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Small Fish - Small Business Tips and the Latest News

Why business coaching works - trust

To work with a coach, you have to have great trust that he or she is only interested in YOUR goals.

This is the reason why our contract is structured the way it is. We just charge a flat amount each month, with no hidden charges or year-long lockin. This gets the payment discussion out of the way, and lets the coach and client focus 100% on the goals that have been set out.

When a client’s hired me as their coach, they know that I’m going to dedicate my coaching on their needs, and nothing else.

Trust is a funny thing, though – it takes time to build and an instant to destroy. No doubt you’ve experienced that with friends, associates, employees, or partners. That’s one reason why it’s not uncommon for me to have a continuing dialog with someone for weeks, months, or sometimes years before they decide to invest in a coaching relationship.

And that’s quite OK. I’d much rather work with a client who trusts me (and who I can trust!) than someone who was pushed into it. This is about deep, important, and lasting business improvement, not just making an income.

It’s interesting that I now have clients which have extended well past the usual 12-month engagement. They’re continuing to get value, so they want to continue working with me. But that doesn’t allow me to lose my focus on their goals.

Who are you working with who you trust?

Carl Dierschow
Small Fish Business Coaching Fort Collins

Business planning: comparative to travel

Business Planning: You Wouldn’t Pack Your Bags Before You Knew Where You Were Going

Woohoo. You’ve packed your bags and you’re ready to head off on that overseas trip of a lifetime. 

You’ve got your passport and travel money ready. Tomorrow you’ll head down to the airport and see if you can get on a plane that will take you to some place you’ll really like. You haven’t really decided where you want to go, but that’s no big deal – wherever you end up is sure to be fun, and anyway you’ve got enough money to go somewhere else, or to get a ticket home.

Sound familiar? Of course not.

Packing your bags might be the first practical step in going on a trip, but we all know that it certainly doesn’t start there.

Much planning and organisation goes into an overseas trip to ensure you get to see and do the things you want to.

First you decide where you’ll go. You look at your options, talk to travel consultants and your friends, and do your research. You imagine yourself in the places in the brochures.

You work out the places you’ll visit, what you’ll see and do there, how long you’ll spend in each place, and how you’ll get from one place to another.

You make up a checklist of all the things you need to do to get ready, and then you do them: book your flights, accommodation and tours; organise passports and visas; arrange travel insurance and travel money; get your shots; buy your travel gear; buy guide books; and learn about the culture and language of the countries you’ll visit.

And it’s all fun isn’t it! It’s all part of the journey.

“What’s any of this got to do with business planning?” I hear you ask.

Well, in my view planning for your business should be like planning a holiday.

But not just any holiday - the trip of a lifetime. And it should be fun, not some long, drawn out, complicated, academic process.

Start by imagining where you want to go – a place where your business is exactly how you want it to be. Imagine it in detail – your customers, turnover and profit, products and services, prices, number of outlets, premises, staff, and what your role will be, the hours you’ll be working (and the time you’ll have to travel!). This becomes your destination. (Your business coach can be your travel consultant!)

Then establish where you are now, and what you need to do to get to where you want to be. The things you need to do become the strategies that go into your business plan.

I find that in practice many business owners start fiddling with their businesses before they’ve determined their destination: chasing more customers; changing their products and services, their prices, their marketing, their overheads, their staffing, or their premises; or taking on more roles in the business themselves.

Tell me - would you jump in and pack your bags for a trip before you knew where you were going? Or would you find it less stressful to figure out your destination and then start your packing. Comment below!

Neil McVicar
Small Fish Business Coaching Coffs Harbour

How to pick yourself back up after a fall

Jon has been interviewed for a series of articles in the MPA online magazine (Mortgage Professionals Australia).

Every business goes through its rough patches, and many brokers have had more than their fair share in recent years. So how can you pick yourself back up after a setback? And what happens if you have to completely rebuild?

Jon Dale, director of Small Fish Business Coaching, learnt his lessons the hard way, when tough times during the GFC forced him to shut down his franchises and downsize his business.

