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why is risk taking important in small business

Why is risk taking important in small business?

The other day I polled the members of my Facebook group about risk taking in their small business. A resounding 80% of them said that they were risk-takers but took calculated risks (10% didn’t like taking risk and 10% were ‘go hard or go home’). It made me think why risk-taking is important in small business and what calculated risks look like.

Before I start, I want to clarify that this blog isn’t about legal, financial, strategic, operational, compliance, or reputational risk. These are specific types of risks. This article is about the process of taking calculated risks in small business, things to consider, and why it’s important as a small business owner.

Why is it important to take risks in small business?

Most often, I see small business owners taking risk when they are at a ‘growth edge’ and are about to do something new or expand. Without it, their business stays put and they can lose competitive advantage. Without it, they question what may have been.

Risk-taking is a step to growth. It shows confidence in your brand and your business. Risk-taking can act as a ‘shot across the bow’ to competitors. It can show customers that you’re dedicated to the progress and longevity of your business and will invest in a future relationship.

What happens when you don’t take risk as a small business owner?

I get it, change can be scary and taking risks gets a bad name – other than being risky. There’s comfort, surety and familiarity (and we know what’s said about the last one) in where we are and not taking risks. But what are the “risks” in not taking risks?

risk taking small business estee lauder quoteStay where you are

By not taking risks you avoid opportunity and stay where you are. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll never get to the same point you would have taking the risk, it generally means that it can take longer.

Don’t innovate

When taking risks involves trying something new, not taking them means that you don’t innovate. The joy of these risks is that they are often iterative; you take the risk, find that something needs to be changed, you innovate and perhaps take another risk.

Lose to competitors

For some business owners, the idea that their competitors will beat them to an innovation or new sector of the market is unbearable. For these business owners, they can become consumed by the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if only’ of what could have been theirs.

Steps to small business risk-taking

I have to be honest, sometimes I’m a seat of my pants/gut feeling kind of gal. But as you know, the majority of business owners interviewed said that they are calculated risk-takers. So, for those of us out there, I wanted to put together some key steps to taking calculated risks.

Know your drivers

Taking action out of the decision to act on risk comes from us having a clear understanding of what drives us and our business. It’s important to not only know our goals and how the risk will help us achieve or near them but also the fears and needs we may need to negotiate along the way.

Does it align with your values

I’ve said it before, values are our compass, they keep us true and when we fall out of line we have a feeling of dissonance. If you are clear on your personal and business values and how the risk, your feeling toward them, and the action needed to align with your values, then the decision can become crystal clear.

For example, one of my values is courage. Sometimes I’m unsure of taking a particular risk and it’s often through fear. However, when I act from my value of courage, fear disappears and action becomes simple.

Will it help you achieve or get closer to your goals

It seems odd to have to say this but in all honesty, we do get caught up in FOMO and wanting to be part of the crowd or jump on the latest thing. I liken it to buying something you didn’t need and will never use because it was on sale. Sure you saved money but you still wasted the money you did spend (and yes you could have wasted more but in all likelihood, the price helped you not buy it originally).

Unless the risk-taking will get you closer to your goal – so what?

Consider a SWOT analysis

Not heard of it? Think of it as an upmarket version of a pros & cons list. Except… you consider the:
– strengths
– weaknesses
– opportunities
– threats
of the risk-taking action to your business.

When I do this, I include financial and legal implications in the relevant sections. It’s important to include these as they form part of a calculated risk.

Go/No go

Finally, it’s a decision if you’re going to go through with it. No regrets! You’ve taken a calculated risk based on the best information you had on hand at the time.

I hope this has helped. The one place businesses get stuck is determining their drivers. If you need help with that, please email me. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about where a calculated risk has paid off for you and your business. (For me it was leaving my public sector career to set up this business)

ways small business owners need to feel support

Support for small business owners

One of the most common unintended benefits my small business clients get from coaching is feeling supported.  (But not in ways you’d think)

Types of support for small business owners

We’re so used to getting the financial and legal support and these are quite rightly needed and should be provided by an expert.

The thing is that there is more to running a business than making sure it’s above board and paying the bills. In fact, there’s a lot that we pour into running a small business that actually increases our need for support.

As individuals, we know that we most commonly need:
– physical
– emotional/mental, and
– spiritual support.

As small business owners, too often we get caught up with the first, draw on our personal lives for the last and forget the middle one. The thing is, it’s the mental and emotional self which can keep us going.

When my clients come to me, they believe they want the physical support (social media marketing knowledge or business coaching). What they don’t realise is that they also need the emotional and mental support (good thing I have a psychology degree on top of the business qualification).

Emotional & psychological support for small business owners

There are recurring themes with my clients, and I honestly don’t believe they are alone in their needs for emotional support with their small business.

feel support small business owner George Shinn quote

You want a safety net

Being a small business owner can be a lonely job, especially when no one else in your family or friendship group are small business owners.

Sometimes you want to know how to (and help with) solving the problems of your world and other times you want someone just to sit there and listen. No commentary, no solutions, just someone to vent at.

Sometimes you want to know that when you are at your lowest of lows, there’s someone there with the know-how of how to dig you out of that hole, dust you off, and set you on the path again. (Oh and to suggest ways on preventing it from happening again)

You want a mirror

As a small business owner, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. A business coach or mentor can sit there and show you the ways that you can’t see.

