Posts Tagged ‘Business Owners’
Today I got into a bit of an argument on Twitter (nothing new there).
It started with someone moaning about having to get up at ridiculous hours to attend to their business and me responding by saying that as they own the business they should employ someone to do this particular task.
It’s an important part of the business and led to a discussion about whether critical tasks should be delegated or not.
My view is that yes, they should. (I actually shouted, *YES* they should.)
Business owners are there to manage the business, to make decisions, to keep track of cashflow and consistently review how the business is working and make improvements where they’re needed. As soon as the business is big enough, *everything* else should be delegated.
If the business owner is the only one who can be trusted with a critical task it means that the business is too vulnerable and at risk and is probably unsalable.
Then we got into “what if the person the critical task is delegated to doesn’t do it properly?” Well, it is the owner’s job to check that it is being done properly and make sure people are properly trained or replaced. Delegation doesn’t mean abdication.
If your business is so small that you’re still doing everything yourself and you’re happy with that that’s fine but if you want it to grow you need to have a plan and that plan will very likely involve you stepping away from all of the stuff you do now and managing other people who will do it instead – and that’s a whole other skill set.
Basically, if your business is big enough to employ people and it still can’t run without you, there’s something wrong.
Getting more done with less stress, effort and frustration is what many business owners wish for.
At a recent presentation, Steve Hoare (Management by Reflection), explained why, if we want to grow a business, have a home life and enjoy what we do with the minimum of stress, it is important to spend our time doing the things we are good and learn to appreciate the contributions made by people who have different strengths to us.
To illustrate the point, members of the group were asked to put themselves into one of three groups that they most identified with while acknowledging that there may be some crossover.
The Blue Group identified most with the words:
Thinking, creative, problem solving, strategic, discerning, self starting, single minded.
The Yellow Group with:
Inclusive, mature, communicator, diplomatic, co-operative, enthusiastic
The Red Group with:
Challenging, dynamic, action, perfectionist, reliable, efficient, conscientious
Each group was given the same task and assigned an observer.
The idea was to show what happens when people with the same strengths work on a task, compared to when people with a whole range of strengths work together.
The result is that people adapt to fill the gaps but usually feel uncomfortable in these roles. This is OK for a short while (our experiment only lasted for ten minutes) but the longer it continues, the more the cracks begin to show.
The ensuing discussion focused on the importance of not seeing the absence of a particular type of behaviour as a weakness but on playing to people’s strengths.
It is equally important not to let the ‘weakness’ become a crutch or an excuse, e.g. “What do you expect? I’m this type of person not that type.”
In terms of identifying the people most likely to produce the best results we often look for skills first followed by personality but profiling the behaviours needed to complement a team can often improve the way everyone works and reduce the stress, frustration and effort while getting much more done in less time.
There is a huge amount of research that shows that we are really poor judges of others and relying on ‘gut instinct’ is the worst possible way to select people to work with.
When employing people, Steve recommends the Belbin Team Role profiling tool be used along with a suite of other tools for assessing personality and aptitude. Many tools on the market have no scientific validity so it is best to check this out and use an accredited practitioner to analyse the results.
Any double about the value / cost ratio will be quickly dispelled by a calculation of what it costs to make the wrong decision!
Why do we need to know how to be happy?
Why is happiness so important? Are we born happy and then lose it? What has happiness to do with business success?
I recently became aware of a number of business owners who work such long hours that they neglect all the things that make them happy, except their work.
Because I believe that most of our best ideas come to us in the downtime when we are playing or relaxing, and because I believe that we are all so much more than our businesses, this bothered me a bit so I decided to conduct an experiment.
I asked people to list ten things that they DO that make them happy and then to schedule into their diaries every day something they looked forward to doing and then actually DO them.
Over 130 people shared their lists with each other on-line and about 30 turned up for a meeting to discuss their ideas on happiness, led by philosopher John Turner (www.metathink.co.uk)
These are some of the ideas the people in the group expressed:
To be happy we need to focus our minds, not drift along without being aware.
To be happy we need to be in the flow with an absence of distractions
To be happy we need to be creating and doing
To be happy we need to feel valued – by ourselves as well as others
Happiness is our life’s purpose and nurturing friendships is a major part of this
We need a verb: “to happy” (apparently, in ancient Greek, there is/was)
On one thing everyone was agreed: If there was a machine that could make everyone happy all of the time, we wouldn’t want to turn it on. There are times when we need sadness, and happiness is something to be worked towards.
The second part of the experiment is still ongoing but these are my own thoughts on happiness:
“Happiness depends on ourselves.”
2500 years ago, Aristotle enshrined happiness as a central purpose of human life and a goal in itself.
