A Little Coaching Exercise for the New Year

Hi everybody,

 

Each year as we approach the close of one year and the beginning of another I go through an exercise with my coach which I find extremely beneficial and rewarding. I have asked if I can share it with my clients past and present, and other close contacts.

 

This is way beyond creating New Year resolutions and is much more about moving on to the future with renewed optimism and focus. I hope you have the chance to do it rather than just read it. It is important that you write down the answers rather than just think them through especially as it is a really enjoyable exercise to complete.

 

Step One

 

Look over the past year and:

A)   Make a list of all the wins, successes and breakthroughs in the past year. Look at all areas of your life. What do you want to celebrate and acknowledge?

B)   Make a list of all the losses, disappointments and breakdowns in the past year. What do you want to forgive yourself for and release?

C)   Bring this list to our session. We will discuss what it means to be “complete” with each item. Incompleteness holds us back from taking on the next exciting opportunity.

Step Two

 

Looking over the past year, what are the 5-7 lessons you have learned?

Choose the lessons that you want to carry over into the New Year.

What learning is there to deepen?

Some examples of learning:

q  I learned to windsurf, play bridge or speak Spanish

q  I learned that my mistakes do not mean I am a failure

q  I learned that more is possible for me than I ever imagined

 

As you review your goals and commitments for 2014, which areas do you want to maintain, bring into the New Year, revise, be complete with?

 

Step Three

 

Consider these questions as you prepare your vision for 1 year from now:

  • As you stand on one of the peaks looking forward, what future is calling?
  • What is the essence of what is next for you?
  • What do you want to achieve or accomplish?
  • What risks and challenges will you take on?
  • What more of you wants to be expressed — for example, self-love, self-compassion, self-value?
  • What self-lies (e.g., “I am not powerful.”) are you ready and willing to end?
  • What new level of abundance and success are you willing to embrace?

 

Imagine one year ahead, and write a list of all the wins, successes and breakthroughs for the coming year. What would you like to learn or accomplish by the end of the next year? Write this list as though it has already happened. Make it as long as you choose, and be sure to look at each area of your life.

Prioritise the list. Look at how each item fits with your values, make plans and set accountability for the next year.

 

Step Four

 

Much like the Chinese tradition that gives names to each year, choose a name for this coming year. Use images, symbols or ideas to name the coming year. What image allows you to step more fully into what you want to be, and are already becoming? Find a name that stretches your imagination and moves you into greater possibility.

Examples: Year of Balance, Year of the Soaring Eagle, Year of the Wild Woman Set Free, Year of the Creative Genius, etc.

Step Five

 

Finally, consider where we are in our relationship:

  • What do you want more of, less of, the same of?
  • In what ways might this relationship and our work better serve you?

 

Please try PRINTING IT OFF and DOING IT… it may not be as artistic or colourful as a Greetings card but I guarantee the positive attitude, actions and focus will last for a whole year.

Have some great time off and a prosperous new year.

Cheers for now,

 

David T Preston

Business and Executive Coach

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We all know there’s only one way to provide customer service – Isn’t there?

Customer service excellence is a hall mark of all the best and most successful businesses, but it’s not a “one size fits all” solution.

We all know that our customers are unique individuals, but when we deal with them do we really treat them like that?  Do you see customer service as a slick and proven approach that is successful because it treats everyone the same?  I would like to introduce you to 4 of our customers:

  1. Samantha – she is a serious and quiet person who has an interest in detail and getting even the smallest thing right.  Never ask her about her family or social life – she sees it as none of your business and irrelevant to doing business.
  2. Eric – the life and soul of the party – in fact he’s always trying to get us to meet up in town for a “few beers”.  A conversation with Eric always takes longer than planned and is guaranteed to cover the rugby/holidays/weekend every time before we get down to business!
  3. John – it took along while to get to know John – he is quiet, shows little of what he is thinking, but is always polite and calm.  He is quick to compliment good service, but slow to complain if things aren’t going so well.  It wouldn’t be a surprise if he simply took his business elsewhere without saying anything.
  4. Julie – you know where you stand with Julie – she tells you exactly what she thinks, whether you like it or not!  She hates delay, can’t abide excuses and does not tolerate failure to meet deadlines – however small.

You may recognise some of these people amongst your customers.  They all seek excellent service, but the way that you deliver it to them needs to be subtly different.  If people buy from people they like, then it is certainly true that people stop buying from people that they don’t like – or who they perceive as having a different set of priorities to them when it comes to customer service.

If you and your team members could understand your customers’ differences and take account of them when delivering your products or services to them, just think how much more positively your business would be perceived!

The Service Profit Chain

There is no doubt that excellence in service is directly linked to profitability – the most profitable businesses invariably deliver the best customer service.  You can improve your customer experience by understanding their needs and expectations better.  You can achieve this by introducing DiSC to your customer service team.  Let us show you how.

