How To Keep Staff Accountable Without Being A Control Freak

I am frustrated by the time it takes to manage my staff but I don’t know how else to get them to do what they’re meant to do. As the leader of the workplace, you need to set expectations and hold your team members accountable for results. It is truly hardwork requiring focus and clarity. It’s not-so-comfortable with difficult people, but accountability is an essential leadership skill.

“You get a culture of entrepreneurship after you have successfully changed the accountability system so that people can use a better process. Process drives culture, not the other way around, so you can’t just change the culture, you have to change the system.” – Eric Ries

The reality is that in our companies, the idea of accountability can make or break our cultures and will certainly have a massive role to play in terms of our management approaches and the way that we’re achieving output in our businesses.

In this article, we discuss some of the different meaning of accountability to different people and what it should mean to your staff  to maitain a healthy and thriving workplace:

POWER: For some, the word accountability stands for the idea of power. This looks like control freak type bosses that are micromanaging this staff and that there’s a high level of surveillance. It looks like people being controlled in possibly fear or intimidation and it certainly does not look like rapport building or relationship. In this sort of situation, there is no questioning, there’s no answering back. This certainly has a role to play in defense forces or highly regimented workplaces, but it may not be exactly the best way to develop innovation and creativity in your team.

CONTROL: For others, the idea of accountability equals control. It looks like checking in on every single step that’s being done as it’s being done from the manager there down through to their staff members. So in this sort of situation, there’s no room for creativity. There’s no room for free thought. Everything is controlled down to the last minute and certainly, it can create a bit of a stifling culture in that company.

SUPPORT: For me, how I love to see the idea of accountability being rolled out in teams is with the idea of it being a support. Where the idea of accountability looks like the team members getting support and that they’re set up for wins in their regular work. They know how to do their work well and they rewarded when it gets done. If they need help, if they need to ask questions, they can come freely to their supervisors or their managers and get that, because the managers are just as much accountable to the employees as the other way around. This also means that the employees can be liberated to their own versions of creativity and innovation in the company.

So when you’re thinking about implementing accountability measures in your company, think about it in such a way that you’re offering a nurturing, rapport building type of culture in your company and the approach you’re taking is a positive one. Through this spirit, you’ll find such a dedication from your team in terms of building the business and you’ll see them being very invested in the future because they don’t feel controlled, they don’t feel overpowered. They feel supported and nurtured.

What Kind Of Business Do You Really Have?

I caught up recently with a business owner friend who is doing really well for herself. Running a service based business from home suits her lifestyle perfectly. From here she can manage her business and her family with ease. She loves being able to fit her clients in around school drop off and pick up, and gives her weekends to building her local community. Our conversation was humming along beautifully as we shared our highs and lows and ups and downs of business building. My eyes sparkled as we moved on to discuss the ambitions she has for her growth, and we explored what that might look like for her. It can be tricky to develop a growth strategy for a service-based business that currently runs from home, and the talk that I had with my friend highlighted one of the core reasons why.

“Growth is never by mere chance, it is the result of forces working together” James Cash Penny, founder of JCPenny

Every business in the world can be slotted into one of four categories:

HIGH MARGIN AND HIGH VOLUME

Wouldn’t we all love to own these!! Businesses in this first category are the mega big operations, the corporate giants, the well known leaders in their industry. If you are moving stacks of product, and there is chunky margin in there, you are a big player in the game. You probably enjoy a large market share, and you might even have a monopoly in your industry.

As a sole trader, my friend certainly did not fit into this category! Her business growth strategy was not going to be anything like the strategies used by these companies.

HIGH MARGIN AND LOW VOLUME

This category of business is where a lot of high end business coaches, consultants and professionals sit. It is also where high end retailers slot in. The amount of profit built into each and every sale means these businesses don’t need many sales at all to run a profitable business. These business owners may well be sole traders, or have a team of people to support them, or to roll out their core offering. Regardless of the business model, the point here is that these businesses function by making a relatively small number of very lucrative transactions.

My friend was not able to put her prices up significantly because the market will not pay more for what she does, so her growth strategy was not going to come from the approaches used by these business owners either.

