Blog - Small business consultant
benefits of an holistic business approach

How you can benefit from an holistic business approach

The other day I saw a post asking why tradies spend 16 hours a week on admin tasks. The point the poster wanted to make was that they should be outsourcing. The issue with that is when a business owner has a high need for control to feel safe, then outsourcing can be difficult. Not to mention if they’d been burnt before or if they just don’t have the funds or if they actually enjoy the admin tasks. The poster was not taking an holistic approach to business, they were outcomes focused. So what is an holistic business approach and why does it matter?

What is an holistic business approach?

An holistic approach, to anything, considers all the parts and all the influences upon it. In business, an holistic approach is more than money, systems, outputs, and bottom line; it’s also the staff, their drivers, the customers, their drivers, the owner/s, and their drivers.

How does an holistic business approach work?

Consider the post I spoke of at the start, the one where tradies do 16 hours of admin work a week, the one where the poster was making the point that they should outsource. The original poster was interested in reducing the time spent on what they saw was unproductive time, potentially billable time. It’s a purely financial consideration of less time on admin work = more time for other things (including clients).

holistic business approach akaksha agarwal quoteAn holistic business approach would consider:

  • Is the amount of time taken reasonable
  • Are all of the tasks necessary
  • Do all of the tasks need to be done by the owner
  • Does the owner want to do the tasks
  • Does the owner enjoy doing the tasks
  • What experience does the owner have with having someone else do these tasks
  • What is driving their thoughts around doing the tasks
  • What is driving their thoughts around having someone else do the tasks
  • What other influences are there on them keeping on doing the tasks (finances, time)
  • What other influences are there on them having someone else doing the tasks (finances, time)

An holistic approach to a business issue can look more complex, and sometimes it is, but some of these questions can be quick to answer. It’s more than a pros and cons list and more than a SWOT analysis as it takes into consideration what motivates a person to do (or not) a task.

What is the benefit of taking an holistic business approach?

If nothing else an holistic approach takes a little longer and considers more things, that means that the decision you make is more considered and can avoid rash decisions.

An holistic approach to business can bring forward issues and opportunities you may never have considered. For example, in a management role I took an holistic approach to managing an unmotivated team and discovered that most had aging parents with complex health needs, many were approaching retirement and counting down the hours, all wanted to leave a legacy and felt undervalued. Had I not taken this holistic approach to our business team I would have never found out why they were doing the bare minimum. I would have been ignoring the key motivators of my staff and would have continued a behaviour of minimal compliance rather than self-motivated and happy staff. (Happy staff are more productive and result in happy clients who spend more)

holistic business approach shingeo shingoAn open holistic business is concerned about the people who make their business what it is. They want their staff to be content and passionate about their work. Their job is to be more than just a pay cheque. That means that they are concerned about the welfare of their staff outside of work, they know that our lives are more than what we do. They know that having happy staff means having happy clients. They know that happy clients spend more money and refer more people.

An holistic business approach takes a human centred approach to their marketing. They understand that it’s a person who is buying from them, a person who is engaging with their marketing, and so it’s a person and what drives them which is at the centre and most important. While it’s great to describe the features and benefits, it’s their relevance to the client that matters most.

Using an holistic business approach is considered, it’s complete, it can take time, it considers more than just the bottom line, it can have people doing more with less and being happier (the staff I managed did this), it’s not a knee jerk reaction, it’s systematic and repeatable. I can help you with this, contact me to find out how.

  • April 15, 2021
how customer service information can be used

How customer service information can be used

My clients pride themselves on their customer service, it’s one of their core beliefs. Little do they know that their customer service information can be used to inform, create, streamline, and differentiate their business; giving them a competitive edge.

What customer service information can be used?

Good, bad, or indifferent our interactions with our customers and the service we provide gives us a lot of data we can use to succeed. Let’s take a look at some of the information you’ve got and how you can use it.

Customer demographics

Let’s start with who they are and where they are. Your customer demographics, age, gender, location will tell you some good information about where they are in their life and where you will find them. You can use this information to easily target marketing as people like to live and hang out with people similar to themselves. You could target mail or social media marketing based on where your customers live to help you gain more customers.

Looking at other information, such as gender and/or age you can niche your marketing further to save yourself money and help attract a more aligned client.

One of the best customer service planning tools to do this is your website pixels, Facebook or Google, and their analytics. Both Facebook and Google allow you to retarget and find more clients like those who have already been, loved, booked, or bought through your website. Best of all is that using this information reduces your ad cost considerably.

Customer notes

marketing without data customer service information Dan Zarrella quoteThe notes you take when a client first contacts you can give you a lot of information into not just what they want from you but what made them act on it. One of the favourite questions I’ve been taught but wished I used more often, is “why me and why now”. This customer service information tells us what it was about you or your business above all the others they’ve seen and what made them make that decision now.  Over time you will be able to inform where to put marketing efforts if it was a platform they keep saying they saw you on; or target your message if there’s a theme to why they’ve acted now. There’s much power in striking while the iron is hot.

A little while ago, I went through my client notes and wrote down all of the issues people had come to me with. I could see trends and gaps. I’ve already used this information to help change some of my marketing and I will use it when I go on to plan my next 12 months of marketing. I’ve also taken this information to refine my services and introduce new products and offers. Your customer notes hold a wealth of information on what your clients actually want vs what they say they want, or worse, what you think they want.

The benefit of using their notes is that you’re often directly repeating what motivates them to take action back to them and this is key to engaging social media content.