About DiSC

DiSC is the most trusted behavioural communication and learning instrument in the world. DiSC is based on more than 80 years of research and development and is used across the globe in hundreds of training and coaching applications, with around 70% of FTSE 500 companies either using or having used the system.

For further information about the unique Everything DiSC products, or to arrange to have your own profiles produced, contact us via email david@wallshiremanagement.co.uk or telephone on 01209 613 060 today.

Best Regards
Dave Preston

Business Growth Masterclass Sesssion 7: How to Identify Your Target Market

Hello there friends, and welcome to the seventh installment in my series “The Business Growth Masterclass”.

I’ve called this session:

How to Identify Your Target Market

But first, as usual, lets recap the homework set in the last installment of the Business Growth Masterclass.:

After the last session, “Managing Your Time To Make More Profit”:

  • You know what your time is worth on an hourly basis.
  • You know what time(s) of day you are most productive.
  • You have five strategies for improved personal time management.

 Yes? Brilliant! Now let’s get on with this months material.

Determining your target market is your first job as a business owner

This Masterclass officially marks the beginning of using Step One of the five-step process, (see November’s Masterclass) which shows you to how to bring a high number of qualified leads into your business.

Qualified leads are the group of people who are most likely to buy from you – they have a current need, problem or desire that your offering will solve or serve. These people are your target market, or ideal customers. Qualified leads are generally easier to convert into customers, so a high number of qualified leads mean a high conversion rate and, of course, more sales.

A great example of this going wrong… you own a hot dog and burger business and are standing outside a large conference venue, waiting for the lunch-break so you can take advantage of a huge rush of people in a short period of time (a great way to do business) to give away small hotdogs to generate customers for your business down the road. You have prepared all your toppings, flyers with simple directions, arranged for staff to handle the rush and stocked up to the gunnels to ensure you do not miss a single prospect. The group comes out and you manage 25 free hot dogs given away when you were expecting 500.

What went wrong? You did not realise the conference attendees were members of a health and wellness group comprising of 95% vegetarians!

This wouldn’t happen to me I hear you say, but the same kind of mistake COULD be made by any business owner – in fact, a lot of the businesses I work with have made just this mistake, but in the context of their own marketplace. The morale of the story; if you are talking to the wrong audience it doesn’t matter how good your offer is – you are wasting your time. Talking to your target market is absolutely CRITICAL to successful marketing.

So, your first job as a business owner is to work out who your target market is, and how the people in it think and behave.

In this Masterclass we will cover:

  • How your target market influences your marketing choices
  • A step-by-step process for identifying your target market
  • Types of target markets
  • Examples of target markets
  • Market research strategies

Generating qualified leads will make it easy to boost your conversion rate, because your prospects will already want or need your service.

A target market is simply a group of people with something in common – things like age, gender, opinion, interest, or location, – who will purchase a particular product or service. Your market can be broad or specific in scope, and it is unique to each business or industry.

Knowledge and understanding of your target market is crucial to the viability of your business. You have to know if there is enough demand for your product, or enough interest and need for your service. You have to know how to communicate with your customers, and understand their thoughts and behaviours.

Without a comprehensive understanding of your target market, you can’t make smart choices about your introductory offers, marketing strategy, pricing structure, and product or service mix. It’s kind of like driving a car with a blindfold on – you’d be headed for disaster.

In addition to being essential to confirm assumptions and understand purchase motivations, market research is something you will need to get into the habit of doing on a regular basis to monitor trends and stay ahead of the competition. Identifying your target market is not always easy, but I promise it will pay off in spades, so stay committed to your efforts as you work through this Masterclass.

Let’s start with an easy, step-by-step process to identify your target market.

You probably already have an idea of who your target market is – or who you want it to be. Start by describing who you think your target market is in two or three sentences on a sheet of paper.

As you work through this process, you may find that you were correct in your assumptions, or not. Either way, this Masterclass will uncover invaluable information about your audience.

When you set out to identify your target market, you need to find the group of people that has these four characteristics:

  • They have a particular need, want or desire.
  • They have the financial ability to purchase your solution to their need, want or desire.
  • They have the power to decide to purchase your product or service.
  • They have access to your business, through a physical location, Internet or catalogue

First, take a look at what your product or service offering is to your potential customers.

To find the group of people with the characteristics listed above, you first need to answer the following questions about your product or service:

1. What is the need, want or desire that my product or services fulfils?

 Does your offering primarily fulfil a desire, or serve a need or cater to a want? What is that desire/need/want?
2. What does my product or service cost?
 Do you offer a high-end product, or low-cost alternative? Do you sell large items, like a kitchen appliance, or small items, like household cleaning products?
3. Who makes the decision to purchase my product or service (who has the power or authority)?
 For example, if you provide a product or service for children, their parents are the people who make the decision to make a purchase.
4. How are my products or services accessed?
 Does your ideal customer need to live in the same town or region as your business? Or can they access your products online, or through a catalogue?

