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.

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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.

Does your business have that certain something that make you stick out from the crowd?

Do You Have A Unique Selling Proposition; that certain something which makes you stand out from the crowd?

If I were your prospective customer, why should I do business with you above any and all other options? Why would I be an absolute fool to buy what you sell from anyone else but you? That answer should be clearly articulated in the form of your USP.

What you need to know…

A USP is the single, most distinct and important benefit a business owner provides to their clients that’s different from their competition. It’s absolutely critical to not only create an effective and highly compelling USP, but to use it in every piece of marketing you develop, and in every form of communication you use with your clients and prospects.

Why you need to know this…

Your USP, working in tandem with your elevator pitch, creates a huge competitive edge for your business. Developed properly, it will separate your business from your competition, eliminate them in the minds of your prospects and have them saying to themselves that they would be fools to do business with anyone else but you.

For example, most business owners place the name of their business at the top of their business card. That’s the worst thing you can put there. No one cares who you are or what you do. They only care about the benefits your product or service offers to them.

Instead of a jeweler’s business card saying “John’s Jewelers,” what if it said this…

Discounted Diamonds – Unmatched Quality, Untouchable Price, Unbeatable Guarantee

In just a few words, would you feel like an absolute fool if you bought a diamond from anyone else but this jeweler? That’s the power of a well-designed USP.

The cost to you if you fail to act…

Do you have a Unique Selling Proposition?

Do you use it in every piece of marketing you create?

Do you have it prominently displayed on your business card?

If you don’t, you’re losing market share, a massive amount of potential revenue and the opportunity to dominate your market.

To your success,

David T Preston

Business Growth Masterclass

Welcome to the second in my blog series The Business Growth Masterclass

I’ve called this installment:

How to live and breathe the 5 part formula for Business Growth

Before we start, I just want to check that you’ve done the homework set in the last installment of the Business Masterclass.

  • You’ve created a strong, clear business vision that is realistic and achievable.
  • You’ve posted your vision in a place where you and your staff will be able to see it on a daily basis.

You’re going to achieve your vision (and your dreams!) by adopting the five-step process into all areas of your business.

It’s one thing to try a new marketing strategy, but it’s another to change your approach altogether. It’s just like dieting. Sure, if you cut 20% of your calories for two weeks you’re going to see some results. But, the minute you go back to your old patterns, the results quickly disappear.

Temporary changes generate temporary results. Sustainable results require changes in behaviour; the removal of old habits and creation of new ones.

All of the advanced marketing strategies that you’ll learn in the Business Growth Masterclass will contribute to one of the five steps. By the end, you’ll have worked through all areas of your business and optimised them for success (remember, a 10% increase in the 5 areas can lead you towards doubling your profits (not revenues!).

In this installment of the Business Growth Masterclass we will cover:

  • How the five-step process will impact all areas of your business
  • How to get used to working with the five-part formula
  • A review of the five steps
  • How to set yourself up for success with the program

The five-step process is a way of doing business. It’s not a temporary strategy, and it won’t generate temporary results.

The five-part formula is so effective because it touches on each and every area of your business. It will improve and increase and generate and sharpen and strengthen everything that you and your employees do.

Once you complete a step, you’ll never go back to your old way of doing things again. This is a programme for positive change and powerful results. The change is long lasting and the results are far reaching.

Choosing to begin the five-step process will have an impact on every area of your business:

Lead Generation Conversion Rates Number of Transactions Pound Sales Profit Margins
Any strategy you use to get people to call or walk through the door. Any strategy you use to get people to BUY from you. Any strategy you use to get existing customers to buy from you more often, or stay loyal to your business. Any strategy you use to get customers to spend more money in a single transaction. Any strategy you use to maximise the percentage of the cost of each product/service that is profit.
Advertising
Promotions
Press Releases
Listings
Website
Online marketing
Sales process
Sales staff
Sales scripts
Point of sale
Image Merchandising
Staff scheduling
Staff happiness
Staff training and development
Customer service
Customer loyalty program
Point of sale
Impulse items
Sales process
Sales scripts
Stock
Stock availabilityExclusivity of products/services
Product or service costs
Expenses
Rent / lease
Business supplies
Pricing strategy

Let’s get used to working with the basic formula that the five-step process is based on. You’ll want to post this formula somewhere visible, where you can see it on a regular basis.