LOW MARGIN AND LOW VOLUME

These are the hobby businesses, the micro businesses, the operations that rely on the business owner making a lot of sales with very small margins. You will see these businesses at the Sunday market, on Etsy or Ebay, or selling their wares from home. They potter around with their clients and customers, and they sell to their friends and families or to people online looking for a bargain. Their overheads are necessarily low, because they don’t have the cash flow to expand. Their pricing is based on what they need to cover their direct costs and create some pocket money for themselves. The owners rarely see the true costs of running their business, because these businesses are often propped up by the main breadwinner of the family, or by alternative income streams. These business owners might use their operation to pay for their family holiday, their shoe collection, or their love of music.

My friend could relate strongly with this business model. She described her business as having next to no overheads because she worked from home on her own, so there was no rent, staff or utilities to cover. But as we continued to talk, she realised that if she wanted her business to grow from being a cashflow hobby to a going concern, she would need to shift into a new business framework. She would need to factor in the true costs of running and growing her business. There are only two options for micro-business owners who truly want to grow beyond start up. Either put your prices up, which can be difficult if you want to continue serving the same market, or increase your volume of sales.

LOW MARGIN AND HIGH VOLUME

The Reject Shop, Alibaba, and Woolworths supermarket all have one thing in common. They all do business by selling massive volumes of products with a small margin. Businesses who deal in products or services that are costly to deliver – but people won’t pay more for them – have only one option for growth: You must create infrastructure to increase your volume of sales. This is the only way businesses like this can possibly develop beyond the hobby phase. With a Low Margin – High Volume model, your business will generate lots of sales with a tiny little slice of profit in each.

To put this into perspective, a lesson from the conversation I had with my friend: She had to realise that her business model did not really have the profit of a high end coach or top shelf retailer. Charging more for her services as they currently existed was not viable because her target market simply would not pay more for the services she offered. So she needed to start figuring out ways to deliver more of her services to generate more revenue. As a service based business owner, her only option was to train someone else to do the work she does, which meant her running costs had to include what it would cost to train and pay that new team member. She could still keep her operational costs to a minimum, because she could still work from home, and so could her new team.

Success with business growth is what we all want, but gaining an accurate understanding of the true nature of our business model is one of the foundational building blocks of this pursuit. For your little business to become a big business, the way margin and volume interact in your unique operation must be clearly understood. This relationship holds the secret formula for success.

Eye Spy A Half Dozen Hidden Profit Spots

We are all looking for ways to make more with less. Generate more money with less expenditure. Get more work done without adding staff. Make more out of our time because we certainly can’t create any more of that. Here are some super easy processes you can set up in your business this week to make more time and money out of your time and money:

“Frugality includes all the other virtues” Cicero

  1. Reward Excellent Performance

To get the most out of the investment you make into your team members, partners, contractors and service providers, invest time and perhaps money in identifying great performance and rewarding it. Ensure you are building up a culture of excellence in your company by setting up referral partnerships and affiliate programs with the people working in allied industries, because a referral to them is likely to result in them referring you in return. And when it comes to the performance of your team, it’s a no brainer that you should reward their achievements. Setting up a system to thank them with them bonuses, gifts, early marks and acknowledgement along the way will improve performance, loyalty and company culture.

2. Thank your clients

Setting up a water tight client follow up system is a no brainer for those who want to make more money fast. The customers you have now are your fast track to greater revenue and greater profits. It costs five times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to keep doing business with those currently on your books. Research proves that repeat customers spend up to three hundred times more with us than a new customer will. Set up a system to thank your clients for doing business with you. Anything from an automated email, loyalty discount, thank you card, right through to a hamper at Christmas or bottle of wine on their birthday. It is amazing how far a simple thank you will go to see your favourites coming back for more.

