alarms, reminders and timers to keep us on track with tasks and appointments. And scheduling tools can be used to activate a myriad of things when we want them to run: emails, social media posts, automatic payments, account reports, software updates, order deliveries … heck, even your washing machine can run so it’s finishing up just as you get home!

NEVER Procrastinate

Finally, people doing Business Like A Boss never fall into the trap of putting things off. Delaying things that are meant to be done now causes stress and anxiety, reduces our potential for achievement, and creates bad habits that interrupt our work flow. Worse than all this though, is that when we don’t do the work we know we should do, we undermine our greatest source of power: Our self respect. When we procrastinate through laziness, boredom, excuses, nerves or even fear, we send ourselves the very dangerous message that what we do is not important, and that we are not quite up to the task. When we are doing Business Like A Boss we grab every opportunity that life throws us with both hands, and we run at them like a bull at a gate.

Hope Is Not A Plan

On the day my world changed I faced a rebuild that felt almost insurmountable. For twelve years I had been married to Alec, the love of my life. We had grown our family, our business, and our community together. And we had grown each other too. In losing him I had lost my best friend, my companion, my lover. I have never known a loss so gutting

In practical terms though, I had a financial crisis on my hands. Alec was a spendthrift, big time! Yes, he could make sales, close deals and win new clients. But when buying stock for our online retail business, he was like a man possessed! For a decade, he didn’t see the cost, he only saw the potential for profit. Stock could be bought at $3 and sold for $15, or sometimes even $20 or $30! … His eyes had hearts on them like an emoji as he pored over bulk offers in supplier catalogues. His last hurrah on this front was to become an importer, which had us receiving stock by the container load from China. Our cash flow was choked by supplier debt.

I made the systems that released me to my passion by turning hope into strategic real life action steps.

I was in serious trouble.

We were a team of four who had become three. After a couple of months my English warehouse assistant had to return home, leaving me with my warehouse manager, who was Alec’s best mate. He took the loss so hard that he too needed to leave and find his own way forward soon after.

From this mire I have emerged. I paid that decade’s worth of rolling supplier debt off in six months, and a year after that I sold the business for a profit that was equal to the debt I had been left with. I have published my book, established myself as a speaker and small business trainer, and opened a venue where I run my own events and support others in building theirs.

I am often asked “How have you done this?” Every day I live my dream and work my passion plan into reality. I get to help people to find new beginnings and new endings by doing the things I am good at … the things I love. This is true freedom.

The day after Alec died I experienced a clarity with my passion that cut through the haze of the loss. At that time I didn’t know how, but I knew what. I knew that I would transform my adversity into a freedom that would inspire others, and that I would empower people to follow their passion. Although it felt like I lost everything, I came to this season armed with a first class honours degree in education and eight years of teaching experience right through to university level. I also had spent fifteen years in business, and had a natural flair for breaking down complex tasks into simple, step by step strategies that anyone can follow. When people ask “How have you done this?” what they are really asking is “How could I do that too?”

“How could I move from where I am now, choking on the daily grind of my small business?”

I had hope that day, but I needed a plan to get out of that quicksand. You need a plan too. Here is how you can turn your hopes for your future in business and in life into a system for your passion:

Delegate: Get help!

Find one job that someone else can do for you. This brings clarity and a broader view of the possibilities in your current situation. My sister helped by answering my phones for just a few hours per day to release me to my systematic restructure.

Document: Create an instruction manual for routine daily tasks.

Duplicate your work by documenting the steps of the job and assigning it to someone else permanently. With my sister answering calls my first task was to document how she should answer the phone! I wrote up the script of what she should say and what to do with messages. Then I created step by step instructions of how she should respond to the most common inquiries. Then I just kept on going to document my processes for customer service, order fulfilment, stock management and site management. These instructions became hundreds of pages worth of manuals still used to this day.

Automate: Install software to do the job for you.

A few weeks after Alec died I had inventory management software installed to manage our stock and shipping processes. My desperation triggered THE change I needed. It reduced my workload by 20% and transformed my cashflow. There is software to automate most of what needs to be done in any small business. Take a deep breath, learn something new and release yourself into a new work mode.

Outsource: Third party service suppliers can do it all for you

With my tasks delegated, my work duplicated, and my system automated, I was ready for my final step to freedom: Outsourcing. I had invested six months to restructure my system which allowed me to contract the job to a third party supplier. I sent my two new team members to work from home, and closed my warehouse altogether. This was seven months after losing Alec.

Without embarking on this strategic business restructure my hope would never have become a reality. As small business owners working from our garages or kitchen tables we can get buried in the jobs, and one day we suddenly realise we don’t own our business … It owns us! We had always hoped that it would be different from this. Well, it can be. If you turn hope into systems for your passion.

Goal Setting Done Wrong

Business success is most often defined by output. Whether we are discussing our business with our accountant, sharing a friendly conversation with our customers, or explaining our work to our colleagues at a networking event, we are telling the story of success by casually bragging about positive outcomes. We love proudly reporting more sales, greater profit, expanding services, increased revenue. At the end of the day, the viability of our business, its progress towards expansion, and its impact on the marketplace is understood by these indicators of productivity. What we have produced and achieved is the hot topic when it comes to our business health.