Demographics 

Now let’s look at the demographic characteristics of the people that need, can afford, locate and decide to purchase your offering. Some of the information in this table may be less important than others (like ethnicity or religion) depending on your product or service and the market you are trying to attract.

Age In general terms, what is the age range that my product or service caters to? Kids? Teens? Adults? Seniors?
Income How much do they have to make to afford my product? Is this single or double household income? Low? Medium? High?
Gender Does my product or service appeal to men, women, or both?
Generation What is the generation of my customers? Based on the age range I identified, are they baby boomers? GenX? GenY? Where do they stand in the overall family life cycle?
Nationality Is nationality relevant to my product or service?
Ethnicity Is ethnicity relevant to my product or service?
Marital Status Are my customers married? Single? Divorced?
Family Size Does my product or service cater to large or small families? Is family size relevant?
Occupation or Industry Does my product or service appeal to people in a certain occupation, or industry?
Religion Is religion relevant to my product or service?
Language Is language relevant to my product or service?
Education What level of education do my primary customers have? High school? University?

Psychographics

Now lets look at your target market’s psychographics. Psychographics are the qualitative characteristics of your target audience, like personality, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyle. These characteristics can give you a lot of insight into how to best interact and communicate with your target market.

Lifestyle What kind of lifestyle group does your audience fall into? Are they conservative or trendy, travelers or soccer moms? Are they thrifty or extravagant?
Values + Beliefs What are their values and beliefs? Would you consider them environmentalists or safety conscious?
Attitude What kind of attitude do they have? Are they positive or negative? Open or critical? Easily led or opinionated?
Motivation Are your customers opinion leaders or followers? Do they tell others what products they need, or do they need others to tell them what is trendy and what works?
Activities + Interests What do they do in their spare time? What are their hobbies and interests?
Social Class What social class does your audience belong to? Lower, middle or upper? How much extra money do they have to spend on luxury items?

So, now that you’ve gathered all this information, what does it tell you about your ideal customers?

You’ve done enough research now to create a picture of who you think your ideal customer is. Being as specific as you can, write a 1-2 sentence statement about your target market.

For example:

  • My target customer is a successful young professional; a middle-class man aged 20 to 35, who is single, makes more than £10,000 per year, and is physically fit. He is university educated, and has an active interest in economics and politics.
  • My target market is affluent new mothers; married women with children under five years old, between the ages of 25 and 45, and have a household income of at least £50,000 annually. She is the trend and opinion follower, and her purchase motivations are driven by her peer group.

Now that you’ve made some educated assumptions about who your target market is, you’ll have to use some market research strategies to confirm them.

Market research is the study of a particular group of consumers – or markets. It is one of the most valuable activities you will work on as a business owner, since it keeps you connected and informed about your customers thoughts, motivations and behaviours. Market research also minimises risk and assumption-based decision making, which will improve the success rate of everything you do for your business.

When you begin your market research, you need to start out with a clear question that you want answered. Otherwise, you’ll quickly get off track and fail to end up with the information you really need. Think about questions like:

  • Am I right about my target audience assumptions?
  • Is my target audience interested in my new product or service?
  • I need more information about my target audience’s purchase motivations
  • What new trends are my target audience following?
  • What recent economic developments have impacted my target market?
  • How can I improve my customer service?
  • Has my target market changed in the past year?

Market research needs to be conducted regularly – regardless of how long you have been in business, or how well you know your target market. Trends shift, and environments are impacted by economic and political factors beyond your control.

There are two main types of market research – primary and secondary – and three main areas of market research – consumer, competitor, and environment.

Here’s a really helpful chart to use to organise information when you’re conducting your market research. This will help you conduct research that is comprehensive and cost effective.

PRIMARY
(First-hand information gathered from your customers or about your customers. i.e., customer surveys, observations about the competition, etc.)
SECONDARY
(Second-hand data or research that has been completed by or for someone else, but can be applied to your objectives.)
CUSTOMER
(Demographic, behavioural, psychographic and geographic characteristics.)
> info right from the source
> can be time consuming and costly – but most valuable
> most current
> most specific
> statistics
> trade journals
> public surveys by larger companies
> government publications and surveys
COMPETITION
(Marketing, product and consumer observations you can make or gather from your competition.)
> what works, what doesn’t
> adding value to existing offering (to give yourself an edge
> types of products that consumers are interested in
> types of lead generation strategies your competition uses, and the types of potential customers that you currently see
ENVIRONMENT
(Social, economic and political trends that may impact your business or your customers thoughts and behaviours.)
> newspapers
> trade journals
> consumer reports

Strategies for cost-effective secondary market research

Demographic Research (Customer)
Basic demographic research is something you won’t have to conduct yourself. Every town or region will have demographic information available online, or in town halls, libraries and business centres. National and regional statistical information is also available online or through government agencies.