When you’ve been knocked down or are beating yourself up, you want someone who will speak kind truth to you, just like you would to someone you cared for.

When you’re being stubborn and not considering all the possibilities and are looking to go in the wrong direction, you need someone who is prepared to stand up and make you reason your way through.

When you ignore advice and fall, you want someone who won’t rub it in your face but will instead walk with you out of it all.

You want a sounding board

As a small business owner part of having support is knowing that the person giving it has either been there, has expertise in the area, or has a good pool of resources to draw on and isn’t afraid to use it. Why? Because part of feeling alone and unsupported is not having a sounding board or the resources when you need them.

Some days, running a small business is like reaching into the junk drawer in the kitchen in the hope that the perfect tool will jump into your hand. You hope you’d bought it all those months ago but you’re just not sure if you really did or if it really exists.

Ok, so as a business coach I may have just referred to myself as a junk drawer and some days it’s like that. More often it’s pre-empting which tool is needed and having it ready. Sometimes it’s fostering links and connections in the knowledge that one day that thing will come in handy. (Geez, it really does sound like a junk drawer)

feel support small business owner quote steve jobsBut in reality, as a small business owner, you don’t know what support you’ll need until you need it. So that means that you need someone who is able to understand your needs and has access to the tools. Not race in and fix it for you but listens and gives you the tools to respond accordingly, it is your business after all.

I started my first business when I was working fulltime, doing my Masters, and had two toddlers. I was the first in my family to start their own business. It was early in 2011, I had recently signed up to Facebook, and I started showing my products on there as many of my friends needed what I had to sell. I did a lot of free courses and coaching sessions and eventually found myself a coach. The rest they say is history.

The thing is, I neglected my emotional and mental support. None of my friends, at the start, had businesses. It’s no surprise that my clients became my friends, I needed them but they weren’t always the best at giving advice because they could only draw on their experience and their junk drawer was all but empty.

Having a business coach or peer mastermind is helpful but you need to make sure that they take care of all of the aspects of support you need, not just the technical. I’m grateful that I have a few business friends now who have a background in mental health to offer me the support I need. But I’m curious if you’re getting the right mix of support to help you and your business? If not, I’m here. You can send me an email, book a quick (and free) coffee catch up, or you can organize more formal business coaching.

I’ve been here for a while, I’ve seen & heard a lot, I have a full drawer, and I want to support you as a small business owner.

Ways integrity is important to small business owners

Ways integrity is important to small business owners

When I bring on a new client I always ask them to detail their drivers. My favourite ones to look at aren’t their goals, it’s their values. I like values because it’s what makes us tick, deep down; it’s what keeps us on track; it’s what is often out of whack when things are going pear-shaped.

One of the common values my clients have on their list is Integrity.

Now I could rabbit on about why it’s important and how not having integrity can hurt your business. But you should know by now that I put people at the centre of your business & I want to show you how the different people around you and your business see YOUR integrity.

I want to build a list of words to help you engender integrity in your business because I believe that there are multiple ways of being and seeing and that means we benefit from multiple ways of understanding.

What is integrity?

Let’s start with a definition from the Meriam-Webster Dictionary:

Definition of integrity

1firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic valuesINCORRUPTIBILITY
2an unimpaired conditionSOUNDNESS
3the quality or state of being complete or undividedCOMPLETENESS

I like the sound of that way of being. Incorruptible, sound, complete.

What is integrity from a customer perspective?

When I think, as a customer, of what integrity is; I come to one thing. Doing what you say you’re going to do. No excuses, no reasons because I’m honestly not interested. You said you’d do something, so do it & if you can’t, just tell me.

As a client, it comes down to honesty & trust. As a business owner delivering these things, it comes down to courage. It also takes courage to admit that you can’t do what you originally said you could.

Let’s revise that list. Incorruptible, sound, complete, honest, trustworthy, courageous.

What is integrity from your staff’s perspective?

integrity and values in small business quoteI’ve had many bosses and I’ve been a boss, as a boss I learnt the power of understanding my staff’s values and aligning them with those of the business. It was a more powerful motivator than any financial gain.

So drawing on that, and the conversations with clients who do have staff (because I swore I’d not have staff in my business), how do staff see your integrity over and above what has already been discussed?

The word I keep coming back to is Respect. And I don’t mean your staff showing it to you, quite the opposite. This is about you respecting them as part of having integrity. Why? Too often I hear boss’ saying that their staff are great with clients but crap with them. When I listen a little more it’s clear that the boss doesn’t treat the staff with respect and they have conflicting expectations between service to the business, owner, and clients. This impacts their perception of completeness and incorruptibility.

Let’s add to the list. Incorruptible, sound, complete, honest, trustworthy, courageous, respectful.

What is integrity from a business owner perspective?


Because this is all about the business’ value of integrity and that is separate from your values as the business owner, we need to look at how you as the business owner sees the integrity of the business.

Here’s the irony, you need to be objective and you need to have integrity to do this honestly. The funny thing is that to do this, you need to be vulnerable. You need to be ok with honestly ripping yourself apart and looking at it piece by piece and putting it back together because so much of you is in your business.