3. Follow Up Nos

You made the offer and it was declined … then what? I learned very early in my sales training that your prospect needs to be offered the chance to buy in seven times before they will accept. However, your follow up may not need to happen right then and there. Send an email, a card, a text, a reminder in Facebook. Rephrase your offer or take a new offer to an old prospect to see if this will be more suitable to their needs. Do whatever you need to do to keep the offer fresh and on the table, and available for acceptance. There’s an art to this that moves your approach away from overzealous harassment towards warm persistence. It comes from being authentic, charismatic, and accepting of your prospect’s current needs. Having a system for regular contact is the only way to maintain this type of connection and keep your prospects in the loop.

4. Reduce Waste

It all adds up, doesn’t it? Little labels to remind people to turn lights off and, clean up after themselves in the tea room, and close the doors when entering or exiting a room will save money on electricity, cleaners and heating. These little things may not seem like much, but when you come to the end of the year and you are evaluating your expenses wouldn’t you rather see all of those pennies bolstering your bottom line than the utility companies. This approach can save money on stationery, and cleaning products, tea room supplies, and even wages. Being frugal in business keeps expenses down and profits up.

5. Update Website

Your business is constantly evolving and changing and with this reality comes the need to update your website regularly. Set a routine to review all of the pages on your website to ensure your links work, your details are up to date, your photos are still current and your offers are still the best ones you can make for your market. I wonder how many sales are lost before they even began because the information online was out of date or the functionality broken. It pays to check in with your online self every month or at least every quarter, and set a checklist for the review to ensure you don’t miss sneaky bits that are easily overlooked.

6. Email Call To Action

Your business email footer is an oft-overlooked piece of branding and marketing real estate that is screaming out to be used. Take a look at all the emails you have received over the last few days to see how some of the clever companies are using their email footer. Not only will you find fabulous branding with logos and images, but some of the better ones will have links to their websites, appointment bookings, online reviews, offers and giveaways. With so many millions of emails flying around the internet, and half of them being sent from your business (hahaha!), why not make the most of the chance to put the good word out there. It may never result in a sale, but it will tell every person who reads your emails that you are as keen as mustard and ready for action.

Five Reasons You Should Get A Real Job

“It’s so frustrating! I want to follow my passion like you’ve always said but I’m not getting anywhere. I can’t afford it.”

My son is a highly talented musician who is also incredibly skilled in computers and techy stuff like that. We bought him his first drum kit for his second birthday after watching him in nappies, at one year of age, that he could hold a beat with perfect technique. Now, at 23 years of age, he makes electronic music and plays clubs and gigs in our home city of Melbourne. He doesn’t just love making music. It’s who he is. And like so many creatives out there, he is frustrated by lack of funding in the pursuit of his dream.

“A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position,” John C. Maxwell

“You will need to get a job,” I replied. “Your dream is your responsibility, but so is funding it.”

This same philosophy applies to any heart-centred, soul driven business owner who started their business to make their dreams come true, but who keeps hitting cash flow roadblocks. The brutal realities of the marketplace make this pursuit like chasing a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You want to roll out your products and services far and wide, and you are driven by the deep conviction that this is your life mission. But you just can’t convert your prospects into profit, and your back is against the wall.

You might have a challenge with advertising, problems with your business model, a need for more leads, or a lack of clarity around how to package your offering. You might find it difficult to maintain consistency with your client care, struggle to manage your social media, or find yourself drowning in confusing, overwhelming admin. Whatever the problems you face behind closed doors, the simple reality is that if you had enough revenue you would be able to keep going. The breaking point for the businesses that don’t make it through their first three years is always in their cash flow. Businesses fail when there is not enough money to continue.

Finding employment doesn’t have to mean walking away from your business dreams altogether. On the contrary, it might be the very thing you need to keep up the chase. You could work after hours, part time, leaving just enough space to keep the flame of your business burning ever brighter. Here are five reasons why you might consider biting the bullet and getting a real job:

1. Pay your bills!! You don’t want to let things get so far behind as to default on overdue payments or lose accesses to essential services.

2. Fund your business growth. Whether you need business coaching, a new website, new equipment or more stock, growth money must come from somewhere. If it’s not coming from sales, why not bring it in from a reliable, predictable salary?

3. Get some sleep. A job could release the pressure valve just enough that you could catch some long overdue Zs. Take the time you need to rest your body.