# of Leads
X
% Conversion Rate
=
# of Customers
X
# of Transactions
X
Average Pound Sale
=
Revenue
X
% Margin
=
£ Profit

As you can see, each of the items in bold typeface is a factor that influences the bottom line – your profit. Each of these is a step in the five-step process. You will work on each line sequentially, and the impact on your profit will build over time.

A nominal 10% increase in each of the five factors would look like this:

Starting Point Goals (10% Increase)
Leads 4,500 Leads 4,950
Conversion Rate 30% Conversion Rate 33%
Customers 1350 Customers 1633.5
Transactions 1.3 Transactions 1.43
Average Pound Sale £140 Average Pound Sale £154
Revenue £245,700 Revenue £359,729.37
Margins 24% Margins 26.4%
Profit £58,968 Profit £94,968.55

Here are a few blank charts for you to use to see how a 10%, 20% and 50% increase in each of the factors will impact your profit.

Create the chart below on your pad of paper (use the same pad as last week ideally – the process of writing this down will give you a 400% better retention rate). Use the left side of the chart to fill in your existing numbers. If you don’t know, take a guess. The point here is to understand how little increases will have big impacts on your bottom line profits. We’ll show you how to start tracking your results at the beginning of each step in the program.

Starting Point Goals (10% Increase)
Leads (#) Leads
Conversion Rate (%) Conversion Rate
Customers (#) Customers
Transactions (#) Transactions
Average Pound Sale (£) Average Pound Sale
Revenue (£) Revenue
Margins (%) Margins
Profit (£) Profit
Starting Point Goals (20% Increase)
Leads (#) Leads
Conversion Rate (%) Conversion Rate
Customers (#) Customers
Transactions (#) Transactions
Average Pound Sale (£) Average Pound Sale
Revenue (£) Revenue
Margins (%) Margins
Profit (£) Profit
Starting Point Goals (50% Increase)
Leads (#) Leads
Conversion Rate (%) Conversion Rate
Customers (#) Customers
Transactions (#) Transactions
Average Pound Sale (£) Average Pound Sale
Revenue (£) Revenue
Margins (%) Margins
Profit (£) Profit

Step One / Lead Generation: How can you get more people to walk through your door, pick up the phone, and/or visit your website?

Your leads are your prospects or potential customers. They are people who have taken action in response to your ad or promotion, and have shown interest in your product or service, but have not become a customer because they haven’t purchased yet.

Lead generation is important because you can’t increase the number of customers you have. This is because customers are the by-product of two things:

No. of LEADS X % CONVERSION RATE = No. of Customers

This means that you have to generate more leads and get more of those leads to make purchases in order to increase your customer base. Note; this is a very important step because your ‘cost of client acquisition’ (price you pay to acquire a new client) is the most expensive function of your business. (Yours, mine, and every other business on the planet by the way…)

So lead generation is about finding ways to reach the people who need or want what you have to offer and getting them to act – to pick up the phone, visit your website or walk into your business. This is what the majority of marketing strategies are trying to do.

  • advertising
  • business listings
  • direct mail
  • promotions
  • press releases
  • flyers
  • referral partnerships
  • publicity
  • coupons

Step Two / Conversion Rate: How can you get the people who walk through your door, pick up the phone, and visit your website to BUY something?

Conversions are the second factor in the customer equation. A conversion rate is simply our leads divided by our number of transactions in a specific time period.

No. of  TRANSACTIONS / No. of LEADS = % Conversion Rate

This is a key focus of your business and your staff’s time. After all, why spend time and money attracting tons of qualified leads if you can’t make them buy when they’re in the store? We call this “confusing being busy… with being successful!” Don’t let it happen to you.

Several aspects of your organization impact your conversion rate:

  • Your business image and the first impression customers have of you/your business
  • The strength and effectiveness of your sales team
  • Your sales process and staff training and development programs
  • The strength of your sales scripts (Do you want fries with that?)
  • The level of purchase risk involved in your product or service

Step Three / Transactions: How can you get your customers to buy from you MORE than ONCE?