You also need to be patient, patient with yourself as you pull this all apart but also understanding that this takes time.

Hmmm, there are a few extra words to add to the list. Incorruptible, sound, complete, honest, trustworthy, courageous, respectful, objective, vulnerability, patient.

general sir peter cosgrove business integrity quote

Where small business can show integrity in their business.

Everywhere. (It had to be said)

I think we think we can only see it face to face but with so much happening online these days we need to show integrity online, websites, socials, email. We show it by showing our face (yup). We show it by sharing our voice. We show it by sticking to what we say we do and not confusing our audience. We show it by using a brand identity kit and sticking to our brand voice. If we want to show integrity, we must also be consistent and that means no matter who and no matter where.

And there’s the final word. Incorruptible, sound, complete, honest, trustworthy, courageous, respectful, objective, vulnerability, patient, consistent.

I’ve made up our integrity word cloud printable if you’d like a visual reminder.

I’m curious.

How do you feel looking at the list of words? Do they sound like traits you have? And how would you feel running your business knowing that this is not just how you were perceived but how you behaved? What would that do for your business?

Don’t forget that I can help you unpack not just your business values but the other drivers which make it a success. And I do that so you can use them across your marketing and to develop stronger and more profitable relationships for your business. Email me if you’re interested.


deliver exceptional customer service free checklist

20 ways to deliver exceptional customer service – free checklist

Some of you might know why it’s important to deliver exceptional customer service, some might pay it lip service. First up I want to explain to you why it’s financially important to your success.

Why it’s important to deliver exceptional customer service

The biggest reason I can ever think of is that it’s easier to retain a client than to acquire a new one. The benefit of keeping a client is that it grows their lifetime value and your profit margin on that client. Then that client will go on and refer others, with no marketing cost to you. Can you see the $ you’re making just by keeping one client?

Then there’s the fact that some customers will pay more for better customer service, don’t you want a customer who will pay more? This becomes your competitive advantage and what represents your brand.

So now you know a little more about why you and your business should care about delivering exceptional customer service, how do you make it happen? Well, I’ve outlined 20 ways to make it happen.

20 ways to deliver exceptional customer service

1. Know your product or service

While most of us can excuse a new staff member not knowing the ins and outs of everything, we are also pleasantly surprised when they do.

Education is empowering and teaching your staff and yourself about how the features and benefits meet the needs and other drivers a customer has makes their lives easier. If you can understand why product A is a better option for client A but can listen and discern the subtle differences each client brings, you’re in front from the start.

2. Personalise your service

Even fast-food chains allow you to personalize your burger. But there’s more to a personalized service than this.

Almost half of your customers want more from you. That means they want to feel like more than just a number. Let’s face it, no one likes to feel used or unimportant. You know that people want to do business with people and this is where personalizing your service comes in. For some businesses it’s the hand-written note, others it’s a birthday discount or gift, for some it’s a parcel out of the blue!

3. Give them ways to help themselves

In a 24/7 online world, questions come when shops are closed but clients still want answers. It’s one thing to enable online shopping it’s another to have online helping.

Giving customers ways to help themselves through online shopping, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), chatbots with their automated answer sequences, and online chat all provide different ways to meet the customer service needs of your audience.

4. Help without expecting a sale

This is my favourite way to provide exceptional customer service because I can do it to anyone, it costs my time, and I never know where it will lead (to the law of reciprocity would disagree).

While I have been doing this for many years in my business, it was the book, Youtility by Jay Baer, that really taught me the financial benefit to my business. It also helped me overcome the misgivings I had about people “stealing” ideas or never buying from me. Boy how I was wrong.

5. Remain positive

I first came across the science behind what I had done with my staff during my Masters study. I read an article which said that positive staff were happy staff and happy staff made for happy clients.

A few years later, while researching the psychology of social media, I learnt that happy clients buy more.

Time to put a smile on your dial and a spring in your step!

6. Do what you say

When you say you deliver exceptional service, it’s not you who determines what that is, it’s your customers – they set the bar. So when you say you do something, you need to at least do it and preferably do more.

TIP: The extra mile is never crowded – Wayne Dyer

7. Anticipate

Do you know what the logical next step is for your client? What is the normal progression? Remember it’s cheaper to retain a client than to make a new one.

Proactively help your client through their next steps and thereby to the next level in your sales funnel. It’s exceptional service and proactive sales. (It doesn’t have to be pushy either)

8. Tell them how you’ll meet their expectations

Your client comes to you with a set of expectations, save yourself some time and potential heartache by taking the time to understand them. Simple active listening techniques of saying what general expectations are of clients and asking them if theirs are any different and repeating their answer back to them can often be all that’s needed to clear a situation before it occurs.

It shows that you understand what your general client expectations are, that you are prepared to and can potentially personalize their service, that you listen, value their input in the situation and look for a way forward.

I have recently read Peak by Chip Conley and in it he goes into the Client Expectation Hierarchy. This hierarchy marries drivers, expectations, and what results when expectations are met. It’s a fabulous read if you’re serious in delivering exceptional customer service.

9. Model it in your actions and for your staff

You want and expect your staff to offer exceptional customer service, you not only need to do the same to the customers but your staff too. Not only will it make the staff happier, and happy staff = happy clients, but it role models the behaviour to staff and helps it to become ingrained.

employees exceptional customer service10. Know and leverage touchpoints

It can take 7-12 touches to create a sale. Do you know where all of yours are and do you use them to maintain the client relationship and customer service after?