“I went from being the CEO of a global business coaching franchise back to being largely a business coach again. It was a complete rebuild, going back to focusing on doing my own marketing and meeting clients… back to the basics and all the things you did in the beginning – except you’ve got no money to do it with.”

While Dale admits his confidence was shaken, he didn’t let his setbacks bring him down. He put in the hard yards to keep his business afloat, and now employs a team of business coaches across Australia, with a view to continue to expand Small Fish in the future.

“I’ve gone out there trying to be a business coach and find clients again, and it’s harder than it was in 2006 when I started but there’s still business out there. I’ve worked really hard and done all of the things that I know worked, and lo and behold it’s starting to pay off.”

The key to finding the motivation to keep going has been the realisation that, while the market has shrunk, it hasn’t disappeared altogether, says Dale.

“I use that to reassure myself that I’m not wasting my time. You have to focus on the process a little bit too and you have to know that going to your networking group or investing time and energy in your website is worthwhile.”

Persistence is one of the most crucial, and difficult, aspects to recovery after a setback, says Dale.

“It’s very easy for people to try things and give up, move on, say ‘That’s not working’ and go and try something else, whereas really a lot of these things that we do require a good long go. You can’t go and see five people and say ‘Oh no one’s interested anymore I’m going to stop' or 'I’m going to stop putting my ad out there because of four people who called me who weren’t suitable'.”

Dale found breaking goals down into manageable chunks, using something he terms ‘reduction to the ridiculous’, helps with this.

“How many loans are written every year? Millions. And how many does a broker need to succeed?,” he asks.

Work out approximately how many loans you need to write each year to earn a comfortable income, break that down into a weekly and daily number, followed by approximately how many meetings or phone calls you think you'll need to have to write that number.

“It’s about breaking it down into things you can influence,” says Dale. “You can’t sit there and say ‘I’ll write 200 loans in a year’ but you can get up every day and make enough phone calls or go to enough meetings to get you on the right track.”

Dale gives similar advice to his staff, and also requires them to report to him regularly on their marketing, lead generation and communications.

“If you’ve got mortgage brokers working for you hold them accountable for that activity. I’d ask my clients to report back to me and I’d ask them ‘How many times yesterday did your business ask somebody to consider your service or product?’

“It’s particularly important for people like mortgage brokers because we’ve got to go and prospect ourselves. You can’t sit and expect your aggregator’s website to send you enquiries. You can buy a shop front if you’re Mortgage Choice or somebody and expect your signage to draw a few people in but you’ve got to go and see people and network and ask them to consider you in a very direct way.”

Picking yourself back up after a fall is never easy, but by focusing on the small things and determining what gets you motivated you can find success again, says Dale.

“It’s about that persistence. Most of the people that have failed have failed because they gave up. If you keep the faith and you do the things that you know work you can succeed.”

Have you faced setbacks in your business? How did you deal with them? Share your thoughts below.

Written by: Amy Rosenfeld - Mortgage Professional Australia

Why business coaching works - Number 4 in a series of ruminations

Carl has requested the rest of us contribute to his series of articles exploring why it is that business coaching works.

Here's today's thought, fresh from the desk of Jon, who is spending the day with his friends at Gold Coast Graphic Design.

Business coaching works for many reasons but because this is a blog, I'm going to talk about just one today and save the others for another article.

This keeps my article short, saving your short attention span and my typing fingers.

It works because it's expensive.

This probably sounds like self-serving bullshit which it is but there's truth in it, too. Just as with many alternative medicine treatments (and the placebo effect) a good part of the effectiveness of a treatment is the very fact of taking action.

Taking that first decisive step and doing something, while not enough on its own, is a huge contributor to making change. I'm sure it was someone wise who said (I probably saw it on Facebook) "every journey begins with a single step".

Well I agree. A good part of the value in business coaching lies in making a real and genuine decision to change the way you run your business. The cost of it is part of this.

It's easy to decide to change things and then not to follow through, though. New Years resolutions are a prime example. Diets are another.

Well business change and business coaching are another.