2500 years later neuroscientists came to pretty much the same conclusion.
The Nature of Happiness
Despite the fact that many human beings live their lives believing that they will be happy if they get everything they want, both ancient and modern wisdom shows that this is far from true. Tests show that we are notoriously bad at predicting what will make us happy (or unhappy) and we prove ourselves wrong time and again. Rich people are not happier than poor people and yet much of our society is geared to the pursuit of material possessions and fleeting pleasures.
There is a school of thought that says that happiness cannot be pursued or sought and we just need to be open and wait for it to alight in our lives but this too is disputed by both philosophy and science. This is because happiness is not something that can be gained or lost in a few moments, like pleasurable sensations. It is about the ultimate value of a life, measuring how well we have lived up to our full potential as human beings.
Aristotle tells us that the most important factor in the effort to achieve happiness is to have a good moral character — what he calls “complete virtue.” He argues that virtue is achieved by maintaining the balance between two excesses – reminiscent of Buddha’s Middle Path.
Neoroscience shows that happiness is inextricably linked to the faculty of attention.
Attention systems that lack focus or have become habitually trained on feelings of poor self worth or criticism lead to emotional states that are out of control and lead to anxiety, depression and other distressing states. Studies show that contemplative practices such as meditation are wonderful ways to train the brain into new habits of paying attention to subjects or feelings that enhance self-worth and strengthen new neural pathways.
The language is different but the message is the same.
Happiness takes effort.
Aristotle advocates the education of the whole person, including one’s moral character, rather than merely learning a set of skills. He taught that developing a good character requires a strong effort of will to do the right thing, make difficult decisions, not give in to immediate gratification and that through training and practice we can achieve our full potential and the enrichment of human life.
Neuroscience shows that we can change our brains, not by intervention with medication or stimulants but by practicing new thought patterns. The basic structure of our mental life is habit and, just as we strengthen muscles in our bodies by practice, so we do the same with our brains.
Qualities we admire in others, e.g., kindness, generosity, humour, patience, compassion are not innate qualities but are skills that we can learn with practice until they become new habits. If we admire these qualities in others we can aquire them for ourselves by paying attention, repeating behaviours and becoming the kind of person we most want to be.
What does this have to do with business?
Building a successful business, especially when you are working alone, requires great discipline. Doing the right things at the right time, even when we don’t feel like it, making difficult decisions, turning away from the quick fix in order to stick to a long term plan, staying focused on a task, being mindful, keeping the promises we make to ourselves are all important.
If the pursuit of happiness is about human flourishing and thriving, applying the same principles to business can only be a good thing. Happiness is not something we take time off to do and then feel guilty about, it becomes both the reason and the way in which we do everything.
Rather than say “I’ll be happy when ….” (I’ve got to x turnover / this job is finished / that client is satisfied / I have some reliable staff), and recognising that these things are not what makes us happy and that we don’t have to wait for them to happen, creates the freedom to make the pursuit of happiness an habitual activity that leads to real fulfilment of our potential as human beings.
Take part in the experiment
If you would like to take part in the happiness experiment simply schedule into your daily activities things that you DO that will make you happy and then DO them and share your ideas with the rest of the group either by leaving a comment below or on the LinkedIn discussion here: http://lnkd.in/4MM6ca
David F Smallman, Managing Partner of Pathfinder Team Consulting, invited participants in The Inspired Group to ask him any question about business. These are his answers:
Q. What advice would you give someone in their first year of business?
A. Don’t lose the passion. Ever. Not even in your 42nd year.
Q. Is it wise to use an untested business model?
A. No. Get it tested.
Q. How do you make sure a new idea doesn’t get stolen before you develop it?
A. Keep it out of the public domain until you’ve had it patented, trade marked etc. Non disclosure agreements are hard to enforce.
Q. What is the best way to price your services?
A. Price the project according to the value to the customer. This may mean that you charge two very different prices for the same work. Charge 25% up front, then two further instalments of 25% and 50%. In over 40 years in business we’ve never had a significant bad debt or had to waste time chasing money. Cash flow is vitally important and this way, your expenses are covered before you start.
Q. What is the single most important ingredient in creating a successful business?
A. Passion (as above)
Q. What one channel would you choose to market a business?
A. It depends on the type of business:
Manufacturing – distribution / sub contractors
Service Provision – figure out how your customers/clients like to buy and meet them there
Accounting / Financial services – traditional routes are still working
Q. What will the future economic power of the UK be like?
A. Look out for a debate between David and Phil Jones of Excitant Ltd on this topic. David recommends reading The Big Short by Michael Lewis.