Customer testimonials

I admit to having a template for my testimonials, I find that while most people are willing, many don’t know what to say. Things like, “what had they tried before” or “ how was our business different” or “how did they feel after working with our business” all gives us customer service information we can use, especially in our marketing. This information tells us what our point of difference is and can help us write content for social media and our website.

Customer complaints

I bet this is where your thoughts first went, I know mine did when I started thinking about this blog on how customer service information can be used. What we can do better gives us the opportunity to improve, so long as we’re open to hearing the feedback in the first place.

While I understand that some people just complain and there’s just no pleasing others, perhaps with some better questioning at the start or expectation setting you might have been able to ‘weed out’ or redirect those clients you’d rather not work with. There is plenty of work out there and you don’t have to take every client. In fact, it’s better for you, your business, and often that client if you don’t take their work.

Even if their complaints are truthful, we can always improve. I’ve developed this free checklist of 20 ways to deliver exceptional customer service.

How customer service information can be used

customer service information quote Max LevchinI’ve addressed how you can use your customer service information as I’ve addressed the types of information you would be gathering. The key is to remember that while the content is written about your business, it’s actually about your client. This is the power of using customer service information. It’s your client’s experience of your business.

Use this information, in their words, from their perspective to speak to others just like them. Use it to find more clients through their demographics. Use their words in your marketing, be it on social media, in emails, or on your website.

Repeating information back to a client makes them feel heard and validated, it gives them a sense of belonging. All of these are basic human needs and things we need to start and build lasting relationships. As business owners we should be looking to long-lasting relationships as the cost and time it takes to acquire a new customer can be quite great.

The customer service information we gather provides us with a window into what drives our customers to work with us and then we can repeat this to gain more clients and grow our business. You can read more about what drives your customers to take action in this fundamentals blog post.

Free Resources you can use your customer service information in:

Facebook Marketing: https://www.karalambert.com/organic-facebook-course/

Exceptional customer service checklist: https://www.karalambert.com/business/exceptional-customer-service-free-checklist

Define your selling point: https://www.karalambert.com/business/point-difference-selling-point/

Understand what motivates people: https://www.karalambert.com/study/motivators/

  • April 7, 2021
Fear of not making enough money for your family as a small business owner

Fear of not making enough money for your family as a small business owner

Chatting with a new client last week, I was asking her motivators as it relates to her business, we went through her fears and moved on to her needs, she said she needed to contribute to her family’s budget, I asked her if she had a fear of not making enough money to help her family, the answer was a resounding, “absolutely!”

There are so many reasons why we start a business, one of the key reasons we continue is its ability to provide us with an income. Then the pressure comes in, what if we can’t? It falls on us and our abilities as a business owner to ensure that we are bringing in the sales, watching the expenses and drawing an income. It’s bad enough when we have staff to ensure keep being paid and it’s often then that we put ourselves and our own finances last for the benefit of the business, our suppliers, and our staff.

So where can the fear of not making enough money to help your family come from and what can you and your small business do about it?

Guilt & being a financial burden

The most common reason business owners tell me that fear not contributing to their family income is guilt. It may not be not contributing at all but not contributing enough or what they believe to be enough. They don’t want to be a financial burden and they want to be, if in some part responsible for the financial stability of their family.

I’d like to say that in the current feminist age women say that they want to make their own way or not rely on others, but it’s not true. Men say the same but they are coming from a traditional perspective of needing to have the provider role and not being able to fulfil the role. I think this is an indication of how financial decisions are no longer a gender-based role in families.

Not enoughness & the fear of not making enough money for the family

Fear of not making enough money Louise Penny Beauvoir quoteGuilt is a powerful force, as is money, and when the two come together and people struggle with their financial stability they can begin to question. I know I did. What am I doing? Why am I doing this to my family? I’m not good at this business owner gig, we’d all be better off if I got a J.O.B.

The issue with this thinking is that it comes from a place of comparison, comparing to what was and comparing to other business owners. When our feelings of being inadequate come from what was, we’ve lost sight of why the change was made and the value of what has been gained. When our feelings come from what we think we should be, based on what we see of others, we have lost what is reality. So often what we see online is the curated reality of someone else. I also know that when I go into comparison, I’m often comparing my life with someone who might be single, may not have kids, might have shared custody and so their time is different to my own. It’s not a fair comparison of your financial state.

The adjustment from having financial security

When I resigned from my career to work full-time in my business, I went from being the main income earner to being underpaid for the work I did, I still am. The fear of not making enough money for my family was real. I knew how much money we were ‘losing’ by me having my own business but how was I going to make it?

Many small business owners are technically underpaid. It’s a harsh reality when you’re coming from a position of knowing that every hour of work you’re putting in will get you paid, to a situation where you need to undertake work (marketing, quoting, report writing, financials) that are not directly responsible for creating income. Those hours of work, outside your core service or product delivery, can often become resented, points of procrastination, and simply neglected or avoided.

It can be hard moving from having a reliable fortnightly or monthly income to waiting on invoices to be paid so that you can pay invoices, wages, and if there’s some left over, paying yourself. Running on this sort of tight budget can be difficult when previously, your only concern was when the next payday was.

What can you do to help this fear of not contributing to your family income?

I always like to have a (financial) plan of attack. I never fully understand the financial realities of my clients and while I can address the story fuelling their financial fear, I can’t deny that there may be a distinct reality and some serious financial challenge.