4. Reset your mindset. The relief of having a little bit of money again might make you realise that you have worked yourself up into a frenzy trying to complete your life’s work overnight. This is not a sprint, but a marathon. Let time work its magic.

5. Build your infrastructure. When you are desperate for sales in your start up business, all you chase is sales. This is understandable and in many ways necessary, but it undermines your ability to build the management structures and systems you need to sustain your business growth. If you can earn enough money to just scrape by for a while, your future self will thank you for investing time, money and headspace into the big business you have always dreamed of.

Honestly, if it’s cash you need, consider getting a job. You heard me! If you’re building a business from scratch and you are not making enough money it’s time to admit that it’s not working just yet, and you need to meet your financial commitments. There are far too many great businesses that suffer unnecessary demise because the owner was too embarrassed or too naive to take the courageous step to rise to the responsibility of funding the creation of their opus. This is your legacy. Own it and nurture it through every season.

Become The Captain Of Your Growth

One of the most powerful attributes of the small business owner is the passion they have for their work. People like you work night and day to roll out their offering and expand their reach into increasingly larger segments of the market. I love owning and running my small businesses. Having lots of pots on the boil and managing my team towards bustling productivity is certainly the life for me. I take pride in managing my systems well, and love when I see the grand plan come together to achieve the outcome I have been crafting along the way.

While your passion for your business is certainly an asset which propels you through your toughest days, it has the potential to trip you up in your ability to drive your businesses to new growth. Many small business owners are so passionate about their products and services that they become tied to the work of delivering these, which essentially sees them working night and day IN their business, rather than stepping ahead of this motivation to work ON their business as the captain of their own ship.

They key to small business freedom is to set up the systems and processes that will transform the small operation you have now. To prepare yourself for the task of transforming your core business processes, you first need to take inventory of the work that actually happens in your business on a daily basis. You might be surprised at what you find by following these six preparation steps:

  1. Buy a brand new notebook and rule up the first few pages with three columns: time, task, duration, category
  2. Set an alarm to go off about every hour or two for the next 3 or 4 weeks
  3. At every alarm jot down the things you did in the previous block. Not every step, just the tasks themselves
  4. By the end of the four weeks you will start to see patterns emerging and categories you can chunk together
  5. Use these chunks to inform the restructure of your daily business tasks into well organised Business Departments
  6. Reorganise each of the tasks in your Task Journal so they are grouped together into their Business Departments

When you love what you do it is easy to forget that you don’t own a job, but a business. This business needs a manager who will rise to the task of building sustainable structures for growth. Systemising the routine tasks of your daily operations is the only way for you to free yourself from the daily grind and set yourself up as the leader who will steer their operations strategically through to limitless expansion.

Success Mindset Triad For Small

We all know the undeniable power of our mindset and the effect it has on our outcomes every day. Our mindset determines our expectations, our priorities, our goals, our actions, and how we feel about our situation at any given moment. This brain I have been blessed with sees things in systems, and when it comes to mindset, there are certain components of the equation that fit together to make things work for us. I’d like to sidestep my usual resource management thread in this article to take a quick look at the system that underpins all else in our business. I call it a Mindset Triad. These are the three components of a Healthy Business Mindset:

 “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right” Henry Ford

1.THOUGHTS: “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will” Zig Ziglar

The first element of our Mindset Triad is our thoughts. I might appear to be stating the obvious here, but our thoughts have a primary bearing on our mindset. Studies show we have about 50,000 – 100,000 thoughts per day which equates to 35-48 thoughts per second. But the thing here, is that the majority of these thoughts are not new. We largely cycle through the same thoughts day in, day out. Only 5% of our thoughts are actually fresh and hot off the press.

I’m tempted to digress here into the untapped potential most of us have hidden in our ability to create new thoughts which would undoubtedly create new outcomes, but I will refrain. Instead, I will simply say this: The tendency of our brain to put our thought patterns on autopilot, churning the same ideas through on repeat like a broken record, is actually an asset we can harness. What if we ensured that our thoughts were positive, empowering, liberating, daring, bold, and filled with hopeful expectations of success? The “thinking” component of our Mindset Triad would truly become a habit which continued to serve us regardless of the circumstances.