Online and Consumer Research (Customer and Environment)
Primary market research can be expensive, so secondary research on general consumer behaviour and purchase data can be extremely useful for small businesses. Some information will be available online, while other information (usually free) will be available at your local chamber of commerce and business centres.

Primary market research strategies you shouldn’t miss.

Ground Research (Customer or Competition)
Spend some time in your local area at different times of the day observing and talking to the people who live, work, or spend time there. What do you notice about the area? How well is it taken care of? Why do people spend time here? Is anything missing? Get a sense of their age, gender, clothing and any other features.

Competing Businesses (Competition)
If you have direct competitors in the same local area, spend some time being “their” customer and making observations about their business. How do they advertise? What market are they targeting? Is there a niche market that is being missed?

Surveys (Customer or Competition)
Surveys are the most popular way to gather first hand information from your existing and potential customers. Take your time to administer them carefully and thoughtfully – surveys can get complex and variables can be high.

  • Keep your questionnaire short and focused on getting at the information you need to answer your market research question. This will encourage a higher response rate.
  • Remember that your information will only be as good as the people you ask for it. Try to get as broad a cross section as possible. Depending on your market research question, you may not want to limit it to your existing customers.
  • Choose a survey method – telephone, web or paper-based – and understand the pros and cons of each. Research some survey templates, and spend more time than you think you need to on crafting your survey.
  • Include basic demographic questions on your survey so you can cross reference responses with factors like age, income, sex, and profession.

Website Analysis (Customer)
Use a website tracking system like Google Analytics to monitor how visitors to your website behave and use the information available. These programs will allow you to see how many people visit your site, where they are from, what pages they are looking at and how long they spend on your site.

Customer Loyalty and Purchase Data (Customer)
Your point of sale system (if you have one) – depending on the level of features it offers – may also be able to run reports on customer purchase patterns and trends. If you have a customer loyalty program, you can keep track of purchase information in each customer’s file or account. The type of information you’ll need to keep track of here is behavioural: brand loyalty, product or service usage, purchase frequency, and readiness to buy.

Focus Groups (Customer)
Assemble groups of six to 12 people and ask them general and specific questions about their thoughts, opinions and habits as related to your marketing question. Be sure to assemble a cross section of people that is representative of your target market.

When you’ve completed your market research, analyse what you’ve learnt. Go back to your original question, and critique the outcome.

How has your market research supported the question(s) you set out to answer? Were your original assumptions confirmed or refuted?

  • Does my target market exist in my geographic area?
  • Does my target market actually want what I’m selling?
  • How does my target market want to purchase from me?
  • Is my target market interested in my new product or service?
  • How does my target market want me to communicate with them?
  • Is my target market large enough in my local area to support my business?
  • Are there areas of my research I could dig into for more information?

You may discover some hard facts to face about your business. Perhaps there is not a large enough market base in your area to support your business. Maybe you’ve spent a few hundred or thousands of pounds going after the wrong type of customers. This is all okay – don’t get despondent – it’s all valuable information that you can work with to make better decisions about your marketing strategies and product or service offerings in the future.

If you have flexibility in your product or service, you may be able to find ways to enhance your offerings and extend your target market to include more people, or a larger share of the marketplace.

Your market research is ongoing – each time you talk to a customer, supplier or sales rep, you’re gathering information about your clientele, and thus conducting market research. Consider keeping a log at the point of sale for staff to use to record customer comments and complaints. Review the log for customer returns, and reasons for returns, to get valuable feedback on your offering.

Remember, audiences, trends, products and services change, so stay ahead of the curve and keep on top of your market.

Plan to make market research a regular part of your business, and schedule time and money for primary research at least once a year. This is the only way to stay ahead of the competition when it comes to trends and environmental changes beyond your control.

If you would like some help with the ideas introduced in this Masterclass, or to discuss any other aspect of your business growth strategy, use the following form to get in touch:

The next few Masterclasses are about applying the information you have learned about your target market to refine your marketing strategies. You’ve clearly identified who your target market is, and how those people think and behave, so your next task is to determine what to say and how to reach them.

In the next Masterclass, we’re going to look at your marketing message and see how clearly you’re communicating with your audience. The strength of your marketing message is the backbone of your marketing materials, and a huge factor in the success of your lead generation strategies.

Business Growth Masterclass – Session 6. Managing your time to make more profit

 Welcome to the sixth instalment in my blog series The Business Growth Masterclass.

I’ve called this session:

Managing Your Time to Make More Profit

But first, as usual, lets recap the homework set in the last installment of the Business Growth Masterclass.:

Checkpoint:

  • Your workspace is organised for productivity and minimises distractions.
  • You have cleaned out and cleared out areas in your office or business where old stock or surplus office supplies are kept.
  • You have begun to organise your paper and electronic filing into systems, with the help of your staff.