Understand your numbers

Fear of not making enough money Dale Carnegie quoteThe key to a fear is the story we tell ourselves about it. The key to unravelling it is the truth and facts about that topic. When it comes to knowing your numbers, it’s important to start with your personal finances. What’s your monthly household income, monthly household payments, the broader financial plan for your family and not just the business cash flow.

Once you understand your personal numbers, you can see if your fear of not contributing enough money is warranted or if you really only need to be concerned and just how much you need to contribute to your family’s finances. Rather than bore you with a blow by blow account of what you need and how to find those numbers, read this article on working out your personal financial plan when you run your own business.

Automate payments

While automated payments of bills and scheduling bill payments might be our first thoughts to give us some financial control, what I mean is to automate paying yourself.

If you know your numbers, personal and business, pay yourself a wage just as you would any staff. This can be anything from a full living wage equal to what you would pay an employee to all you do, through to a set proportion of your business revenue for each period or some fixed and regular ‘minimum wage’ you know the business can support through fluctuations and you can then top up at the end of each/month/quarter etc.

Remove distraction

I mentioned earlier that comparison can feed our fear of not contributing enough money to our family. It’s hard when friends and former colleagues might be buying new cars or going out or away on holiday. Perhaps your business nemesis is flashing their finances over the internet, showing off their latest purchase or declaring they’re closing for the Summer and taking a break. This fear of missing out could be one of the things fuelling your financial fears.

Remember that you started your business and made the break for more than financial reasons. Consider too that you may not be comparing apples with apples and you may work your business around your family while they are single, co-parent, or have a nanny. Their reality is not yours and by judging yourself by their yardstick you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. Consider taking a social media break from them and unfriend, unlike, unfollow, or use the “take a break” feature and snooze them for 30 days. It will give you more time to focus on your financial future and not theirs.

If you’d like more information on how to address fear stories other than the fear of not making enough money, contact me to organise a free 30 minute chat. If you’d like some other tools in your toolbox to help you with fear, download my free fear resource.

  • April 1, 2021
The need for a coach to understand your business

The need for a coach to understand your business

I painfully understand what it’s like to hire a coach, look up to them as a mentor, only to realise that they don’t understand you, your business, or your vision. The first time it happened, it took over 3 years to overcome the pain and damage they caused.

Imagine entrusting the growth of your business to someone, only to realise that they didn’t understand where you were coming from and could only coach you from how they would run the parts of your business they understood.

It made me question my messaging, my branding, my offers. I changed and worked on all of these and only realised later that it wasn’t me who had it wrong, it was them.

How did I work out that my business coach didn’t understand me?

understand business quote john mcnelisThe first business coach outright told me that they didn’t understand and that no one would understand, or want to, the psychology of social media. While I didn’t work with them after this, I still admired them and their one comment stuck with me for over three years. I worked my business away from the psychology of social media and to teaching strategies and tactics. I hated it and it ended in me breaking down and having to rebuild myself and my business.

The next coach I felt was giving me business advice that didn’t actually meet my needs. It was as though they were listening for what they would do in what I said, rather than helping me with the issue. I went to a number of events with them and when they started talking over me as I was giving training, I knew that they didn’t understand me or my business. I even spoke to a colleague who witnessed this and they agreed that the coach didn’t understand and my message was clear.

What did I learn from having a mentor that didn’t understand my business?

People listen and react from the place they feel most comfortable, their own drivers.
People listen to respond rather than hear.
When you introduce doubt in someone, be prepared for them to question you or question themselves.
Some people will never understand what you do but the people in your corner should always support what you do.
Staying aligned with my values keeps me happy and focused.

I’m grateful for these lessons but every time it took me 4-6 months to recover from them. That’s a lot of lost time and lost income.

How to know that a business coach understands your business.

A coach should listen and question before they give an opinion. Their opinion should be based on what’s best for your business, not their’s, not their other clients’, yours.

Understand business quote Warren BuffettA coach shouldn’t push an opinion on you. They should tell you why they have a particular opinion and the risks and benefits of adopting (or not) but they should never make you feel like you must.

A coach should call you on your BS but not tell you how to think or what to do.

A coach should advocate for you and your business.

A coach should understand the aims and objectives you and your business have so that they can help you both be the best possible versions.

If a coach doesn’t understand then they should ask questions until they do.

I hope that helps you find someone who understands you and your business so that you avoid some of the set backs and issues I’ve encountered over time. If you want to chat to me and find out if I’d understand you and your business, then please contact me.

  • March 24, 2021
business direction

When you’re needing a better business direction

I’m the first to admit that I sometimes feel like I’m wandering aimlessly in my business, like a boat with no direction floating out to sea. You know there’s nothing wrong with that from time to time, it’s just when your business permanently runs like that directionless and rudderless boat that there can be issues.

Last year, this is exactly where I was. I’d done the goal setting, I was working to an annual and quarterly plan, I broke these down into actionable steps in my bullet journal and yet I still didn’t feel I was going where I needed. My marketing was letting me down.

While goals are great and planning and planners map things out, I was missing the action to actually move me in the direction I wanted.

My clients want growth, more sales, more staff, more income for their lifestyle. So what tools and information do they need to get there? How do they get there? How do they know which direction to take in their business?

Personal income

The first thing a business needs to set their direction is to know how much money they need. Not for their business, first up, but personally. Too often I see business owners running their business like a bank because they don’t know what their budget is, and worse, they don’t live within it.