2. ACTIONS: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act, but a habit” Aristotle

While our mental scripts play a massive role in the management of our mindset, what we do with our time, our bodies, our responsibilities, our preferences and our impulses make a massive difference to our mindset. Our Actions then, are the second component of our Mindset Triad. How we act can lead directly to create a thought pattern. My actions can lead me to feeling proud, tired, deflated, or optimistic. What I do sends a message to me about me.

I often say that we are in the front row seats of our lives. We are our own first audience. If we see ourselves take a bold new step, we remind ourselves we are powerful to create change. If we watch ourselves stand strong, we prove to ourselves that we are steadfast and unwavering in our dedication. If we observe ourselves learning something new, we teach ourselves that we are flexible and agile and that we will not be intimidated by the price of progress.  Our actions write the script of our self talk, so we want to ensure that we see consistently ourselves travelling on the road to success.

3.FEELINGS: “We don’t have a Mental Health problem. We have a Feelings problem. We need to prioritise simply feeling good” Dr Rosemary McCallum. PhD

Our Thoughts and Actions certainly contribute directly to the health of our mindset, but these two vital elements contribute most to our feelings, which is the part of the “Mindset Triad” which allows us to experience reward. If we say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, or think the wrong thing, ultimately we feel bad. If that bad feeling were to continue, or to grow by adding more bad feelings, it wouldn’t be too long before we had a struggle with our mindset that would start to see us unravel at our very core.

Our Feelings are such a pivotal part of our Mindset Triad that we should give them much more focus than we tend to. I’m not talking about indulging our feelings in such a way as to become selfish, lazy, immature or frail. What I mean here is making it our top priority to think, do and say the things that make us feel good. It feels great to think we will succeed, and develop a confidently optimistic outlook about ourselves and our ability to do well, regardless of unexpected twists and turns. So we should focus on developing those thoughts and maximising the results. It also makes us feel good to work hard and win. We feel great when we take a bold step out into something new and pursue a pathway of victory regardless of trials and obstacles along the way. So we should give those types of actions a go more often, backing ourselves that we will prevail.

Keeping these three components of the Mindset Triad in balance is not so much about trying to equalise each part. Rather, success with our mindset will come to the Small Business Owner who realises that positive thoughts and positive actions all hinge on our ability to make Feeling Good our first priority.

3 Ways To Overcome Small Business Isolation

It is easy to develop a sense of isolation in small business, but the reality is there is an army of people just like you striving to enliven their passions through their business. Small businesses represent a massive 97% of all registered Australian businesses. Our nation is built on the thousands of diverse operations that keep our communities chugging along around the clock. Small businesses account for 33% of Australia’s GDP, employ over 40% of Australia’s workforce, and pay around 12% of total company tax revenue.  In 2015 small businesses created 40% of all new jobs for our Lucky Country. Small business is a vital part of the Australian economy.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African proverb

Taking a closer look at the statistics reveals some surprising insights. While the vast majority of Australian businesses are small, sole trader operations makeup 61% of all small businesses, and an additional 27% of small businesses have less than five employees. These micro businesses and small operations are everywhere, functioning across countless industries and operating from creative and resourceful outlets.

Finding this army of small business soldiers is easier said than done, with so many working from their kitchen tables, garages, or small workspaces that are affordable but private. For the sole trader, keeping expenses low and profits high is a balancing act that takes priority over all other business aims. While this is completely understandable, and essential, this important effort to manage expenses can have detrimental effects on the business owner. As human beings, we have a core need of social contact and relationships to maintain personal balance. We all need people in our circle to discuss concerns, brainstorm questions, vent frustrations, and celebrate wins. Having a second opinion is always smart idea, as is seeking the advice from a trusted mentor to brainstorm the things in life that puzzle us. This is true for people in service and retail, men and women, young and old, introverts and extroverts. As people, we need other people.