All done? Fantastic! Now let’s get on with this months material.

Small business owners too often confuse being busy with being successful. They’re not the same thing!

In this session we will cover:

  • How you should treat time like money
  • How to calculate what your time is worth
  • The five biggest culprits of time theft
  • Where your time goes in your existing schedule
  • Strategies to allow you to take control of your schedule

If time were money, how would you manage yours?

Time is far more precious than money. There are a finite number of days that you will spend on this earth, while money is something you can usually get more of.

If you are 35 years old with a life expectancy of 75… you have already spent 12,775 days on Earth and have 480 months left to fulfill your life destiny. If you plan to retire at the age of 50 you have 180 months to make enough money to retire (have you thought about how much money you will need to sustain your lifestyle in retirement?) and in those months 1,440 days are weekends… so you have 3600 workdays to make it all happen. What are you waiting for… time to stop confusing being busy with being successful!

The fact is that many business owners actually manage their money as though it is more precious than their time. They started the business to choose their own hours, spend more time with their family, and be their own boss. But, somewhere along the way the only goals that mattered became the financial ones. Or, the only item worth measuring and managing was money.

Your time will never be managed for you – you have to make a decision to choose to spend your time wisely. To take ownership of your own schedule, and use the power you have to change what isn’t working. I’ll share a few tools to get you started, but first let’s take a look at what your time is worth first, to attach time to money.

Your time has a price tag, and sometimes it’s much lower than you think.

Here’s a really simple exercise to determine what your time is worth based on your annual income and the number of working hours in a year.

Target annual income

A.

Working days in a year

B. 235

Working hours in a day

C. 7.5

Working hours in a year

D. 1,645

A / D = YOUR HOURLY WORTH

E.

It’s unrealistic to assume that each of the 1,645 hours in a year is a productive one. Various studies have put actual productivity at anywhere between 25 minutes and four hours per day. That’s a lot of room for improvement!

Now, this calculation doesn’t factor in overtime hours, taxes, or expenses. If you work as a consultant for an hourly rate, it doesn’t factor in the cost for you to provide your services. The point is, this is your hourly worth in the best-case scenario.

When you start thinking about time management, the goal is to get more done in less time, and thus increase your hourly worth (among other benefits, of course!).

There are five major things that drain your time. But don’t worry, it’s really easy to fix the leaks.

Email
Your email is a consistent distraction. With the mail programme running all the time, emails can distract you as they arrive. Or, you’ll find yourself checking for new messages every 15, 10 or five minutes. Writing, reading and responding to emails can easily monopolise your time, because they seem like an ever urgent and important task.

Mobile Phone and/or Personal Organiser
Your mobile phone has most likely given you increased freedom from your workplace, but mobile devices seem to have also taken away your freedom to choose when you work. You can work outside of the office, but this often means you also work evenings and weekends when spending time with your family and friends.

Open Door Policies
While you want to be open and accessible to your staff, sometimes you can make yourself too accessible. Open door policies have the potential to create a daily mass of employees lined up at your door seeking immediate answers for non-emergency issues.

Meetings
Unstructured, unnecessary, run-on meetings can gobble up hours for no reason at all. Especially as a business owner, your presence may be requested at a variety of meetings, but it’s not always required. Days spent in back to back meetings often mean that your workday starts at five or six instead of nine.

You
Since effective time management is a choice, everyone is guilty of letting themselves sabotage their ability to work productively and efficiently at all times. It’s easy for business owners to avoid separating business hours from leisure time and let the two run together. We all have distractions that we fall into from time to time.

“It takes the human mind 15 minutes to properly focus… if you get interrupted every 7 minutes… you have a huge problem!”
Karl Bryan, CEO, Author, International Speaker

Now you need to take some time to figure out where your time actually goes, so you can see what leaks need to be repaired.

I have some worksheets you can use to assist you as you complete this personal time management research exercise, or you can make one up for yourself.

You’re going to take a good long look at how you spend your time so you can paint a clear picture of your current situation. Once you understand your own personal habits and patterns, you can start making changes that will have the greatest impact on your own schedule. You’ll learn how to be a better time manager.

1. Complete a Time Audit for three working days in a row.

Use a Time Log  to record how you spend your time in detail for three working days (it is a bit of a bind…s  don’t try to get it perfect as that will just stop it from happening… but just do it. And remember ‘the more you defend your excuses… they more they own you!’).

Be honest with yourself, and be as specific as possible. If you notice something about what you’re doing, or which distractions have the greatest negative impact, log these notes as well. The more information you can record, the better.