Do you know how much money your family spends each year? Can you work it out to a monthly, fortnightly, or weekly amount? When you do, make sure you make the calculation based on how many weeks you want to work in your business as you have to save money to live off during your holidays.

Sales needed to generate income

The next number a business needs to determine their direction is how many sales they need to generate their operating expenses, personal income, and a buffer.

Then it’s how many leads that requires, based on their success rate at converting leads to sales. As a guide, most websites convert at 2%. So let’s run some numbers:

You want to generate $100 000
Your average sale is worth $200

You need 100 000/200 = 500 sales

If the only way your clients convert is through your website then:
you need 50 x 500 sales = 25 000 leads

Once you have this number then you need to look at how you generate, capture, and nurture these leads so that you can convert them.

Before you race off and run ads etc, you also need to know how long it takes your business to take them from their first contact through to a sale. For my business, that’s 2 years, meaning that if I want to generate $100 000 in 2021, I needed 25 000 leads in 2019.

So now you’ve got your personal and business numbers how do you make this all happen and set the direction for your business?

Annual Planbusiness direction quote John F Kennedy

As its name suggests, your annual plan is what you are going to do for the year. The goals and targets you want to achieve. The launches you want to have. The metrics you want to achieve. What your marketing & communication focuses are. Your financial goal. How you plan to celebrate. What you learnt from last year.

Your annual plan is a strategic document detailing your business direction for the whole year. It’s a living document, so it can change. It’s overarching, making it not overly descriptive but allowing you to dream big! You should refer back to it at least four times a year, when you do your quarterly planning, but the more the better.

Quarterly Plan

Like an annual plan, a quarterly plan does what it says, it’s a plan of your business direction for a quarter (3-months) of the year. What it should do is take an aspect of your annual plan and map it out for the three months. It should include financial targets, sales targets, lead targets, who you’re getting support from, and the tools you’re using to keep your business on track.

Your quarterly plan should include self-care activities and how you plan to celebrate. It should also include what and why you didn’t achieve things in the previous quarter, what you learnt from that and how you’ll fix it. (Don’t keep passing things from one quarter to the next, if it’s been bumped twice you need to look at if it’s a priority and why you keep bumping it and make it a priority).

Marketing Plan

Your marketing plan, do you have one written down? This is where I fell down. I had all these great things planned in my annual and quarterly plans but no plan to make it happen. If I wanted sales, to launch, or to grow, I had to market to make it happen.

There are many ways to plan and to plan marketing, I needed something to show me a year in advance what I was focusing on and how my blog and other marketing & communication channels were going to support the direction I had for my business. I needed to see a tangible line between the two.

Marketing plans should include topics, platforms for distribution, dates, and objectives. They are there as a guide.

My annual plan is flexible, I can shift objectives and topics if my annual or quarterly plans change. In all honesty, it’s very much a set and forget until I action each marketing task.

Weekly Plan

All this planning bubbles down to a weekly plan, I skip monthly plans in preference for quarterly. In it I record income, appointments, meetings, tasks, family stuff. You name it, if I need it to happen that week, it goes in the book.

I used to have a task list, but eventually got overwhelmed by the ever-growing list. I can pencil things in for certain dates, and bump them; but just as you need to watch bumped items in the quarterly plan, the weekly plan is the same.

I also keep quick notes, ideas for books or offers, research, anything really that catches my fancy. That’s the joy and flexibility of it being in one place. (Did I tell you I use a bullet journal system for all of it?)

Overall, the aim of the weekly plan is to combine the tasks you need to do with actionable steps to achieve the larger aims of your quarterly and annual plans.

Action – personal, outsourcingDirection small business quote James Dean

So, you know what direction to steer your business in and have a system of actionable steps, now to take the action.

Some people are great once they’ve stepped out of their game plan and others can become overwhelmed and start a procrastination spiral. While I’m not here to tell you how to get out of that, what I can suggest is one way to avoid it – don’t do it.

I don’t mean don’t spiral, I mean don’t do all the tasks (actually, I mean don’t spiral nor do all the tasks). I know as a business owner, I feel that I have to complete all of the tasks because I am responsible for the direction and activities of my business. While it’s true, I don’t have to do them all. I don’t even have to write these blogs, I do it because I enjoy it. Your business is the same. If a task that will help you move forward is not one you enjoy or is not an efficient use of your time, or you’ve bumped it twice in your planning – outsource it.

I’ve outsourced image and workbook creation, funnel mapping, accounting, brand photography, branding, and many others. It comes down to valuing my time and realising that while I can do most of these things, my time is better applied elsewhere and deriving an income.

Forgiveness and fixing it when you don’t get to it or questioning if it’s in the best interests

I’ve mentioned a few times about taking action when you’ve bumped something a few times. Here’s the thing, don’t beat yourself up on either bumping it or ditching it. Work out why it happened and keep moving.

At the time of writing, I have 2 tasks that I have moved 3 times in my weekly planning, I should have actually scheduled them for a specific date. I keep moving them because it’s not their time.

I will often think something is a fabulous idea and start working on it only to realise that it’s only fabulous because I admired the person doing it, not that it was needed or helpful to my business.

At the moment, I’m tired, like many we are now 12 months into the covid pandemic and we’re tired. I need to acknowledge that things will take longer and I need to show the kindness to myself that I’d show my clients.

I’ve also outsourced my motivation. I spent two years working with a business coach who helped me take the steps and also held faith in me until I could hold it alone. If you need that person, I can help.