Social media, email, newsletters, and after-sale service are as important as leverage up to and sealing the deal as they are afterwards in maintaining the client relationship and continuing a profitable relationship. Remember, it’s cheaper to maintain than acquire a client.

11. Respond ASAP

Customers understand that businesses can be busy and they hope that they’re not your only customer, but as a customer, our time is as valuable as yours or the next customer. Please show that you understand that and let us know when we can expect a response or admit to a delay. It allows customers to plan their time effectively and it shows that you care for our time.

12. Good listener

Listening is what the other person does and feeling heard is what we want and how we feel when we believe they’ve listened. Both rely on the perspective of the person doing the listening or wanting to be heard.

Customers like to feel heard because it validates us and what we’ve said, plus it validates the drivers behind what we said.

Looking for tips on how to become a better listener and improve your customer service, then I suggest reading this article with many tips on improving your listening skills.

13. Encourage feedback

Not just reviews and testimonials but warts and all stuff too. It’s not personal, it’s business. Getting feedback from clients allows you to assess and improve your product, service, or customer service. Acting on the feedback, and especially letting the person know that you have, validates their feedback and the drivers which brought them to giving the feedback in the first place.

14. Own your mistakes

Customers know you can’t get it right all the time and admitting that you make mistakes doesn’t show weakness it shows humanity. It also doesn’t mean that you were wrong, sometimes we miss things or have bad days and that’s ok – I’m fairly certain your clients aren’t always perfect either.

TIP: It’s one thing to have high expectations of yourself it’s another to judge yourself when you don’t achieve them through no fault of your own. You’re allowed to cut yourself some slack for bad days.

15. Apologise for your mistakes

So you’ve admitted a mistake, please apologise for it. While you may not have made the mistake intentionally (that’s why it’s called a mistake), apologising is acknowledging that there may be hurt on the part of the other person and you regret that. It starts to repair a relationship, which may not be badly damaged and strengthens relationships. Most people respect an apology.

16. Fix your mistakes

So you’ve messed up, apologised, now’s the time to set it right. I don’t mean sucking up and going OTT. Just do what was expected in the first place. If you did point 8 then you will know what they are and can restore the wrong.

17. Don’t complain & don’t explain

A former boss told me, “Don’t complain & don’t explain”. When it comes to fixing mistakes, your customer rarely wants to hear you complain about what went wrong or why it happened. We want to know that you’re sorry, that you’re taking steps not to have it happen again, and that you’ll fix it. We don’t particularly want or care to know why it happened, that’s information for you. To us, it happened and now we’d like it fixed.

customer service quote18. Go the extra mile

As I mentioned earlier, the extra mile is rarely crowded. And the little extras can make us feel important. Better still, refer to point 2 and personalize the way you go the extra mile. So few businesses take that extra step but it’s these unexpected things which show our custom is important to you.

19. Front and centre

Put the client at the centre of your business, without them your business ceases to exist.

20. Understand their drivers

Understand what drives your customers as it relates to you, your staff, your business, and your product or service. You can read more on why understanding customer drivers are important in this post, you can read more about the driver theory in this post, and you can learn how to embed customer drivers in your marketing over here.

Now you’ve read my 20 ways to deliver exceptional customer service, I’d like to hear which one you’re going to bring into your business and which one you appreciate most as a client. Leave a comment below.

Fear of rejection in online business

Fear of rejection in online business

One of the most common places my coaching clients fear rejection is online posts for their business. I get it, this is their baby and they don’t want it hurt. We put a lot of blood sweat and tears into our work and the last thing we want is to be trolled or ignored or just hated on.  But this is where it can get tricky.

You see, we need to see you promote your business and that means putting it (and yourself) out there.

Some of the things business owners say to me, but are really hiding this fear of rejection are:

  • I’ve tried it before and it doesn’t work (when they posted infrequently and came up blank)
  • I don’t want to seem pushy or slimey salesy
  • I don’t know what to say
  • No one will see it anyway

What they are often also saying, to themselves, is to:

  • Play safe
  • Stay small
  • No one can reject me if I don’t put myself out there.

TIP: By not promoting your business you’re saying ‘No’ for us when we are just as likely to be saying ‘Yes’

So how do you promote your business online when you’re afraid of rejection?

There are two ways to approach this. The first is addressing how to promote your business online and the second is how to address your fear of rejection.

Simple ways to promote your business online when you have a fear of rejection

fear of rejection in small businessThe things I recommend are very similar to businesses who are afraid of asking for the sale. They are:

  • Outsource your social media or all of your marketing
  • Automate your social media so you’re not online when the posts go live
  • Take a systemised approach to social media so it’s not so personal and you’re in control

These tips are there to keep your business gathering the leads and sales it so dearly needs and deserves and also to put mental, emotional, and physical distance between you and the physical act of putting ‘yourself’ out there. Some people might even consider these recommended options acts of self-care, there’s nothing wrong with admitting you’re not the best person for a particular job and asking for help or handing it on.

How do you overcome that fear of rejection in your business?