2. Take a look at your time records, and categorise the different ways you spend your time.

Use different colored markers or highlighters to shade the blocks of time you spent on various activities. You can create your own categories, or use the ones below:

  • Travel
  • Eating, including preparation
  • Personal Errands
  • Exercise
  • Watching TV
  • Sleeping, including naps
  • Personal computer use
  • Being with family / friends
  • Internal meetings
  • Emailing (checking, reading, returning messages)
  • External meetings
  • Telephone, (checking and returning messages)
  • Administrative work
  • Client work
  • Non-client, non-administrative work

3. Based on the categories you created, go through each of your days and decide if you have spent enough, too much, or too little time on each main task.

Based on your observations, answer the following questions:

  1. What patterns do you notice about how you spend your time during the day? When are you at your most productive? Least productive? Most or least interrupted?
  2. Write down the four highest priorities in your life right now. Does your timesheet reflect these priorities? (Show me your schedule and I will show you your priorities!)
  3. If you have more time, what would you do?
  4. If you had less time, what wouldn’t you do?
  5. Could you remove the items in question four and add the items in question three? Why or why not?
  6. Is procrastination a problem for you? How much?

Here are a series of effective strategies for improving your time management skills, and for doing more in less time.

The strategies described below will help you take charge of your schedule and use your time in a more effective manner. Grab your pad of paper and start by choosing five or six strategies to try, take some notes as you read through and decide which you will try first.

Remember this is an individual process – everyone works differently – so if you have to try a few different things to get some meaningful results, that’s okay/normal!

Prioritise your tasks

> You can’t do everything, so you need to decide what is most deserving of your time.
> Choose what needs to be completed now, what can be completed later, and what can be delegated to someone else.
> Focus on your top three priorities at any one time, and consistently revise your list so that the highest priority items are always on top, and the lowest priority items are always at the bottom.

Delegate

> You can’t do everything, so you need to decide what you absolutely need to do, and what others can finish for you.
> You also need to accept that while it may seem “faster” for you to complete a task initially, spending the time to teach someone to complete the task will save you hours later on.
> Delegation is a vital skill that you need to refine, practice and master as a manager.

Focus on your skills

> If you have a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, you can use this to your advantage.
> An effective way to manage your time is to only do the things that you know you are good at, or required for, and delegate or outsource the areas where you are not so strong.

Say no

> Learn how to say no, and you will reclaim dozens of hours every week.
> It’s so easy to say yes to something in the moment, and later feel overwhelmed when that task is added to your to do list. You may feel pressure to say yes to everything as a business owner, but you do have a choice.

Keep a strict schedule

> Create and keep a strict schedule for yourself that supports your productivity, and minimises distractions.
> Include personal and work time in your schedule
> Schedule time for things like closed-door work, work planning, email and phone responses, internal and external meetings, “me time”, family and exercise.

Make decisions

> As a successful business owner, you will need to learn to make good decisions quickly and efficiently, without wasting time with deliberations.
> You can only make the best decision with the information you have, in the time frame you have to make it. No one expects you to be able to see the future – be decisive, make some mistakes, and learn from them.

Manage interruptions

> Establish which hours of the day you are most productive, and set those hours aside for yourself to finish important tasks, uninterrupted.
> Schedule open door hours, and closed-door hours.
> Schedule windows of time for reading and replying to emails, and for answering and replying to phone calls.

Manage interruptions Avoid duplicating efforts

> Take note of how many tasks are completed more than once, or by more people than necessary.
> Establish clear communication systems and procedures to minimise this, and make sure all your employees have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
> Use tools like checklists, meeting minutes and individual task assignments to minimise mis-communication and duplication in tasks.

Stop procrastinating

> If you are a seasoned procrastinator, the idea of “just stopping” is usually much easier in principle than in practice.
> The best way to overcome procrastination is to use your willpower to stop. Refining this skill will help to prevent you from procrastinating in the future.
> Try working in blocks of focused time, with breaks or rewards at the end, and break down big tasks into small manageable ones.

Effective time management is just a formal way of saying that you make good choices about how you spend your valuable time.

It really just boils down to making choices, and setting up a structure that enables you to succeed. You have to try a few different strategies and structures to see what works best for you.

Remember that time management is a personal investigation that will look different for everyone. Some people can work in the middle of a loud, crowded room, and others need absolute silence to function at a high level. Respect your own needs.

If you would like some help with the ideas introduced in this Masterclass, or to discuss any other aspect of your business growth strategy, use the following form to get in touch:

Next time, we’re going to dive into investigating what your qualified leads look like, and how you can go about getting more of them into your business.

Until then, be successful.

Business Growth Masterclass – Session 5

 Welcome to the fifth installment in my blog series The Business Growth Masterclass.

I’ve called this session:

How to Optimise Your Office for Success

But first, as usual, lets recap the homework set in the last installment of the Business Growth Masterclass.:

  • You have written down at least 18 SMART goals for yourself – nine personal goals, and nine business goals.
  • You’ve posted your goals in a visible location for yourself and your staff.