In the end, your business direction depends on you. You need to be clear on where you’re headed, why you’re headed, and what you’re going to get out of it. While dreams are free, action pays the bills. Keep planning and keep moving forward.

  • March 19, 2021
business insight and how you can improve it

Using business insight and how you can improve your skills

One of the reasons my clients love me, so they say, is because of my business insight. On a personal level, people can find me intimidating is because of my ability to pinpoint an issue and go straight to that point. And that had me thinking about what skills I use, that I can help you with, that will help you hone your business insight.

What is business insight?

Business insight is when one takes raw data, processed information and applies experience to derive an advantage (insight) for your business. This insight can be actionable, able to be acted upon or be a detailed action, or informative and may be used in the future to inform other insight.

What specific skills do I use to form my business insight?

I did think of originally writing that I wished you could have my years of experience and tertiary qualifications, I actually wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I once ran through all the roles I had in my 12-year public service career and the listener couldn’t believe that I did all of the tasks. I’ve done A LOT, experienced some stuff that I really should never have been put through, and to be honest I wouldn’t wish the tears I shed on anyone else.

Yet outside of the experience and qualifications, there are a few skills you can use, right now, to improve your business insight.

Perspective-takingbusiness insight quote jaggi vasudev

Perspective-taking is a two-step process where you have to listen to hear what is being said and what is not being said (that bit comes with experience and practice) and then be able to empathise and put yourself in the place of the other person.

You have to park your own drivers and be able to tap into their drivers and how the story and problem they are describing would impact them.

A great first step in this skill is to listen, repeat back a summarised version starting with “So what I am hearing is” and also include, “So I guess that makes you feel/means to you that”. A person will then confirm if you’ve heard them correctly and that your ability to apply that to their drivers is correct. Parents: have a go with your kids, you’ll be surprised what you hear.

Objectivity

A little adjunct to perspective-taking is being objective, this can be particularly hard if you’ve had similar experiences or you’re close to the other person.

I know that when my objectivity goes out the window, my fact-checking is wrong and I need to listen for the factual words I’m being told.

I often find that the more emotive a conversation, the harder it is to be objective.

I learnt the saying “just the facts, ma’am” when I was working in compensation and had to summarise evidence to counter claims from lawyers. My objectivity really focuses on the ability to differentiate fact, fiction, and emotion.

I can find that some people get flustered by having to keep on the facts, but I know that it helps to get to the nub of the problem sooner. (and with greater clarity)

Analyticalbusiness insight quote

I’ve been told I can be too analytical, meaning that I’m somehow insensitive. I have to tell you that that can not be further from the truth. It’s just that when I’m in work mode, sometimes I need to be analytical and remove emotion so that I can solve an issue.

Being analytical can go anywhere from a list of pros and cons, by mine will generally weigh up implications, opportunities, risks etc. against current circumstances and the drivers of the owners and the business. My aim is to always move a business towards its full potential and goals and being analytical can mean doing less, seemingly going backwards, and letting staff go so that the business can benefit in the long term. (I’m a firm believer in short term pain for long term gain)

Holistic

My insight must take into the personal drivers of the owner and their health, physical, mental, spiritual, and financial. Too often I see businesses making decisions that do not support the financial health of the owner. Or I’m confronted with business owners at breaking point because they have worked themselves to exhaustion.

Being able to take an holistic approach requires the ability to perspective take. You have to be able to read what is left unsaid. And you have to leave any preconceived notions on how you would react in the same situation at the door. It takes practice.

Improving your business insight is more than coming up with new perspectives and ideas, it’s also about improving your insight into yourself and I firmly believe that this is where we personally win when helping others gain insight in their business, I know I do.

P.S. If you need help with these skills, please contact me, and if you are looking for someone to go right to the nub of the problem and provide insight for your business, then I’d love to show you how I can do that for you.

  • March 12, 2021
6 benefits of continuing education for your small business and 3 warnings

The 6 key benefits of continuing education for small business owners (and 3 warnings)

I know my clients believe in and understand some of the benefits they and their businesses receive by their continued education, but I wanted to have a little chat and outline them a little more plainly. Sometimes we don’t seem to recognise the full benefit of our education and I want you to make the most of your investment.

So what are these benefits?

New skills & techniques

The main reason we seek to further our knowledge and invest in continuing education for our business is to gain new skills or techniques. We see a gap or opportunity in what we know and will learn and aim to fill that.

I’m a big believer in the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know” and so I am to constantly learning new skills. This doesn’t always mean taking a course, though I did last year, it can mean reading a book, watching a documentary, or joining a business group (something I invested in last year and will continue).

New connections

One of the groups I joined last year was specifically to broaden my network, one gave me access to a wider network of professionals to help me grow my business, one I joined many years ago (and isn’t a business group but was for a course I did) has resulted in a number of new and ongoing clients.

Continuing my business (and personal) education has always led me to make new connections. Some have become clients, some suppliers, most are now friends. I think it’s important to grow that circle of people around us when we run a small business, don’t you?

New ways of thinkingcontinuing education small business loren weisman quote

Other than new skills, continuing education helps us think more broadly or even in new ways about things. Take the course I did last year, it was an SEO course, I’ve done SEO work since 2000 but I also knew that things change and that I needed to brush up on skills and the perceptions I had. Let’s just say that SEO has become a much higher priority to the content I publish than ever before!