The process of attracting and converting a customer is one that costs you money. Customers cost you money. They’re an investment that you need to make the most of to stretch your lead generation investment.

You can reduce the cost of your customer by increasing the number of times that they purchase from you. This increases the total number of transactions in your business and the amount of money that flows in.

So instead of continuously chasing down leads and converting them to customers, increasing transactions is about keeping our existing customers loyal and coming back to spend money.

  • exceptional customer service
  • customer loyalty programs
  • incentives
  • newsletters
  • convenience services
  • bonus amenities
  • referrals

Step Four / Average Sale: How can you get your customers to buy MORE from you each time they buy?

Your total revenue is the product of how many customers you have, how many times they purchase from you, and how much they spend.

No. of CUSTOMERS X No. of  TRANSACTIONS X £ AVERAGE SALE = £ Revenue

Increasing the average amount of money customers spend with you is the final way you can increase the amount of money that comes into your business. It’s amazing how small increases in this value can have big impacts on your revenue. If I were to come into your business tomorrow and you IMMEDIATELY needed to increase profits – this is the first place I would look and the easiest area to make a large improvement in your profits.

You’ll have to show your customer that they needed or want more than what they purchased. The amount that you are able to increase will depend on the type of business you are in – it’s easier to sell gel pens than an additional dishwasher – but generally every business can find opportunities to increase this figure.

  • The strength of your sales team
  • Merchandising at your point of sale
  • Add-on items
  • Cross-selling
  • Usage of impulse items
  • The strength of your sales scripts
  • Upselling
  • Opportunities for packaging and widgets
  • Staff training, development and incentives

Step Five / Margins: How can you make more profit off each product and service you sell?

The last opportunity you have to influence your profit is your profit margin. Your total revenue times your margin as a percentage equals your total profit.

£ REVENUE X % PROFIT MARGIN = £ Profit

Essentially, your goal here is to make your profit margin as high as possible. As the final factor in the profit calculation, increasing your margin is a vital step towards maximizing your profits.

If your margins are too low, you’ll never make any money – regardless of how many customers you have, how often they buy from you, or how much they spend. Your revenue will perpetually go back into your business and be spent on costs.

There are three ways to maximise your margins:

  1. Increase prices
  2. Cut operating and product/service costs (operating costs include rent, leases, salaries, commissions, and office supplies)
  3. Increase gross profit margins (gross profit is revenues minus labor, materials and overhead related to the product/service)

Alarmingly, many business owners do not genuinely know their weekly/monthly/annual profit – you need to go into the business of generating a profit (this will be a paradigm shift for many – it is not about greed, it is about looking after those you care about. The more money you make, the more you can provide for your family, charity, your golf club etc…) and work towards increasing that profit each and every day, week, month and year.

Now that you have a good grasp on how the five-step formula works, and an idea of the marketing strategies you’ll learn to work with, take a few moments and set yourself up for success.

1. Schedule time in your week to focus on the 5 step process.

Identify two timeslots in your weekly schedule that you can set aside for this task – it’s important! This will keep you from putting it off for later, and delaying the positive changes to your revenue stream.

2. Post reminders of your vision, goals and targets in visible places.

Keep yourself focused and on track by surrounding yourself with the positive changes you have already made, and will continue to make. Post your business vision, personal and business goals and targets in your office and staff rooms.

3. Include your staff in the process.

Your employees are a powerful resource in your business – they ultimately are the people that you will need to trust and empower to run the business without your own day-to-day involvement. They are the people that your customers come in contact with on a regular basis, and represent your business image, brand and message.

Let them in on what you’re doing, and educate them on the five-part formula. Show them how their actions, input and skills contribute to the operations and profitability of the business.

4. Start paying attention to your current numbers and tracking systems.

Now that you have an idea of what factors and figures you’ll be working to increase, start paying attention to what those numbers look like now. If you have tracking systems in place, run some reports and get an understanding of your current situation. Think about these questions:

  • where do your customers come from?
  • what marketing campaigns work the best?
  • what lead generation strategies work the best?
  • how many of your customers buy from you?
  • how often do they buy from you?
  • how much do they buy from you?
  • what do your existing profit margins look like?
  • what percentage of your items are high margin, and which are low?