You’ve done that? Brilliant. Now lets get on with this month’s Masterclass

When you organise your work environment, you optimise your surroundings for productivity and increase your ability to work effectively.

The steps in this Masterclass will help you streamline your office, get rid of clutter and maximise your workspace for productivity. Chances are, the actions you take today to organise your office will also save you considerable amounts of money.

A disorganised office costs more to run. Supplies, tools and equipment go missing because nothing is organised or put away properly. Those things have to be replaced to get the job done, and twice as much money has been spent in the end. Plus, you spend valuable time searching for missing items, files or paperwork.

In fact, some studies have revealed that the average senior business leader spends nearly four weeks each year navigating through messy or cluttered desks, looking for lost information. Does that sound like productive time to you?

In this E-Class we will cover:

  • The psychological impacts of a clean and organised workspace
  • The financial benefits of an organised workspace
  • How to audit your work environment
  • How to implement small changes in your office that will increase productivity
  • Making sure that your office is equipped with productivity tools

If I haven’t convinced you yet, read these benefits of taking the time to create an organised and well-structured office.

> Better communication. An organised office environment encourages better internal communication. With a central area for staff communication, it is easier to share sales news, track targets, and plan and monitor projects.

> A manageable budget. Organised spaces will allow you to quickly see what you have, what you need, and when you might need more. This supports the creation and sustaining of budgets, especially for supplies and equipment.

> Increased work ethic and morale. When you and your staff take care of your surroundings, it makes the workplace a more pleasant place. Taking care shows that you value your work and the people who work for you.

> Better time management. Simply put, you spend less time looking for things and more time actually working. An organised office will complement and support your time management strategies.

So, get started by walking through this step-by-step workplace audit, and making necessary improvements as you go.

Complete the following steps by literally walking around your office with a notepad and making observations. This is intended to be a positive exercise, so try not to get overwhelmed. Small changes are the best changes to start with.

If your office is already pretty organised, complete the audit anyway and identify any opportunities that exist to improve you and your team’s work environment.

Start with your own office.

Since this is where you’re likely to need to be the most productive, it make sense to start making some changes here. Make some observations about your office as it is now, using the following questions.

  • What can be found on your desk?
  • Where are your current files located?
  • Where are your old or inactive files?
  • How many personal items are visible?
  • What is on the walls?
  • Where are your office supplies?
  • How much paper is on your desk?
  • How many files, binders or books are on your desk?
  • Where is your in tray and out tray located, and how much is piled in them?

Based on your notes and the suggestions and guidelines below, identify opportunities for improvement. Would your office benefit from a better layout? A better filing system? A smaller desktop monitor? A paper shredder?

Clear your desk of everything but your computer, your filofax (that’s if you still use one!), your current files, your inbox and your telephone. Depending on the size of your desk, you may wish to put your current files or inbox on top of a filing cabinet within arm’s reach to maximise desk space. Anything you don’t need on a regular basis should be stored out of arm’s reach.

Choose one central system for managing your notes, tasks, to-do lists, brainstorming and scheduling. If you have a filofax, use it. If you prefer electronic systems, use those. Having too many binders and notepads and calendars gets confusing.

Make a habit of tidying your desk at the beginning and end of each day. Keep loose papers pinned to your to-do list, or have clear and organised folders. Use drawer organisers to keep your stationery drawer clean and easily accessible.

Organise your loose paper, inbox and action items in a file sorter or stack of paper trays. Use categories like to-do, to review, waiting response, on-hold and to file.

Put your phone on the left if you’re right handed, and on the right if you’re left handed, so you have the appropriate hand free to take notes when you’re on a call. Keep a notepad or post-its by the phone to record messages and conversation notes.

Personal items can be distracting when they’re in your primary line of vision, and encourage daydreaming. Photos and memorabilia have a place in your office, but relocate any items that are in direct sight.

Move on to the common areas of your business.

This is a list of the areas that you may find in your business. If your business has other areas, add them to the list. Most businesses will have the top five areas listed.

  • Office supplies storage*
  • Team communication center*
  • Point of sale or reception area*
  • Printing and photocopying*
  • Staff room or kitchen*
  • Employee and management offices
  • Equipment storage
  • Product stock storage
  • Hallways
  • Shipping and receiving area
  • Financial paperwork and accounting

Move through each of the areas and answer the following questions, as applicable.

  • What is the distance between your office and areas you frequently use, like the printer or photocopier?
  • How much loose paper is found around the business?
  • What is hung up on the walls?
  • Where is the central communication point?
  • How is the team communication center organised? Is it up to date?
  • How much old stock are you storing?
  • How are your office supplies organised?
  • Are boxes and shelves labeled?
  • Do your staff members have organization systems for their own desks?
  • How many files are used on a daily or weekly basis?
  • Where are old or outdated files kept?

Again, based on your notes and the suggestions and guidelines below, identify opportunities for improvement.