The catch with changing your thinking is that we need to be willing and vulnerable enough to make the change. Often, we need to have reached a point where our current way of thinking no longer helps us and so we need to change.

New product or service opportunities

Doing a course, learning new skills, can often mean that we can offer new products or services. Not ripping off the course we’ve just done, but putting in action what we’ve learnt.

A few years ago, I wanted to improve my Facebook Ad skills and I had a number of clients wanting to make the leap from their solid Organic results and leverage them with paid ads, so I did a course. That lead me to being able to run and then move to helping business owners run their own ads. It was a new service I picked up.

Ability to charge a higher price

Learn new skills or deepen your expertise by taking on continuing education for your small business, you’re going to be able to charge more for that.

I’ve experienced this in my own business, but also in corporate. As a graduate I was once told that I was queue jumping and hadn’t done my time to get a pay-rise. Continuing education is doing the time to charge or receive more money for our skills, expertise, and time.

Can focus business on core, becoming the expert

When I signed up for the Facebook Ads training, I did it with the idea that I was going to focus on running a social media agency. (Little did I know then that I found Ad work dead boring) Taking on the course was narrowing the focus on social media.

Much like a nurse becoming a nurse practitioner or a doctor going on to specialise, small businesses can use continuing education to help them position themselves as the expert in their chosen field.

So, with all the pluses growing our expertise can bring, why would I want to give you a word of warning. More often than not, my clients come to me for help knowing how to use psychology to improve their organic social media or to improve their Facebook ads. I teach them and then they do nothing. Quite literally don’t post, don’t run the ad, nada. Their new knowledge holds them back from doing the thing they wanted it to help them achieve.

Don’t let it hold you back

So what are the three main warnings I have for you once you’ve taken the plunge and upped your knowledge for your business?

Imposter syndromecontinuing education small business Jack Lewman quote

Yep, starting with the biggie. Imposter Syndrome: not promoting yourself or your business for fear that you will be called out as a fake or a phony.

Perhaps you were told not to speak up, to let someone else have a turn, that you were too big for your boots, or a know-it-all. All of these things can feed a story we tell ourselves that keeps us playing small for fear of being called out. (It’s safer that way, anyway)

When we increase our knowledge or expertise we can worry, especially in the beginning, that we’re not good enough. Or perhaps as you’re being acknowledged as the expert in a field, you worry about not meeting expectations or being called out.

Either way, it’s something you can address and overcome. I’ve got a list of 10 tools I use to overcome Imposter Syndrome and they’re in a free download.

Take action

While Imposter Syndrome can be the cause, the result is generally a lack of action. When you’ve invested time and/or money into continuing to grow your knowledge and your business, then you need to action it.

Online course completion rates range from 3 to 13% and university courses have dropped from around 70% in 2000 to almost 60% in 2017. It can’t all be because the course didn’t deliver. I know I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on training and conferences and I always walk away with at least one gem. But there’s one key:

Stay the course and put it into action

Value your knowledge and investment

Also able to be tied back to imposter syndrome, is not valuing your knowledge or the investment you’ve made in your education. You did the course for a reason, now it’s time to reap the rewards. Charge accordingly.

I can tell you, first hand, that it can be nerve-wracking putting something new in place, charging more because you can deliver more, and sometimes believing that you can and do deserve this. Have faith and know that I’m here if you need someone who gets it, who is in?

  • March 5, 2021
fear of living an ordinary life

Overcome the Fear of being ordinary | koinophobia

A client of mine says they have a fear of being ordinary, I think it’s more than that because fears often are. I suppose I’m “lucky” because I never believed in normal or ordinary, comes from my psychology studies. They just aren’t realistic. But that’s me and people think I’m odd for fearing success but not failure, and that’s me.

What lies in a fear of being ordinary (koinophobia)?

Like many of these fears, it differs from person to person and the story they tell themselves. For my client it’s not disappointing their loved ones, not providing; for others it’s not living life to the full. (I’d love it if you commented with any I’ve missed)

So let’s go through some of them.

Not living life to the full

This was the most common reason I saw online. Many of them said it was about making the most of opportunities, creating opportunities, experiencing all that was on offer.

To be honest it sounds like FOMO. I get that. We don’t want to miss out. Sometimes we don’t like the idea that someone has something we believe we should have or want to have. Sometimes it’s a sense of entitlement.

Not providing

The fear of not providing feeds the fear of being ordinary for my client. He believes that his family deserves more and so if he can not meet that he’s a failure. It means that if he doesn’t do this, he’s also ordinary because he’s not doing enough. It’s a vicious cycle.

Not being the best

This is another one I saw while doing some research. The quest to be the best means a fear of being ordinary as ordinary means settling for anything less than the best. It seems to be one of the chief motivators.

Disappointing those you care about

I don’t think anyone likes letting people down, especially those we care for and who count on us. This can be harder when you run your own business, are the main income earner, have dependants to care for. Being ordinary can be seen as letting them down, not being able to give them what you believe they deserve, not meeting what you believe their expectations are. It sounds a lot like Imposter Syndrome.

Wasting timeear of ordinary koinophobia quote carl jung

If I’m not the best, by default I’m ordinary and therefore I’m wasting my time.

Not living up to expectations

If you’re ordinary, you’re not meeting the expectations you or others have for you and your life.

Overcoming the fear of living an ordinary life

It’s tiring trying to be the best, there’s always someone likely to take it from you. It’s hard to keep tab on all the expectations put on you. You never really live to the full because there’s always something new. What is done for others never seems to be good enough or even enough.