Now that you have an idea of where your business is going, let’s start mapping out how you’re going to get there.

In my next Business Growth Masterclass we will look at setting SMART goals and retraining the way you think about yourself and your ability to achieve what you deserve. There’s lots of important work to do!

As your mentor, I’m here to answer questions and provide support when you need it, so feel free to use the feedback form below to get in touch

Congrats for tuning in,

What can we learn from the Olympics?

Posted on 13 August 2012

What can we learn from the Olympics?

Over the last few weeks we’ve all been watching the world’s best athletes and sports people compete in the London Olympics. What an incredibly talented array of high performers we’ve had the privilege to watch! But what can we, as business folk, learn from what we’ve witnessed in the sports arenas?

One thing is clear – talent alone is not enough – in sport or in business. You also need an abundance of drive, determination and self-discipline.

It has been said that top flight sport is a meaningful metaphor for business, with some striking parallels.  Common features include strong competition, the smallest margins of success, setting and achieving goals and targets, committing to both long-term and short-term strategies and tactics, hard work, perseverance, determination, teamwork, dealing with success and recovering from failure and setbacks.

So what can we learn from sports people as entrepreneurs and business owners?

One difference between sport and business is the way goals are set. In sport, the goals are clear – you know what day and time the Olympic final is, for example. And everything is moving towards that one point where you will have to be at your best.

In business things are more complex and there’s usually a series of goals. So running a business requires a level of flexibility. Nevertheless, having a goal or a fixed deadline is vitally important.  As an example, in organising the Olympics all the buildings in the Park had to be finished on time, it was a given. So in business we need absolute clarity of the desired outcome.

How many times have you thought that there are a lot of busy fools in business?  In sport, busy just doesn’t cut it – unless it is activity directed at the chosen goal, then it has no place. Business is no different.  If people are hugely busy but they’ve got no real clarity of their desired outcomes, the chances of delivering the right results are slim. The number one driver for sports people is performance; businesses need to have that same performance culture if they are to be successful.

What about the role that coaches play?

First of all, there are NO successful athletes or teams who don’t have a coach!  A coach provides independent insight, helps create fresh perspectives and can often see the barriers to progress that the sports person is simply too close to see.  Coaches allow the athletes to get the very best out of themselves and to reach their full potential, whilst at the same time letting them take ownership of what they are doing.

Why should business be any different?

The best sports people are never satisfied – they are always striving for the next improvement.  They are right to do so – their competitors have a powerful motivation to beat them and you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be working hard to do just that!

Business is no different – you are only as successful as your last set of results, so don’t get complacent!

Success in sports and business alike relies on the ability to continually move performance to higher levels. This year’s best performance won’t be good enough next year or the year after!

A lot of your success will be down to having a tough mindset.

Like top athletes, the best business people are not born but made.  OK, there has to be some natural aptitude, but the real key to sustained excellence – in sport and in business – is to develop resilient mental toughness.  If you can stay focused on those things that really matter when faced with myriad distractions, if you can bounce back from setbacks with a determination and a renewed appetite for success, and throughout you can believe in yourself when the going gets tough, then you stand a chance of success!

Remember the famous Henry Ford quote: “Whether you think that you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’ll be right!

Next point – all work and no play makes for a rather dull existence, so DO celebrate success!

Copy the sports people – take time to celebrate your victories.  Remind yourself what your hard work and dedication is all about.  I would suggest that things have never been tougher for most businesses – many of us are focused on survival as a key priority – but don’t let that stop you celebrating your successes, however small they are.

We all experience nerves and stress when we are doing important and maybe less familiar things, whether it is in business, sport or in our personal lives.  Maybe our culture tells us that this is a bad thing, that we should not feel this way.  Don’t believe it – it is both normal and often helpful.  The heightened awareness created by a little nervousness (as opposed to a level of complacency) helps us to focus our best efforts into getting the best result that we can.  Anyone watching the Men’s 200m Final would have seen that Usain Bolt was visibly nervous before his successful Olympic title defence – it was in actual fact a key element of his performance on the night.