So the fact that it is expensive does a couple of things - it makes you think about the decision and not take it lightly and, once you've made it, it helps you stick to it.

There's something about spending a lot of money that makes you value the thing you've bought more than you would have if it was cheap (I expect there's a name for this in psychology).

And there's something about your expensive coach coming to see you for your coaching session (with his invoice in his hand, symbolically, at least) that makes the thought of not having done anything anathema. So the expense that you committed yourself to willingly and consciously, counters your natural inclination to stick to your old habits and resist the change you want.

Right, I'm off to put my price up.

Jon Dale
Small Fish Business Coaching Gold Coast

Suck it up and get on with it - Tackling jobs you hate

Jon has been interviewed for a series of articles in the MPA online magazine (Mortgage Professionals Australia). This first one talks about how to tackle those jobs you hate and how to 'suck it up and get on with it.'

'Excuse #1: “I don’t have time.”

Jon Dale, director of Small Fish Business Coaching, takes a no-nonsense approach to confronting your excuses for what they are.

Often the tasks brokers enjoy doing are the ones that have more urgent consequences – dealing with your existing clients, processing current applications etc – whereas jobs such as marketing and prospecting new clients can often be postponed.

“Nobody is going to shout at you if you put your marketing off until tomorrow,” says Dale. “But if you don’t do Mr Jones’ mortgage, he’s going to be pretty pissed off.”

This makes it easier for brokers to ignore these deferrable tasks under the guise of concentrating on more urgent matters. What’s key to understand here, says Dale, is one doesn’t exclude the other.

“People waste a lot of time, and the reality is you can fit it in. Doing some sales and marketing doesn’t really mean that all of your customers are going to have a shit time forever from now on.”

Do the urgent tasks, says Dale, but schedule in time for the things you don’t like eg. ‘From 10-12am tomorrow I will call X amount of prospective clients’.

“What happens then is they realise it’s not true that they stop doing all the other stuff. Things carry on going as before, but the change they’re looking for also comes.”

Excuse #2: “I already tried that.”

So maybe you have tried tackling these tasks before, and maybe things didn’t work out so well.

“So many people have been damaged by an experience they’ve had,” says Dale. “Maybe they’ve taken out an ad and spent their $300 and not got any calls, so they think ads don’t work. In reality, that ad didn’t work, but it’s not quite the same thing. By no means have we established that ads in general don’t work or that they will never work for you.”

This kind of resistance often comes out of embarrassment over past errors, and this only serves to add to the fear of what can be a daunting task.

“Most people say they don’t know what is going to work, they’re uncomfortable not knowing and they’re scared of wasting time, making mistakes and looking like a fool. The reality is most of it does work and it’s not that hard, but it is a bit scary.”

As a broker selling a service, it’s hard not to take every ‘no’ as a personal rejection, says Dale, but it’s important to understand that most things in business involve a process of trial and error – some with more errors than others.

Excuse #3: “Nobody else can do it as well as I can.”

If you really, really don’t want to do something, and you have the resources to do so, outsourcing or delegating to someone else is a great option, says Dale.

“We all think we have to do everything but you can get someone else to do it if you want. It costs money, so everything is a trade-off, but for example I don’t like admin or bookwork so I pay someone else to do it.”

This can often be a struggle for brokers if they have tendencies to micromanage every task, but if you hire the right person, you can learn to have faith in them. The key is having some realism, says Dale.

“Getting someone else to do something that you do really well doesn’t really mean that it’s going to be crap forever and everyone is going to hate you and your service is going to drop,” says Dale.

Excuse #4: “What jobs? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

When there’s nobody around to call you up on it, denial can be a little too easy, says Dale.

“[Business owners] usually understand when I point it out, they know they’ve been hiding from it or ignoring it or pretending they’ve got better things to do.

“If I say to someone ‘How many times today has your business asked someone to consider what you do?’ and they reply ‘None’, it’s a bit hard to hide from that.”

If you’re in a situation where you really are the only one that can tackle a task, and outsourcing isn’t an option, it’s time to take a reality check, says Dale.