So if you’re feel overwhelmed or that you just can’t keep up, do it all, be it all and you’re looking for ways to kick this fear of being ordinary – what can you do?

What’s the story you’re telling yourself

The very first place I start with clients looking to overcome their fears is to look at the story they are telling themselves. Why do they feel the need to be more? What have they been told or seen or believe about ordinary? How do they define ordinary?

It’s not always about childhood. Many of the stories I told myself originate in my early career. Other people feel the need to measure up against someone or some ideal or expectation. Why is that?

Is it realistic? Is the story true? What is the evidence so far?

These are all questions that need answering to unpack and recover from fear.

Tyranny of should

My psychologist once talked to me about the “tyranny of should”, I’ve also heard it referred to as “shoulding all over yourself”. Do you hear yourself say that you should do or be more? That you should work harder, even though you’re doing the best or most you can. That you should try harder. That you should provide more. That you should commit more to xyz.

My question to these is always: who says? Whose rules are they? Who really benefits and at what costs? What would happen if you did or didn’t achieve it all? How do you know for certain?

Should is an expectation and expectations are shady at best and rarely written in stone. When we adopt the expectations of others, we are living their rules and to a degree their life. But do they?

When a tyranny of should dictates our actions, it becomes an arduous shopping list of things, tasks, and chores to live up to. Some of which are unrealistic, do not serve us, and at worst do us more harm than good.

Will it be enough

Honestly, I don’t know. Will anything you do ever be enough? When we reach a goal, we set another, we never truly reach the top. (Incidentally, if we do reach the top we then have to work out how to stay there)

Scientist have proven that once our needs are met, more money doesn’t make us happier.

The other thing to consider is that there is often a new thing that catches our eye. So if we have all the apples we want and need and believe extraordinary, then there will be something else to take the place of the apples and our focus will shift. Then what?

Would it make you enough differentfear of being ordinary brene brown quote

If you were to reach the top, live the life extraordinary, have and provide all you want and need; how different will you be?

Will doing all of these things stop you from being ordinary? Do they help you as a person? Do they change you? Do they help make you who you want to be?

Core values

Do you know what your core value is? Here’s a hint, when you’re back’s to the wall and you MUST take action, what do you dig in to  or think of to get you moving and through it? That’s your core value.

Does not being ordinary support your core value?

Gratitude

It’s been proven that a daily practice of gratitude makes us happier. How often do you stop and be truly grateful for what you have and who you are? Or are you too busy chasing the next shiny thing to stop and pat yourself on the back for getting this far?

What’s really stopping you from doing what you truly want?

More often than not people aren’t afraid of being ordinary, they’re afraid of accepting themselves and being ok with who and where they are. They may want more for those they love but in the end they know that it will never be enough and won’t change who they are.

What’s the pay off from fearing an ordinary life? What’s it stopping you from doing or being or accepting about yourself?

Any fear can be difficult to overcome, the fear of being ordinary is no different. What they all need is for us to be able to objectively look at where it comes from, the facts that stack up against it, and then considering what benefit we get from keeping this fear and its control over our life. We all want more in one way or another, it’s just a matter of if we will let that control our lives.

  • February 26, 2021
the need to value your time as a business owner

The need to value your time as a business owner

Let’s get one thing straight, this article is not going to talk about putting a dollar value on an hour of your time as the business owner, I could, but that’s not what this is about. This is about how you see and intrinsically put worth on your time as the owner, not your charge out rate.

These two things can be related, but I tend to find that business owners find the maths simple and the internalised value of themselves hard. It’s this internalised value where they can trip up. Where we can trip up.

How not valuing your time as a business owner can show up

I hand on heart admit to being one of these people. I’m a giver. In fact, I often give too much. I’m also working through a tonne of baggage that I need to unpack where I wasn’t valued and that became the story I live(d) by. So how does not valuing my time show up for me and other business owners I know:value your time business owner quote steve jobs
overwhelm
burnout
– discounting
procrastination
– not raising prices
putting others first
I’m sure there are others I could list here and if you want to add to the list, please leave it in a comment at the bottom of the page.

At its core, not valuing our time ends up putting the brakes on ourselves and our businesses. This could end up giving us time, through breakdown or illness. It can conversely show up as us being too busy and potentially end up overwhelmed and burnt out. It can be a vicious cycle.

How can you start valuing your time in your business?

It would be really easy for me to say, “put in boundaries, raise your prices, and stop getting in your own way”. The thing is that I know that for some this might work, but there’s a really good chance that in time old habits will creep in and you can end up in a worse place.

As I sit here and think of the things that best help business owners start to value their time in their business, I can’t honestly say that any lasting fix is easy. They all take work. What I know is that eventually not doing them is more costly and damaging than denying their value.

At the crux of it, it comes down to why we don’t value our time and to a degree, ourselves, what we value, and what we do. To unpick that, business owners need to be willing to be vulnerable, honest, and objective WITH THEMSELVES. In the main, it means that the pain of doing this has to be more tolerable than the pain of continuing to undervalue their time.

But in the short term, things like:value your time business owner quote M Scott Peck
– time blocking
– behaving as if
– adjusting their time mindset
– behaving from core values
– reviewing goals and progress to date
crunching the financials, personal and business
can all help get business owners through the mire of the symptoms relating to them not valuing their time, until they can no longer tolerate them and the pain of addressing the root story is less than carrying on through the muck and living with the symptoms.