One of the world’s greatest golfers, Tiger Woods, said you can’t expect to feel the same on the golf course as you do when watching television.  Woods gave himself permission to feel nerves on the first tee – and it doesn’t seem to have hindered his performance!  So harness your emotions, rather than wasting energy and attention in fighting them.

That’s all very well, but to get to the very top requires something else on top of the things already mentioned.

That something else is Mindset – self-belief and the mindset of the winner.  It is the thing that keeps you trying over and over again.  One of the outstanding road cyclists of this year has been Bradley Wiggins – after winning the Tour de France, he went on to Olympic Gold – both by convincing margins.  Wiggins set his stall out to get his fitness to a level that could achieve this – not just strength and stamina, but the mental toughness to endure the hardships of harsh training and even harsher competition.  And he did it.

No easy route here – his success was down to the tens of thousands of hours put in practicing, training and improving.  Maybe that approach is too hard for you in your business – maybe you are looking for that “quick fix” – the silver bullet?  It doesn’t exist.

As has often been said – “good enough never is” – so why settle for second best?  Do you have the level of discipline that successful sports people have in abundance – that of never being happy with your performance?

Accepting second rate performance is a huge risk in business.  In sport, when a person does badly, their performance is reviewed, analysed and they work out how to improve (usually with the help of their coach). Sadly, in business average performance is often tolerated. The choice is yours – you can either carry on accepting mediocrity or do something about it.

It’s not easy, though, is it? In today’s difficult market conditions, it’s easy very easy to think that things can’t be changed.  We end up acting as victims and accepting our lot.  Well, it’s not good enough – you only have to look around and see that even in this difficult recession, there are companies who are forging ahead.  One final sporting analogy – the best tennis players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray deliver the core skills their basics exceptionally well under extreme pressure.

How do they do that?  They filter out those things that are unimportant to achieving success – and under pressure, they focus solely on the task.  That’s what we need to do in our businesses – don’t allow yourself to be distracted from the things truly necessary to succeed.

If you’re interested in applying the Olympic standard to your

Why do some businesses thrive during the depth of a recession?

The Bad News and the Good News

The bad news: we are living through the worst economic times since the Thirties Depression. And maybe there is still worse to come. If we were part of the Euro-zone (and here, I’m referring to the European currency), we may very well have been in the same boat as Greece, Spain, Ireland an Portugal.  Don’t believe what you hear on the BBC and read in the Newspapers;  most of the people in these organisations have vested interests in talking up the markets. That is, if they know what they’re talking about. Remember that Japan suffered deflation throughout the Nineties. What has to unwind in the coming years is the enormous debt that America and Britain have accumulated.

So the good times are over for the minute. What does this all mean for your business?

The good news: not every business is going to go bust, the smarter businesses will not only survive but actually prosper at the expense of their competitors. These smarter businesses will invest now and continuously to improve their competitive edge.

So what is competitive edge?

Low cost alone seldom gives you the competitive edge but Ryanair is an exception, although you might raise an eyebrow and ask about their reputation for charging even for basic on-board amenities. Quality at a reasonable price usually counts for more, as in Marks & Spencer, and Apple has established its competitive edge for innovation and the user-friendliness of its products. Indeed when you get to Apple’s stage, the brand alone speaks for your competitive edge. Notice that your product or service doesn’t have to be the best available in the market provided your customers’ experience of your business is quality. Quality means reliability and responsiveness to your customers’ needs.

So to my definition of competitive edge: the perception that a business delivers something different and/or of better quality to its customers. This difference refers to the uniqueness or innovation of your product or service; better quality refers to the quality of your customers’ experience of your business.

Setting aside uniqueness and innovation, how do you develop a competitive edge through giving your customers a quality experience?

When you get down to it, quality is simply about people and process – people design the process and people deliver the process. Improving your people means increasing their skills and knowledge and improving how they get on and communicate internally and externally. This leads to the development of high performance teams and individuals who are responsive to your customers while maximising their contribution to profits. Developing efficient processes in your business translates to responding to your customers efficiently and accurately which means better bottom line performance for your business.

Remember: if you do nothing new your business will likely end up doing nothing different or worse. Invest in improving your competitive edge and you have every chance of seeing a rich dividend on your investment in these testing times.

If you want to be one of those businesses who will thrive during the depths of recession, e-mail me for further information.