If you are reading this and have the feeling this article has been written just for you, then let’s get busy making a shift here for the better. Here are three ways you can come out from behind the veil of your business and get some social sunshine on your beautiful face:

Get Active On Social Media

If time and money are pressing, the fastest shortcut to increased social interaction is right here in LinkedIn and Facebook. Building up your connections through these networks will create and engage a team of people happy to flick through their newsfeed and respond to the exchanges you initiate. Asking questions, sharing stories, posting high value tips and advice will do the trick for ramping up your social contact just perfectly, without you even leaving your desk. It will also do wonders for your business. Get your contacts raving about your business and build up your reputation for the online world to see.

Get Out Networking

You could never convince me you have no way of making new connections in your local community. There are endless ways to find social events that are happening in your town every single day. You can ask Google about events in your city, sift through Meetup.com for groups that suit your interests, check out your local council website, or go old school and read up local events in the newspaper. If you are like me and you are mad about business, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many people are just like us. Business events are a dime a dozen, and when you have found a few good ones, you’ll be expanding your influence and making friends all at once.

Reconnect With Your Loved Ones

When was the last time you had a quality conversation with your friends, parents, kids, cousins, or dare I say it, your partner? Studies show that small business owners spend long hours either at work or thinking about work, which spills over into the relationships we share with our loved ones. Investing in the development of a strong foundation rewards us with benefits in our physical and mental health, giving us the refreshment and support we need to sustain lasting gains in our business. Scheduling time for the people who mean the most to us is a sure fire way to replace feelings of isolation, stress and overwhelm with connection, peace and confidence. These are essential for success not only in business, but in life.

Why Businesses Fail

Did you know that 97% of all businesses here in Australia are small businesses? And did you also know that over 67% of small business owners don’t make it through to survive their first 5 years?

Running a business is not for the faint of heart. Entrepreneurship is undeniably risky. While there are a number of small businesses that perform well and are continuously profitable, a larger portion of businesses fail without the proper tools in place to achieve critical business objectives. So many small businesses are on an inevitable path to failure.

Here are four reasons why small businesses fail:

  1. Not making enough sales – A large number of businesses fail because they are over-reliant on a very small number of clients. It takes just one unexpected closure to result in a significant fall to rocky financial. Short-term future earnings can be massively reduced, and invoices for completed work can go unpaid. While maintaining caution about spreading yourself too thin, you should try not to rely on a very small client base. If you deal with a very few clients, or if a small number make up the bulk of your turnover, you should begin scouting for new prospects.

2. Expenses are too high – Just as good cash flow keeps a business afloat, poor cash flow can sink it. If your bills exceed cash on hand, you’ve got a cash flow problem. Cash flow can also shift dramatically depending on the time of year, or even by day of the week. What makes it even more challenging is that cash is most needed when your business is growing. A strict handle on cash flow helps insulate your business during struggles, downturns, or unpredictability, and also allows more flexibility during growth periods.

3. Record keeping – As a small business owner, you understand your business’ processes inside and out. You probably lose sleep at night worrying about your sales. You’re passionate about your business succeeding, and you’ve invested your life’s work into it. But, there are metrics that small business owners often overlook and fail to record and track effectively, which ultimately hinders them from making strategic plans thus preventing them to succeed in their businesses.

4. Strategic management – A 2011-12 report by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) found that 44 percent suffered poor strategic management. This is another common reason why small businesses fail. For a small business to grow and succeed, it needs a good strategy and a plan to support it. As an entrepreneur, don’t make the mistake of excessive idealism concerning your business, don’t be so focused on your vision for the business that you forget or neglect creating a strategic plan that factors in important components of your business and addresses them adequately.

Having a clear understanding of exactly what we are dealing with here in our small business journey is half the battle. It is vital that we keep the passion we have for our small business in check with the realities of our very survival. Developing a clear plan to address each of these four areas in our small business is the only way that we will earn our right to be on the positive side of the statistics, growing and expanding beyond our humble beginnings to the larger operation we always imagined.