I know that sounds rough, cold, and somewhat confronting. I never admitted that doing this work would be easy. What I know is that eventually business owners stop putting bandages over the broken bits and have to look at the root of why things have gone wrong and do the work to address it. Myself included. Personally, it’s a layer thing. I’ve addressed the story about not being intrinsically of value and it’s now about how I move existing clients from a heavily discounted model to a valued model; at the moment I’m not and a lot of it comes down to fear of letting them down and not going back on my word. The work is ongoing but it’s worthwhile. You’ve got some tools there to get you through the rough bits and some ideas to help you in the long run. Stick with me, I’ve got you, and together we will get there. Reach out when you wobble and I’ll catch you.

  • February 18, 2021
3 ways you're killing your profitable business

3 unlikely ways to make your business more profitable

Many of my clients tell me that they want their business to be more profitable. They want to make more money. They want to see more money left at the end of the day. So we take some time to look at what they can do to improve the profitability of their business and there is always a common issue.

Them

I don’t mean that they’re not working hard enough. In fact, many are working too hard for little to no reward. They also have accountants looking after their books, but the poor things are always working in the past and having to deal with what is been and done.

Many of them run their business like their own personal bank

I first came across this before I even ran my own business. I had friends who did and I was envious of how they were able to live their lives. They had the best of everything while I scrimped and saved to buy a few luxuries. Then their businesses went bankrupt.

Even though they had accountants supporting them, the business owners were treating every cent as their own and spending it (and then some).

Too often I see business owners relying on the prospect of better days to come, along with a flush business bank account (or overdraft), to justify to themselves that they can spend away.

While we toil away for the money the business earns, and technically every dollar of profit a sole trader makes is theirs, it sadly doesn’t make the business a personal bank.

Having been through taxation and financial statement audits, I am fully aware of how personal use of business funds is seen by regulators. While we may have worked hard for the dollar, sadly it’s not always ours to spend and the business (or authorities) may have earmarked for something else.

Not knowing what they need to earn to live the life they want and engineering their business to provide it.

Profitable business quote Peter DruckerFollowing on from running their business like a bank comes not knowing how much they need to earn to live. I’m not sure which feeds what but they often go hand in hand.

Look, running a personal budget is about as fun as watching paint dry or grass grow but that’s not what I’m leaning towards. This is quite literally how much money does it cost you to live the life you currently have, or the one you want, for one whole year and what does that mean you need to earn from the business (after expenses) to make this happen.

How do you do this? Go through your bills, statements, emails and add it all up. Then divide it by 12 for a monthly amount, by 26 for a fortnightly amount, or work out how many hours a week you want to work in a year and then divide it by that. Don’t forget to add some money into the budget for fun, emergencies, and savings.

The key is being honest and ruthless. Include the takeaway coffees and home-delivered meals. Include the haircuts, shoes, parties, birthdays, Christmas catering, and holidays away. Yes, you do have to be honest with the amount you spend on alcohol, cigarettes, and other vices.

If you’re not honest with how much you personally spend then you can’t expect an honest amount from your business or to make your way out of personal debt, using the business like a piggy bank, or becoming profitable.

Sabotaging their business activities so they aren’t profitable

I have to say that sabotaging the profitability of a business takes many forms. I find it heartbreaking to watch as a business coach. In the end, it comes down to fear and imposter syndrome – business owners are either afraid of success or failure, or they believe that they don’t deserve to be profitable.

These beliefs can come from a number of stories they play in their head. The fear of success can come from being told we would never be a success, that it’s bad, that it will somehow have a negative impact. The fear of failure can come from shame, being shamed, being in a highly competitive environment. Imposter Syndrome stems from what we believe others’ expectations are of us, being high achieving, holding ourselves to unrealistic standards, having been singled out as a tall poppy. These are just some of the most common stories I come across and it’s not conclusive.

I’ve known business owners who won’t open bills or bank statements hoping that they can avoid the reality of their failing business. I’ve known others who won’t post on social media, even though they have the skills because they are stymied by Imposter Syndrome and the fear of being called out. Others won’t send emails requesting payment or make calls to do the same for fear of upsetting the other person. Others refuse to send proposals for fear of rejection. Added to the previous two behaviours, plus countless others, there are many ways that business owners sabotage the ability of their business to be profitable or remain profitable.

How to solve these business profitability problems

profitable business quote Zig ZiglarThere are a few things I do, over and above what I’ve already described, to help solve these profitability problems.

In the first instance, I have to get the business owner to take an honest look at what is happening financially, in their business and personally, so we can look at where we can minimise the loss and make the business more profitable.

I then have them look at their behaviour, or lack, to see what it is that they are doing that is impacting on the profitability of the business.

If their story around fear or imposter syndrome is an issue, then we need to address the story.

I have them look at their personal and business drivers & look at where they are not behaving in alignment to achieving them and how they can use an understanding of what drives them, and ultimately their business, to become and remain profitable.

Finally, and if they are ongoing clients, it’s my job to hold them accountable, remind them of the work they’ve done so far, the difference it has made, and encourage them to progress and make their business more profitable. I’m also there to help them when they slip and stumble, and they mostly do, so that they don’t add to any story and can progress with the business they always knew was possible.

I hope this article has helped with some sneaky ways I see business owners kill a profitable business. Please contact me if you want to discuss anything further.

  • February 9, 2021
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