Break the tasks up into achievable chunks, and then find someone to hold you accountable for completing them – whether that be a business coach, a sales manager, another broker or a partner.

“Look at the activity and not the end result. Rather than try and persuade yourself you need to turn into a sales and marketing demon and be amazing at it, do something like make two calls a day. When you do that and you get a few coffee meetings and people are generally supportive and nice, you continue to expand your circle and suddenly calling two strangers a day is a habit - and business comes out of it.”

It’s not always easy to hear, says Dale, but sometimes you need to face some hard truths as a business owner.

“If it was easy everybody would be doing it. You can either do it or get a job for an organisation where somebody else does all the hard bits. If you want to work for yourself you’re going to have to spend at least some time doing the things you don’t like – suck it up and get on with it.”

Written by: Amy Rosenfeld for Mortgage Professionals Australia

Enterprise Connect - Free Government Money!

Enterprise Connect is a Federal scheme that helps you hire useful consultants to help you grow your business.

Sometimes they'll pay for Business coaching, if they think that's what you need but they'll cover other consultants too, including marketing consultancy, strategic planning, HR, training (including leadership training for you and your team)

Don't hold me to this because the commitment is not clear - you have to go through the process and see what the government consultant recommends after consulting with you.

It's clear, though that's there is money to be had and that they are keen to give it to you. So do you qualify?

You should be $1m or $1.5m in turnover (sorry minnows - we missed out, too) and in the following industries:

  • Creative Industries
  • Defence Industry
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Manufacturing
  • Professional Services
  • Transport and logistics
  • Tourism
  • Printing and Publishing
  • Clean Technology
  • Food Processing
  • Resources Technology
  • Remote Enterprises

Check out the website. If this is too impenetrable, email me and I'll call the Enterprise Connect Business Adviser that I know and connect you with him. These guys are pretty helpful.

And if they suggest you get yourself a business coach, think of us :)

Jon Dale
Small Fish Business Coaching Byron Bay

Why Business Coaching Works: Capturing goals, values and dreams

In these articles I’m addressing some of the key concepts behind why our business coaching works so powerfully. I talked before about looking at the reality of the business, but it’s important to balance that with the less tangible goals, values and dreams.

Dreams? Really?

Yes. The fact is that most business owners are incredibly dedicated to the success of their business, and that’s built upon some powerful internal forces. Sure, there’s the fear of failure, and we’re constantly reminded of the basic struggle for a small business to survive. But you can’t stop there. You have to grab on to the powerful motivation of dreams and values. That’s the whole purpose behind the Values-Based Business blog that I started this year.

When you connect in with these positive forces, you have a lot more energy to do the hard work of improving your business. And when you’re just running away from the fear of failure, there’s no sense of direction. What are you running toward, not from?

When we start up a coaching engagement, we capture both the business goals and personal goals. The owner of a small business almost always has personal reasons for doing their work, or for the personal results they want to see. And the business, as its own entity, also has goals for what success looks like. I find that the degree of overlap between these two varies quite a bit, but it’s always incredibly useful to have the discussion.

What are your goals, values and dreams for YOUR business?

Carl Dierschow
Small Fish Business Coaching Fort Collins

Why business coaching works: Basing on reality

During the coming weeks, I’d like to share with you some of the reasons why our business coaching is so compelling. Today, let’s focus on one of the first steps.

The beginning point of a Small Fish coaching engagement is to look at the reality of where you and your business are at. Depending on the client’s needs, this looks like a complete business audit (“assessment” in American), or perhaps something more focused on the specific issues which have been identified.

The reason we do this is because we want the coaching work to be solidly based on reality. Yes, we all have dreams and goals, and that’s a part of setting the context. But if you stop there, there’s a good chance that the coaching will be focused more on feeling good rather than actually getting results. Our approach is to improve the business, which then of course naturally results in a happier client.

The second thing our audit does is to uncover great opportunities for improvement. These might be in areas that the client has forgotten or ignored. When you work with someone who’s outside your business and industry, they’re going to ask questions which might challenge some of your assumptions. Not in a combative way, but with the intent of finding opportunities.