If you’re like me and prefer to tackle the root cause of the issue, perhaps because you’re not a fan of fixing symptoms, perhaps because you see it creep into more areas of your business and/or personal like than you’d like; then you might look to how you handle the fear.

I have to admit, it’s one thing knowing that you’re holding yourself back in some way and it can be a whole other thing to work on it. So, kudos to you for making the decision not to be directed by fear.

TIP: Overcoming a fear takes time, persistence, courage, vulnerability, being ok with being uncomfortable, and being honest with yourself.

When I tackle my fears and help others with theirs, the first thing we do is uncover the thinking behind it. It’s the ‘how’ you got to this place. Then it’s the ‘why’ behind it. Then it’s looking at ‘when’ it happens. Then it’s ‘what’ is really meant to be there (love the mind and how it tricks us to believe stories that aren’t really real). Then it’s ‘how’ to address the fear if it comes up again, and yes they have a habit of doing that.

ear of rejection online business“Hang on”, you say? What do you mean “if” it comes up again, you say? Yup, some people are totally done with their fear after 2 sessions with me. Some however, need some tools in their back pocket for those days when we’re just not feeling it, not on top of our game, or we’re back in the situations that got us to that place in the beginning.

Want to hear the good part? I’ve got these tools here for you, right now. I took the best tools and popped them in a little checklist so that when fear is getting a grip, you have something to get you through. It’s not there to replace the 1:1 of actually addressing the fear, but it is an effective set of tools to help you through a rough patch.

If you’ve used my toolkit, I’d love to hear your feedback. If you have tried my tips to promoting your business when you have a fear of rejection, I’d love to hear your feedback on that too. Please email me or leave me a comment below. Thanks x

three simple errors small bu

3 tips when you need consistent leads for your small business

One of the things my coaching clients constantly want is consistent leads to their business. Let’s face it, who can blame them – we all want consistent income and seeing our bank balance grow. But there are three simple errors they make that are easily fixed and will see them have those consistent leads.

Consistent Marketing = Consistent Leads

Ok, so I just heard a big whack of my audience groan and roll their eyes (yes I hear eye rolls, I have 2 teenagers). Yes this old chestnut and here’s why.need lead generation small business

  • People will check out your social media before they buy from you
  • Consistent marketing keeps you top of mind
  • You never know where people are in their buyer journey
  • If your social media looks neglected people wonder if your business is too.

Here’s the thing.

  • You don’t have to post often, you just have to post consistently
  • You do need to be consistent in telling us what you want us to do
  • You do need to make your marketing about us and not you, your business, product/services.

There’s a simple resource I’ve pulled together to help you get started with being consistent with your marketing. If you’re ready to take the next step and get serious about getting consistent leads with your marketing then you’ll want to check out the system I developed and is used by a hundred businesses.

Low hanging fruit

Ok, so it’s not the nicest term but bear with me. Low hanging fruit on the tree are easiest to pick. So who are the low hanging fruit in your business?

TIP: The easiest person to sell to is someone who has already bought from you

Many of my clients have returned to using email newsletters to their existing customers to get more consistent leads. The reason being that the people on their list have already used their services. They already know, like, & trust them as a provider. It also reinforces to the customer that their original decision to use them was the right one and every repeat custom reinforces their decision, it also strengthens the buyer relationship.

Email is a great way to reengage a former client, it’s not as intrusive as SMS (though this can work if your audience is open to it). When paired with consistent marketing on social media having you top of mind it can sway the client into action.

TIP: Following up is a great way to bag low hanging fruit and a simple lead conversion tactic

Asking for the sale

You might think that asking for the sale is unnecessary or counter-intuitive especially when “everyone” seems to be selling online these need lead generation businessdays.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty time poor. Combine that with social media and an inbox chock full of marketing material, I just want people to tell me what to do. I’m serious. If I’m interested and I can’t work out what you want me to do, I’ll do nothing.

Your audience is no different. We all have this love/hate relationship with social media and emails but we keep our favourites in our stream. When they are clear with how their solution will help us and are clear in how we can take steps to make it happen, we’ll take action.

We just don’t have time for ambiguity and uncertainty, plus it breeds inaction and uncertainty.

What happens if you’re afraid to ask for the sale?

I get it, some of us don’t want to feel pushy or salesy. Some of us are afraid of repercussions of putting our business, and ourselves, out there. Sound familiar?

If you are one of these people, and to be honest I am one, then here are some tips for you:

  • Automate the process as much as possible
  • Outsource the process as much as possible
  • Realise that by you not asking for the sale, you’re saying no for us when we could say yes
  • Get help with why your fear is holding your business back

To be honest, this is the most common reason (after technical skills) that businesses fail online. It’s also why I’ve dedicated resources to the problem. You can read this full article on asking for the sale and you can download this toolkit on how to start overcoming fear or imposter syndrome.

Let’s keep the sales and leads flowing. I’d love to hear which one of these tips you’re going to start using in your business. Leave a comment and let me know.

The goal of self-assurance A Small Business Case Study

The goal of self-assurance | A Small Business Case Study

A coaching client came to me in tears, their business was failing and what was letting it down was them and their lack of self-confidence and they had a goal of restoring their self-assurance, personally and as a small business owner.

What is self-assurance?

First of all, a definition.