We hold on to our performance goals by letting them go.

When these are struggling we know about it too, don’t we? It is unnerving to watch our sales faltering, our profits dropping, our services ailing, and our revenue depleting. We determine our business success by these things, so when there are problems, we feel it fast. We understand that something must be done this minute, or at the very least this quarter. When our business output levels begin a noticeable decline, we get very motivated to set goals to turn things around for the better.

It’s understandable that setting goals for business growth has us jumping to urgently grasp at the straws of these output measures, particularly if we are setting those goals in response to trouble on the homefront. We need growth? Then of course we should be setting goals to make more sales! Reach greater profits! Add more services! Generate additional revenue! We can’t wait to proudly report booming sales, profit, services and revenue. It seems logical that if we want more of these we must set our goals towards them, right?

Wrong.

Measures of output are nowhere near as useful for goal setting as the measurements that we can take of our input. To get our goal setting right, it is vital that we understand that our business output reflects the results of the actions that we take day by day. We can work towards increases in our business output, but first we must set goals that measure the things we need to do on a daily basis to achieve these increases. Our business output is determined by our business input, so it is here that we should focus our goal setting efforts.

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals” – Zig Ziglar

The desire to make more sales in our business cannot be achieved by putting a gigantic sales chart up for display in our office or staff tea room. To have something to record on this sales chart, we must first set goals to perform actions like generating more leads, making more sales calls, or refining our sales skills. These goals must establish how many leads, or how many sales calls, or exactly which sales training … and by what date? We can measure these actions as we perform them, which means we can track our progress in real time. We don’t need to get to the end of the sales period to be able to see how we fared. While we may not know how many sales we will make by the end of the period, we can guarantee that we will not get there if we are not performing the requisite steps on the way there.

Of course, this approach applies to all kinds of goals setting. We can’t guarantee greater profit margin, but we can adjust our pricing, negotiate better supplier agreements, and add more profitable product lines to our range. We can’t control exactly how much revenue we will generate, but we can control our trading hours, our advertising schedule, our pricing structures and the time allocations of our staff.

When we set goals for input, rather than output, we embrace our capacity for powerful leadership in our businesses. We provide clear direction for our team, and we can reward positive performance before we even arrive at the increase we are chasing. Setting input goals transforms our workplaces into a buzzing hub of activity that is vibrant with productivity and performance. With this approach we literally do everything we can do to achieve the outcomes we desire.

Small Business Freedom

Identify The Need

“If you do not change direction you may end up where you’re heading,” Lao Tzu

No change will occur where the person or organisation sees no need for change. It breaks my heart to see the small business owner who throws themselves into complaining about their current constraints without looking for alternative approaches. There are too many highly skilled, passionate practitioners whose gifts are buried under the admin, and whose services are limited because they say they don’t have the time. We need to see first that change is necessary, then that it is possible. Without this realisation dawning, there will be no new day for the overwhelmed business owner, regardless of how tired they are, or how limitless their potential is.

We need to see first that change is necessary, then that it is possible.

Plan The Change

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” Allan Lakein

Seeing the possibilities for change of course cannot create new outcomes without first making a plan for change. For the change to stick, it is vital that we don’t rush through this phase, despite how boring or tedious it might feel. To rush through the planning phase is to undermine the success of implementation. Dedicate yourself to evaluating your current practices, taking inventory of resources, identifying areas of waste, exploring and documenting alternative solutions, and setting targets to measure the effects of the change. Use all of this preparation phase to develop a strategic plan that is documented and set against a calendar and a budget.

Implement The Change

“Action is the foundational key to all success,” Pablo Picasso

Now comes the supremely fun, exciting part: Taking Action!

If you’ve prepared with thorough diligence and a visionary eye for detail, your implementation of new systems and processes will start to create results very quickly. Take a steady, disciplined approach to implement the changes you planned, so each part of the change plan is put in place with deliberate care. Consistency is key here, and deviation from the new procedure cannot be allowed. All parties involved should understand what their role is, and what successful completion looks like. And most importantly, start measuring performance against your targets so that you see quickly if you come off course.

Resolve Resistance

“On the other side of resistance is the flow,” Guy Finley

The implementation phase is fraught with bumps and humps and challenges along the way, but if we see these challenges as practice towards perfection then we will be able to push through. Human nature is always on the lookout for threat and as a defensive mechanism, change is often perceived as a danger to be avoided. The resistance to change that you experience in yourself or you see in your team simply comes from the discomfort that we feel in doing something new or different. This resistance could come in the form of objection or non-compliance, or a lazy, haphazard attitude to the new way. Persist with diligence and discipline, and do what is required to smooth the glitches along the way to facilitate faster acceptance of the change.

Acceptance Of Change

“Happiness can exist only in acceptance,” George Orwell.

It is true in business and in life that we can grow only when we finally accept the new situation and work it to our advantage. Embracing the change means seeing it come into its own in your business, and watching outcomes become increasingly bigger, better, and more rewarding. With the change planned, implemented and accepted you can get down to the business of enjoying the results. Your operations will be as smooth as silk and your team will run like a well oiled machine.

The only question left is, “Where to from here …?”

It’s time to start the process all over again.