Q. If the three essentials of business are producing the product or service, managing and marketing, what time should a business owner spend on each.
A. In a 60 hour week (which most business owners admit to working)
Marketing 55% – 33 hours
Making 35% – 21 hours
Managing 10% - 6 hours
Anyone spending more than 6 hours managing a business needs to streamline or outsource and ask themselves if they using this as an excuse not to do the marketing.
Similarly, when marketing, use the same equation:
Existing customers 55%
Short term prospects 33%
Long term prospects 10%
Q. Should we strive to continuously make our services or products better?
A. Excellence can sometimes be the death of a business. Quality is what is good enough to satisfy the customer.
Q. Is social media providing businesses that use it with an advantage?
A. Many big businesses just haven’t got it yet but many smaller businesses are using Social Media to great advantage so it gives them an edge in engaging, listening and providing what customers want.
There are more questions and answers on the LinkedIn discussion http://lnkd.in/Hw4QVb
Questions that David didn’t have time to answer:
Is there a particular hobby or pastime associated with business success?
Is there a difference between leadership and management? (See http://lnkd.in/xMdyjG for this discussion)
What is the best strategy to cope with a business failure?
“Be seductive” the man said. “Use your voice, your eyes, your body to seduce the person you’re talking to. Make them WANT to get to know you better.”
“Most importantly”, he added, “Remember, it’s not about YOU! To be interesting you need to be more interested in the person you’re talking to than in yourself.”
“THE man” was @SteveTrister and if you haven’t seen him perform, you’re missing out big time.
Steve was entertaining a bunch of business owners and at the same time giving them invaluable tips on how to get the best out of the networking experience. His performance was brilliant; full of really funny observations about all the ways to alienate people and how to be really engaging and not just spout a tired old elevator pitch.
He put particular emphasis on being aware of the emotions we create in others and how to make real connections. Steve’s performance was great and the interactive session where he got people to practice was lively and seemed to get good results.
A few minutes later we went back to networking and the carapace of the seasoned networker slammed firmly back into place. I know habits take more than a few minutes to change but hell’s teeth, even the most unaware person in the room couldn’t have missed the main message:
IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!
Yet here we were with myopic men peering at chests to read name badges to decide whether (chest notwithstanding) someone was worth talking to, instead of making eye contact and simply saying, “I’m Bill, who are you?”
No attempt at small talk, not even the slightest interest in the person (again, chest notwithstanding), only in the business they run.
If “What do you do?” was banned from the vocabulary, most serial networkers would be struck dumb.
Well pardon me folks, but I am more than my business. If I start a conversation with “I like your tie / necklace / hair colour / codpiece” or “What’s the wine / canapés / cocaine like?” I don’t expect the response to be “What do you do?” followed by (and usually without pausing for breath), a lengthy description about your business.
I’m looking for banter, rapport, a bit of fun, an exchange of ideas.
If I just wanted to know what business people are in I can get that from the attendance list. The reason for going to networking meetings must surely to meet the PEOPLE not the businesses, to discover if they’re funny, quirky, boring or obnoxious.
I WANT to be seduced but it seems like there’s fat chance of that ever happening.
Be honest now, how many times have you come away from a networking meeting having been totally fascinated and charmed by someone, irrespective of whether their business is of any interest to you?
Which is a shame because I’m sure in ‘real life’ most networkers are charming and fascinating and they know equally charming and fascinating people but we’re all missing out on those extended connections because we never get further than “What do you do?”. No one has a real conversation because they’re too busy looking over each other shoulders to see who they’re missing.
Whoever invented the term “Working the room” should be sent to networking purgatory. You won’t find Steve Trister there – he’ll be too busy having fun and making people laugh!
If you want to learn how to give a high impact, influential and memorable message every time you speak, take a look here: http://www.performancedynamite.co.uk/
Interestingly, Twitter seems to amplify the habits that people display in other networking arenas. Before I follow someone on Twitter I check out their tweet stream to see if they sound interesting, if they interact with others and have a bit of fun. If they just broadcast endless one-way messages, and especially use repetitive auto tweets I generally don’t follow them. Auto tweeting is like sending a recording to a party and expecting to pull! If networkers displayed their Twitter name on their contact details it would make networking much easier – there’s no where for the boring, self important types to hide!
What do you think? Am I expecting too much? Are we people first and businesses second? What would happen if, instead of asking “What do you do?”, we asked each other “Who are you and what are you interested in?” Are YOU a seductive networker? Tell me below ……
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”
Franklin D Roosevelt
You don’t have to look far to find something to be afraid of – the internet is full of dire warnings and also, strangely enough, its also full of people who’d like to sell you the things that can protect you from the very things of which they tried to make you afraid.