And, in my experience, this happens all the time. One of my questions may often trigger my client to rethink, re-examine, and come up with new ways to solve problems.

The third benefit of our audit is to align around the top opportunities for improvement. It’s very common for a business owner to be embroiled in hundreds of major and minor issues, constantly busy but losing sight of the big picture. Spending time at the beginning looking again at that big picture helps put issues in perspective – not only at that point in time, but over the course of the coaching and for years to come.

When is the last time you comprehensively examined the reality of your business?

Carl Dierschow
Small Fish Business Coaching Fort Collins

What happens when you have to rebuild

As some of you know, I had a difficult year last year. Our franchise has come to a halt, due mostly to the GFC and I'm back to being a business coach instead of the CEO of a global business coaching franchise. (And divorced, broke, single Dad, reduced to eating worms from the garden)

Yes, I know, it's all very sad. I can hear the violins and your tears splashing on your keyboard as you read.

Well I'm fine, thanks for asking and this experience of rebuilding my personal coaching business has been interesting. I thought you might like to hear what I've learnt lately.

The markets are still a bit tough - people are a lot less ready to spend money than they were in 2008. They look a lot harder at your value and your cost before they commit.

Is it the same in your industry?

I'm told it is in business coaching - lots of coaches have gone off to find other income sources and given coaching away. Including most of the fishes, actually....

The markets appear to be picking up a little bit now - this year money has been freeing up slightly, small businesses are feeling a little less scared and starting to think about growth instead of survival. There's a palpable sense of coming out the other side everywhere you look.

So what did I learn?

You have to keep your head down and work harder and you have to keep doing what you know works.

Keep turning the wheel, as they say. I joined some networking groups and have been turning my marketing wheel as hard as I bloody well can for a year and a quarter. It's hard work and it takes stamina. But it is starting to look like I'll have a business again soon. Note that I'm not enjoying foreign holidays yet - it will take longer before things are right financially but know that sticking with what you know works, works.

That's the lesson - if you have a business that has something good to offer, the markets are still there. They didn't go away, they just stepped back a bit.

Vitally, don't panic and change direction. Certainly, don't panic and change direction over and over again. It doesn't work. Consistency (of your marketing especially) is a good thing and people are responding more to someone's longevity than ever.

I think I'll expand on this theme over the coming weeks as I get back into writing articles and get my head out of my own bum.

Ahh! Sunlight. It hurts my eyes...

Now that I've confessed it all to you, I want to know your story... have you learned a hard lesson this year in business? Leave a comment below

Jon Dale
Small Fish Business Coaching Byron Bay

What's Wrong With Multi Level Marketing?

I’ve talked with a number of people recently who are thinking about MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) business arrangements. For those unfamiliar with the term, the concept is that a company sells its products or services to a whole bunch of agents, who get rewarded for two things: (1) selling that product to customers; and (2) bring on new agents.

It can be quite powerful when it works well.

I wrote a blog post about this recently, outlining a process for evaluating opportunities such as this. But it’s important to explain why this model exists in the first place.

A company will be attracted to this model when it needs to reach a broad range of consumers, and doesn’t have resources to do it through advertising. Or when advertising would be a poor substitute for leveraging peoples’ deep personal relationships.

Unfortunately, those same companies can become addicted to collecting up-front fees from new agents, while not having the support to make them successful. Perhaps the product doesn’t deliver on the promises which are made. Maybe the training doesn’t prepare agents to become successful full-time sales people. And, commonly, people are selected who aren’t suited to sales.

In this kind of business, you’re a sales person, and you have to get good at it. Not only are you selling the product, but you’re also trying to convince more people to become agents. Without those two elements, you’re not going to have a business. At most, it’ll be an expensive hobby. At worst, you can lose your life savings.

But we do have examples of companies which have succeeded in this kind of business model. So if you’re thinking about entering into an MLM program, or if you’d like to use it to expand your current business, make sure you think it through very carefully. It’s a big commitment on both sides, and will change your business. Just make sure it’s for the better.

Carl Dierschow
Small Fish Business Coaching Fort Collins

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