Self-assurance: someone who has selfassurance shows confidence in the things that they say and do because they are sure of their abilities.

Sadly, this was not my client.

The bad self-assurance story

Growing up life was a constant competition. They felt like they needed to compete with their siblings for the attention and approval of their parents. This lead to a vicious habit of people-pleasing, putting the needs of others before their own. Of course, because of the competition they felt, nothing was ever good enough.

They were embarrassed by their family circumstances and knew that they were destined for more. And while they knew they were destined for more, they felt like their family was always pulling them down. No achievement was ever good enough and any move to better themselves was called out as being snobby and trying to ‘one-up’ the family.

How the self-assurance story played out in the small business

Growing up feeling that:self assurance and small business quote Garry Willis

  • Nothing they did was ever good enough
  • People-pleasing was necessary
  • Competition was normal and expected
  • It was noble to struggle, and
  • Their needs didn’t matter
  • Had to be the martyr

It’s no wonder that the business had:

  • growing unpaid invoices
  • debtors who would ignore requests to be paid
  • poor communication with clients about expectations and next steps
  • staff who would ignore direction
  • no marketing
  • no respect of office hours by clients
  • not enough money to pay themselves a living wage

What happened when the small business owner gained self-assurance?

We met fortnightly and in one month the small business owner:

  • had 1/3 of the outstanding invoices paid
  • clear instruction and understanding with staff
  • firm boundaries with office hours
  • a clear communication strategy and regular communication with clients
  • a more consistent and positive social media presence
  • a marketing strategy
  • was paying themselves more
  • was excited for the future of their business
  • knew where they were headed
  • understood where things had gone wrong & their role in it
  • had stopped people-pleasing, and
  • felt more confident than they had in decades.

What is happening a year on?self assurance small business quote

I caught up with this small business owner a few months ago to see how they were going. In spite of the downturn due to COVID, they were:

  • still clear with their boundaries
  • identifying untapped market opportunities
  • still enjoying their relationship with the staff
  • celebrating the decision of non-paying clients to change supplier
  • were not people-pleasing or the need to be a martyr
  • were paying themselves, and best of all
  • were still more confident and self-assured than they could remember ever being.

What I didn’t tell you

Here’s the thing, normally I conduct six sessions in the package this client signed up for; we only got to do three. To be honest, most people see a difference after the first session and by the time we’ve gotten through the second, they’re telling me they’re feeling better than they ever have.

So where to next?

My client is coming out of their COVID lockdown and bringing their business back to full swing. They are looking forward to extending their marketing and their business and their determination and focus is laser-sharp.

So, what about you? Would you like to be my next Case Study? Do you have a few questions that you need answered first? Or would you like a little “taste tester” of how good you can feel when you’re free of the gremlins that hold you and your business back?

listening versus feeling heard tips for small business

listening versus feeling heard in small business

Tom asked his staff member if they had understood the instructions, “yes” came the answer. Then some 30 minutes later Tom’s phone rang. It was his staff member, asking questions that Tom had answered and the staffer comfirmed hearing.

Lily walked into the shop and the shop assistant greeted her. Lily was very certain on what she needed, colour, size, and she told the shop assistant her needs. The shop assistant nodded knowingly and excused herself to get the product. Imagine Lily’s surprise when what was brought back was nothing like she described.

Most of us have been where Tom and Lily have been, some even in the place of the staff member or the shop assistant. So why don’t some people seem to listen and why do we need to feel heard?

Listening versus feeling heard facts

Listening is what the other person does and feeling heard is what we want and how we feel when we believe they’ve listened. Both rely on the perspective of the person doing the listening or wanting to be heard.


Most people listen for the information they believe is important. There are two critical points in this:

  • What the person believes is important
  • What is important to the person being listened to

TIP: What is important to one person may not be important to someone else.

listening versus feeling heard quote Stephen CoveyFeeling heard

We like to feel heard because it validates us and what we’ve said, plus it validates the drivers behind what we said. Feeling heard depends upon:

  • How the other person reacted as a listener
  • The stories we tell ourselves about being heard in the past
  • Our own drivers around what we said and feeling heard.

How to be a better listener

There are a few ways we can listen to others. The most important thing to remember is that it’s all about what the speaker wants you to know and what is driving what they have to say.

  • As an active listener, when you’re also responding, it’s key to know the core of the issue or the end goal and work towards it.
  • As a reflective listener, when you repeat the key points the speaker has made, it’s key to perspective take, show empathy when relevant, summarise from their drivers and ask for clarification and confirmation.
  • As a discriminative listener, when you also pay attention to the emotions and other non-verbal cues, it’s important to not interpret or respond based on your drivers or the story you tell yourself when faced with similar circumstances.
  • As an evaluative listener, someone who needs to listen, answer & make a judgement on what is said, it’s important to respond factually and not from a place of your drivers or story.

TIP: A good listener knows that the most important person is the speaker.

How to make sure you’re heard

It might seem silly but you really need to tell the listener that you need them to respond (or not) and if what you’re saying, and their response, is important to you. Yes, to be heard, it can mean being vulnerable and detailing what your drivers are and it can even take time to be clear on them yourself.