Your Business Baby

Many of us who are business owners have also been parents, nurturing our newborn from the moment they take their first breath, then supporting them for as long as we can through to adult maturity. Our work in growing our small business is very much like the journey we take with raising our children. From the early stages of conception through to the powerful strides of maturity, our businesses depend on us to craft a safe pathway for expansion through to the fulfillment of the their potential.

“Growth is the only evidence of life.” John Henry Newman, Leader of the Oxford Movement, Catholic Cardinal

Newborn

The birth of our business is like the birth of our bouncing first baby. With delight we watch this bundle of joy draw its first breath and we are filled with blissful, naive wonder. Yes, it is a living thing, but no, it cannot function at all on its own. The business name is registered, the logo designed, domain bought, and business cards printed, but this brand new business does nothing without our involvement. Every single part of this life must be nurtured, nourished, supervised and attended to. This newborn business relies totally on us providing everything it needs to survive this highly vulnerable stage. We work around the clock to sustain the business, and it is so young that it is nowhere near able to sustain us. This is our calling. This is our mission. We intend to give it our all.

Infancy

From first days of our baby business being born we work hard to provide the nourishment that the business needs to grow. We develop our pricing plan, business offerings, sales and marketing strategy, and our oh-so-necessary social media profiles. In these first months it is vital we invest heavily into developing the structures that will sustain the business as it grows. There was a time when you didn’t know what you didn’t know, but now the writing is clearly on the wall.

As you gain more clients you will need more efficient systems of customer service to deliver your offering, earn client referrals and testimonials, and have them coming back for more. Increased trade will have you performing more transactions so you will have to develop effective record keeping strategies and gather business data to track your performance. And as you encounter increasing administration needs you must establish routines which keep work flowing productively and without bottlenecks. You will need to take great care that your business growth does not push your expenses beyond what you can afford, or you will face the heartbreaking demise of your business before you ever really began.

At this point the bubble has burst and you start to question that commitment you made to give it your all. But still, you press on. This is your passion.

Childhood

If you have done the work of building your early business systems your bundle of joy will continue to grow and expand. It is a relief to see that things aren’t quite so desperate as they were before. You might even squeal in excited amazement as you watch your business take its first steps towards independence. The first automated sale. The first staff member. The first repeat customer. The first profitable year. The first real weekend off! These first years in business can go as slowly or as quickly as you can plan for. The better the systems, the faster the progress towards maturity, and the more your growing business has in it’s backpack to get itself through the day.

Adolescence

With our business continuing to hum along on the strength of our systems we reach a time where life gets easier. The taxi runs of adolescence are not quite as demanding as the infant’s mid-night feeds or early morning teething problems we once faced. But when the adolescent business has a moment, oh boy, do we feel it!

We have come to expect that our business doesn’t need us quite the way it used to, and there is liberty in that for all of us. Your staff know what to do, how to do it, and when they have done it well. Your automations run along as smooth as silk, maintaining your records, facilitating sales, delivering your offering, and boosting your advertising and marketing for you.

And then the adolescent hissy fit hits! Your system crashes. Your staff get sick. Your ads don’t work. Your shop is flooded. You miss your sales targets. Your expenses go up without your say so. And you reel…

And then, you recover. You strengthen your position and give your growing business more of what it needs. New approaches. Responsive wisdom. Adult leadership. You nurture your adolescent business through to maturity.

Adulthood

This journey continues on for years. Each of us have different ideals which guide our business aims. If we’ve done the job of raising our business well, we’ll increasingly see the fulfilment of these pursuits. Our operations will be robust, resilient and responsive to change because we will have developed the people and the systems to sustain this business health. A business that is strong with stability, alive with vitality, and far reaching with its impact will become this because the business owner set out to build the systems that would grow something bigger than themselves.

Would you join me on your own fast track to running this type of business? My mission is to stretch daily beyond my current capacity into driving an operation greater than I am, and to take as many people as I can with me. I can see the mountaintop from here. I can feel the breeze on my skin and the sun shining on my face. It is alive and real in my mind’s eye, and I bring it to fruition every day in my relentless dedication to building systems for growth. I will have a mature business which offers new possibilities for the future for my staff, clients and partners.