Put doors on shelving so cluttered spaces are not visible. Label boxes, containers and shelves so everyone knows what goes where.

Create a consistent filing system. Provide enough shelving and filing cabinets to store files in a systemised fashion. Ensure your system keeps files out of the way and out of sight when not in use, but maintains easy accessibility.

Return or sell unused stock and overflow office supplies, like stationery. Locate other unused items that you can potentially sell or donate to create more space. Consider renting out unused portions of your office to independent consultants or small businesses.

Ensure each staff member has access to the organizational materials they need to keep their offices neat. Provide stacking trays or file sorters, and suggest systems that may help them. Remember that you can’t control their work environment, but you can provide the support they need to stay organised.

Minimise the distance between your office and the areas you frequently use (like the printer or photocopier). Locate your office so you have a clear line of sight between you and the most productive area of your business.

Finally, make sure your business has the tools you need to run an effective, cohesive operation.

  • team communication center for all team members to review on a daily basis for important information about sales achievements, targets and company news.
  • whiteboard in the team communication center or the boardroom to use for brainstorming, diagramming, project planning, marketing planning or any other strategic use. This is an excellent tool for both internal and external meetings.
  • sales board in your team communication center (a private location from clients) that is customised to your business. Use thin black tape to create columns and rows to chart sales on a weekly or monthly basis, or to compare based on weekly, quarterly or yearly targets.
  • 12-month marketing planner to keep your eyes focused on the big picture. This is where you schedule campaigns and plan promotions. Use dry-erase marker so you can make changes easily, and use color-coding for easy visibility.

At the end of your audit, you’ll likely end up with a lot of paper you don’t know what to do with, but can’t throw away. Use these effective strategies for managing paper, filing and other information commonly used by everyone in your organization.

System

Steps

Create a filing system and colour code it Group vendor files (accounts payable) and assign a color
Group client files (accounts receivable) and assign a color
Group project or product files and assign a color
Sort each filing category by date or alphabetically by name Sort vendor or supplier files by name
Sort client files by client number or name
Sort project files by project number or name
Keep tax-related documents together File all receipts, donations and other tax related information in the same filing cabinet
Make copies of documents you need to file in more than one place
Create a binder of master lists for regularly accessed information Office passwords
Financial accounts
Goals
Birthdays
Vendor contact information
Use a bound notebook Keep track of phone calls and messages
Put the date on each page
Eliminate loose notepaper
Create a business card management system Throw away old business cards
Organise cards by last name or company name in a binder or rolodex
Enter the information in a data management program, then throw away the cards
Get rid of magazines and other reading material Throw away industry magazines and newspapers
Keep relevant articles of interest
Sort them into files, if necessary

A clean and organised office is easy to sustain once it is in place.Once you make some initial improvements and set up systems to manage your data and organise your supplies, the hard part is over.

Remember to be patient with yourself. Depending on the state of your work environment, this may be a project that takes a little while. Take your time, and follow the steps in this Masterclass, and you’ll get the job done.

Next time we’re going to hone in on time management skills with Business Growth Masterclass 6. Looking forward to it!

For more information on the office organising process described above, or to discuss any other aspect of your business growth strategy, use the following form to get in touch:

Can Just Changing The Way You Think Really Help Grow Your Business?

Most business owners today aren’t happy with the amount of revenue their business is generating. They’re working longer hours, applying greater effort, spending more for marketing and receiving lower revenue. So what’s going on?

What you need to know…

If you’re not happy with your business’s current results, it’s important to remember that those results are in direct proportion to the actions you’ve been taking? If you want different results, then you MUST take different actions.

So if that’s all that’s required, why don’t business owners just do that? The answer may shock you. They can’t stop repeating their past patterns of behavior. Their past patterns have become ingrained into their subconscious mind and have established themselves as habits.

Have you ever listened to art experts accurately identify a recently discovered painting as belonging to a specific artist such as Rembrandt? How can they tell who painted that picture? Patterns… that’s how. Even though the painting may look completely different than all the others that artist painted, his or her patterns, sometimes referred to as their “style,” continuously comes through with each and every painting.

Why you need to know this…

The exact same thing happens to business owners as well. All of us have been mentally conditioned to perform our daily activities in a certain way. These activities have become habits through constant and daily repetition. The problem is that the majority of these habits… more than 80% of them… are non-productive.

Imagine what would happen to your revenue if you could reduce that 80% down to 60%. Do you realize that you would DOUBLE your income? Do you know how easy it is to reduce that 80% down to 60%… or even down to 40%… which doubles revenue again? Exciting, isn’t it?

If you have past patterns of behaviour which are acting as a barrier to the growth of your business and lifestyle and you are interested in finding out how to develop new behaviours, talk to your coach. They have the skills and experience to help you make the necessary change.

And remember, to quote the famous quality guru W Edwards Deming said – “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.