  • To be heard you need to let the listener know that feeling heard is important.
  • If you want a suggested solution, let them know.
  • If you just want to be listened to and heard, let them know.
  • If you feel misunderstood it’s ok to ask the listener to summarise what you said.
  • Let the listener know if you feel afraid or anxious about the topic discussed.
  • Remember that the listener is going to respond from their drivers, stories, and experiences and they may not be the same as yours (and that’s ok).

What to do when you’re not heard

So what about Tom and Lily? What do you do when you’re in their shoes and you haven’t been heard (or even listened to)?

listening versus feeling heard quote

Most bosses are likely to yell, especially if it’s a common occurrence, and most shoppers would smile sweetly and either try what was suggested or walk out.

TIP: It’s rarely personal

In these situations you need to be clear on the following:

  • What boundaries do you need to maintain? Can you safely do it?
  • Would escalating the issue resolve the situation? (or would it just make you feel better)
  • What was your core driver? Were you wanting a fear understood, a need met, a belief or value validate, or a goal achieved?
  • Can you understand why you were misunderstood or feel unheard?
  • What story are you telling yourself about the situation?
  • What can be learnt or done differently next time?

It can be hard being objective, especially when you feel unheard, unappreciated, misunderstood or not valued. When we understand that everyone comes to every situation with their own stories and drivers, we can use that knowledge to increase our chances of being heard and feeling valued. It also makes us a better listener. If you need help with this, I’m all ears.

Have you ever used your understanding of human drivers to help you in a situation where you needed to feel heard or you needed to make someone feel heard? I’d love it if you left me a comment below and told me the story.

how to build trust in business partnerships

How to build trust in business partnerships

Many small business owners know that it’s important to build trust in their business partnerships. Some businesses even use it in their marketing or as a point of difference. But why is trust important in the various business partnerships we have, clients, staff, online, actual partners, and how do we actually achieve it?

What is trust in a business relationship?

The definition of Trust is: a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. What we can forget in business is that it is while we may want it:build trust in small business relationships

  • It’s given by the other person
  • we have no control over when it’s given but
  • we can influence when it’s taken away.

The secret to building trust with customers

The true secret is understanding that you have no control over making your customers trust you, but you do control what you do to use it. The keys to building a trusting relationship with your clients is:

  • do what you say & say what you do
  • behave in alignment with beliefs & values (yours and theirs)
  • be vulnerable & show your human side (it’s endearing)

I keep saying that building a trusting partnership with a client is like building a friendship. You start with your commonalities, and that’s not your business/service/product, and then grow from there. Show empathy for their drivers & tell your customer how you solve or meet them.

TIP: You have no control if a customer trusts you, but control over if they stop trusting you.

The steps to build trusting business partnerships in the workplace

Whenever I’ve needed to build trusted relationships at work the one key has been listening. The key is then to act but in a particular way.

  • Listen to their drivershow to build trust in small business partnerships
  • Align their drivers with those of the business
  • Give regular feedback
  • Admit your own mistakes
  • Set clear boundaries & expectations for all (including yourself)

When I have done these things, I have turned businesses around in 3 months; I have had happier staff; I have had happier clients; I have had increased demand from clients. It is possible and I want you to achieve this too.

How do you build trust in an online business?

Some people might think that it’s harder to build trust in an online brand. I tend to disagree, especially if you remember that the people online are people and you use the tips I shared earlier about building trust with customers. There are some bonus tips which only apply online & make building an online business relationship easier:

  • Use live-streamed video wherever suitable
  • Be responsive to comments and messages
  • Show your customers behind the scenes

TIP: Video shortens the time it takes to build trust online.

Why is building trust important to small business?

build trust in business relationships

Real trust, not just some marketing ploy, is key to building lasting relationships. Trust builds brand loyalty. Brand loyal people are advocates & ambassadors and the best form of free marketing you could ask for as a business. Why? Because people buy from people that they know, like, & trust.

I have a question for you though; do you trust yourself?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below & don’t forget that I can help you understand what drives you, your staff, & your clients to trust your small business.

7 ways to overcome the fear of criticism as a small business owner

7 ways to overcome the fear of criticism as a small business owner

The fear of criticism, probably one of the most common reasons small business owners tell me when discussing why they have trouble promoting their business.

Why do we fear criticism?

It’s true that our mind plays tricks on us and it’s there to protect us. When it comes to fearing criticism there are two key tricks it uses:
– Fundamental Attribution Error
– The ‘Jerk’ Factor.

Fundamental Attribution Error & fear of criticism

In a nutshell, this trick is where our brain will downplay our own abilities. Essentially, we think less of ourselves than we do of others. When it comes to putting ourselves or small business out there, the fear of criticism is triggered by the Fundamental Attribution Error as we think we’re not good enough compared to others and we just don’t want people to point that out.

The ‘Jerk’ Factor & fear of criticism

No, I don’t mean that all the people out there are jerks, or that they are for criticizing us, more that we tend to go with the person who is the jerk than the likeable one. Now consider that our brain is already telling us that we’re no good, that puts us in the ‘jerk’ role. All the more reason not to fear criticism of you and/or your small business.

How do we overcome the fear of criticism?

Everyone is different and we all have our own stories and own drivers that determine why we fear criticism, what I want you to have is a tool kit for you as a small business owner, so that you can promote your business.