Newspapers TV and radio are no better except that they often seem to peddle fear just for the hell of it, under the guise of ‘news’.
Everyone must, at some time in their lives, have experienced the gut wrenching, heart stopping sensation that we call fear and yet, for all the scary stuff that is manufactured by others we are the main culprit when it comes to creating our own fears.
It is the thing that most people acknowledge is the major factor that holds them back from achieving their full potential and they give it all sorts of names: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of losing what they’ve got, fear of the unknown, etc., etc., etc.
What are most people afraid of?
Writing at the end of the Great Depression in 1937, Napoleon Hill suggests that most people have six basic fears. They are: fear of poverty, criticism, ill health, loss of love, old age and death.
When questioned if these are still relevant today, it was fear of poverty that caused the most dissent amongst a group of business owners. There was a strong argument that in our modern Western world, poverty is a relative term, even when we have lost all our material possessions. However, there was an equally strong argument that it is this fear of losing everything that is the biggest driver in our society, especially for people in business who seek to create a sense of security by being in control of their own means of earning a living.
Looking at Hill’s list again, all those fears related to losing something: our material possessions, pride, independence, status, love, connection, and of course, life itself.
What became clear is that almost every feeling of fear we experience is the result of an IMAGINED situation, not a real one.
Moreover, in almost every case, the imagined situation that we most fear never happens.
When a situation that we had feared actually materialised, most of us dealt with it without any real consequences.
Beyond the survival instincts that keep us safe, there appears to be only one real fear and that is the fear that we won’t be able to handle whatever happens to us. The fact that most people do handle even the most horrendous occurrences indicates that most fear, which usually concerns a future event that never happens, is completely unnecessary.
Bob Newhart had his own suggestion for how to deal with this:
In all the suggestions that proliferate in how to deal with the physical symptoms of fear (usually manifested as stress) no one mentions, booze, sex, drugs or rock ‘n’ roll but I’m guessing that at some point, most people will use at least one of these in an attempt to banish fears and anxiety.
The thing that everyone agreed on was what doesn’t work is trying to ignore it, suppress it or pretending the fear doesn’t exist. This can often result in real physical damage – perhaps that’s why booze, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll weren’t offered as serious means of coping!
Strategies to cope with fear usually involved taking action to arrive at a point where the fear is no longer felt as a physical sensation. This involved a whole range of activities from talking and sharing the fear – being talked off the ledge, as one person described it, to strenuous exercise to deal with the excess adrenaline. Some people are able to use relaxation techniques or meditation to calm themselves while others seek the help of a range of physical therapies that often results in them being able to talk about their fears.
Why do we need strategies to cope with IMAGINATION?
Having established that most fears are about thing we only imagine MIGHT happen or how we imagine we’ll cope if our worst fears are realised it seems a little strange that we need external coping mechanisms.
If we create the fear in our heads, surely we can get rid of it the same way? The six ghosts of fear (or however many we allow ourselves to have) are just that – GHOSTS. They aren’t real, they only exist in our heads.
Human beings have control over only one thing – our thoughts. Whatever we allow into our heads creates emotions and physical reactions and so the person who is able to discipline their thoughts has a huge advantage in controlling how they deal with both real and imagined situations.
This is not the same as the parroted phrase that has become popular with fans of The Law of Attraction – the one that says “Thoughts Become Things”. If that were true, teenage boys would get lucky several times a day, no-one would be sick and everyone would have as much money as they wanted.
Many unexpected and unwanted things happen to us in a lifetime and they are not the result of what we think. It is the way we choose to deal with them that is in our control and this means we need to exercise discipline over our thoughts. To catch a thought as it is formed and ask, “Is this useful to me or not?” and develop it or reject it accordingly means that the time wasted on fearful thoughts that paralyze and impoverish us can be freed to use on creating new ideas and enriching our lives.
When we believe and prove to ourselves that by controlling out thoughts we will cope with whatever life throws at us we truly have nothing to fear.
To whom are you accountable?
If you work on your own, who is to know if nothing on your ‘to do’ list gets done? You can procrastinate for as long as you like and no-one but you will be any the wiser.
Most business owners who talk about time management don’t really need help in managing their time. They need someone to hold them to account for the results (or lack of) that they say they want to achieve in a certain time.
The thing that makes the biggest impact in our Inspired MasterMind Groups is that members are accountable to
each other for their actions.
If you are not a member of an Inspired MasterMind Group, appoint yourself an official ‘nag’. Make it someone who has no axe to grind, no hidden agenda and just wants to see you succeed. Ask them to accept no excuses and make sure you keep on track with what you say you will do.