Morning Like A Boss

For many small business owners our days are filled with action. Important meetings, pressing deadlines, urgent priorities, and then those surprise situations which push themselves to the top of the list. How we start our day has a massive bearing on how we continue. By creating a productive morning routine as a structure which never changes we can run our mornings on autopilot. This is productivity without the pressure and it has massive positive effects which snowball the benefits into the rest of our business growth.

Now that your eyes are open, make your sun jealous with your burning passion to start the day. Make the sun jealous or stay in bed. -Malak El Halabi

Studies show that our will-power is strongest first thing in the morning. We are more alert, more focussed, more positive and more willing to roll up our sleeves and get stuff done in the morning than we are at any other point of the day. This is the perfect opportunity for the small business owner who needs to make the most of every moment to stay ahead of the curve. I love my mornings. I get so much of my most important routine work done in those first couple of hours of the day. For me, this is the structural maintenance stuff that I need to keep everything humming along while I grow. The basics that must be attended to or else I would land myself in hot water.

I have encountered two horror stories recently in the area of accounting. A business consultant friend of mine told me the first troublesome tale. They were working with the owner of a big company without routine processes to maintain their accounting which landed them with a Xero account that was bursting at the seams. Over 2000 unreconciled transactions which needed to have accounts set up, reconciled and invoices matched. It was a management disaster that took them months of unproductive time to sort out, and some additional headaches with the ATO.

The second sad story came from a client of mine who needed help with organising her business accounting. I sat speechless as she showed me through three years worth of start up business transactions spread over three different bank accounts, with two of them mixing personal transactions in with her business ones. I helped her create a basic structure for her chart of accounts and advised her to make the management of her accounting part of her daily routine. I then sent her off to her accountant to square away the items I’m not qualified to help with. She had a massive admin task on her hands, and again the stress was multiplied with the ATO chasing her up for overdue returns.

Now I am no accounting expert and I lean heavily into the support of my accountant for the management of my taxes. But I am the only one who can be responsible for managing my daily business transactions and maintaining accurate, up to date business records. We must start out as we aim to continue. There are ongoing business admin tasks that can quickly become chaos if they are not managed regularly, but I have found that there are plenty of jobs which disappear to almost nothing like fairy floss dissolving in your mouth if you do them daily.

I know plenty of people who rave about the benefits of self care time in the mornings. Yoga, meditation, work out, reflections and gratitudes are high on the list of “Great Ways To Start Your Day” for lots of business gurus. I agree these things are a priority, but I personally start my day on my phone, flicking through several apps to manage my accounting, social media, emails and team members. My morning routine goes like this:

  1. Open my calendar to review what I have scheduled for the day
  2. Hootsuite on my phone to push scheduled content through to Instagram
  3. Open Xero on my phone to reconcile transactions from the day before
  4. Open Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram on my phone to check and respond to Social Media notifications
  5. Open GMail on my phone to take a quick scan of anything urgent I should attend to when I first sit at my desk
  6. Open Meetup on my phone to check event notifications and messages from members
  7. Open Slack on my phone to check in with my team
  8. Then, I go outside for a run or some yoga, or head to the gym
  9. Make a delicious healthy breakfast that will see me through to the afternoon, if not all the way to dinner
  10. Open my computer and get into emails. I was in there the day before so there’s no build up

This routine literally takes me about three hours, and sets me up to manage the tasks which build up to overwhelm if we don’t stay on top of them. My assistants have very clear Routine Documents which spell out exactly how they are to start every day too, and then each of their routine items are scheduled in RTMS, our business process software. Nothing is missed, payments are never late, tasks never get out of control, people are contacted regularly, and all is well with the world.

You can set up your perfect morning too by following these three steps … And if you do number four, you will be able to delegate some of your morning work to really get some momentum going:

  1. LIST the routine things you need to do on a daily basis to keep on top of them
  2. SCHEDULE that list for every work morning
  3. TIME the list: how long does it take you to cover your basics? This is how long you need for your Morning Routine
  4. DOCUMENT how to do each step of the items in your morning routine that need to be done but not necessarily by you