1.      Who do you fear criticism from & do they deserve it?

I’m writing this one first because it’s my biggest problem. I give far too much credit, thanks Jerk factor, to people who really don’t deserve it.

TIP: Too often we, me included, give our energy to people who don’t deserve it, not because they are ungrateful or treat us poorly, but because they’re not on the same playing field.

Brene Brown, first in her 99U speech, spoke about the people in your arena and not paying attention to the people who aren’t doing the work, aren’t down in the dirt, aren’t getting their arses kicked.

If the people your fear will criticise you are not in the arena, then they haven’t earnt the right to criticise.

2.      When the fear appears only in certain places or times

fear of criticism quoteThis was also me. I used to fear criticism most online. I had a bad run with a troll in the first year of my business. They had me questioning everything I did and my abilities. I was a wreck.

Then my business coach made a suggestion. Write down the names of 3-5 people who are in the Arena, see point 1 above, on a little piece of paper and keeping it under my keyboard. Whenever I was feeling fearful, I pulled out the list and looked to see if the name of the person I was fearing was on the list – if not, their opinion did not matter.

It may not be that you fear criticism online, wherever you feel the fear, have your list. You could have it in your purse, wallet, or pocket. Eventually, your list will be memorized and you will be able to mentally refer to it.

And eventually, you won’t need the list very much, if at all.

3.      When social media triggers your fear

I admit that I have a love-hate relationship with social media and sometimes it goes to I love to hate it. Either way, it’s a necessary part of promoting my business (and there’s a good chance you’re the same).

There are a few ways you can help yourself & your business if it triggers your fear of criticism:
– schedule your posts (and I’ve got something to help with that too)
– use your list of people from point 2 (that’s what I did)
– take apps off the phone, particularly easy if you schedule
limit your time online

4.      Consider why they are criticising you or your business

It comes down to if the person is trying to help, or are they just being a jerk? (Yes, I mean in the real meaning and what I mentioned at the start)

The well-meaning critic

Having managed staff, locally and remotely, I can honestly say that providing feedback (and criticism) remotely is hard. We can’t hear tone, see body language, or get a chance to interject. Then there’s the issue that not everyone is great at giving feedback. (And the feedback sandwich is now the equivalent of a “yes, but”)

TIP: This is when you need to dig really deep, flip your perspective to their’s, and perhaps even ask someone on your list to give their perspective.

The heckler critic

When it comes to people who just don’t have a nice or constructive thing to say, just look to see if they made your list or are in your Arena – there’s a good chance they’re not. If they’re not, don’t waste time or energy on their criticism.

5.      Being ok with being vulnerable & having boundaries

Ok, so they may seem contradictory but please stick with me.

Vulnerability and fear of criticism

It does take a certain willingness to accept that criticism will come with business. Here are some truths I’ve learnt, especially when it comes to vulnerability:
– people are generally good
– your customers and fans will have your back, especially when you’re vulnerable
– anyone who doesn’t have your back was never going to be a customer and doesn’t matter
– your presence online will repel people, that’s the intention of marketing and you shouldn’t want to be all things to all people.

Boundaries and fear of criticism

You do need boundaries in your small business. They help you in so many ways, when it comes to criticism though, boundaries:
– protect you from jerk critics and hecklers
– show self-respect
– teach people how to treat you
– teach you what you’re prepared to accept
– are necessary for growth.

6.      Strong Values to keep you on track

fear of criticism in business quoteI am a big believer in playing the long game and the end game. These beliefs mean that minor distractions, like criticism or the fear of it, are speed bumps and not derailments. But the one thing that helps playing the long game is being firmly grounded in my values.

Understanding, speaking & behaving from my values, and in particular my core value, keeps me focused and grounded. I am fortunate, and equally struggle, with the fact that my core value is courage. That means that when I am authentic to myself, my business, and most importantly my customers I MUST act from a place of courage.

The thing is, that when you act from your core values and that they are what drive your actions, you can not be impacted by fear. Why? Because fear is our most basic of drivers and values sit above them.


7.      Unpacking your story around your fear

Ok, so this is where I play devil’s advocate.

TIP: Your fear of criticism is based on the stories you tell yourself, drawn from what people have told you, what you’ve experienced, and/or what you have told yourself.

They may not be true.

Your brain hates gaps and silence and it will draw on your stories to fill them.

Thing is, they’re stories and not always facts.

Stories other people told you about yourself are their perspectives on you based on how they view you at one point in time through their lens of experience & the stories they heard.

The stories you tell yourself can be a mixture of and interpretation of what you heard from others or what you believed was the right thing to do (I used to be afraid of public speaking because I believed everyone is/should be).

Your lived experiences, and especially your memories of them, are tainted by time, what other things you hear about the experience, how you felt at the time, and the stories you tell yourself.

I hope you can see how unlikely they are to be based in fact or to be objective. That means that your fear can be a lie, like mine of public speaking, through to a fairy tale/fable of someone else’s perspective trying to sway your actions. Either way, they’re not real and shouldn’t be given much credit.

I hope this list helps you to overcome any fear of criticism you have in your business. I know I haven’t spoken about its roll with staff. If this or any of the other items I’ve shared here has left you wanting more, then please comment below and I will reply, email me, or book a time for us to have a virtual coffee. Any which way, I want to help.