Small Fish - Small Business Tips and the Latest News

Why Business Coaching Works: Measuring Results

I’m a believer in the power of measurement, which is why it’s one of the important tools that Small Fish uses with clients.

It’s been said that Peter Drucker stated that “What gets measured, gets done,” but it appears that may be stretching his words a little. Nevertheless, I’ve directly experienced the power of measures and metrics in many different contexts.

The business world might have you believe that it’s all about measuring the money – particularly, revenue, margins, and profit. I don’t have a problem with those, but they often don’t give much guidance for day-to-day decisions.

Should your front-line employee give a refund under somewhat questionable circumstances? If they do, revenue and profit will go down in the short term. But revenue and profit might go up in the long term, because that customer is out giving testimonials to their friends.

But the employee isn’t sure, so she’ll seek help from your company policies and guidelines, or her supervisor, or perhaps from you. Maybe that’s one reason why you’re running around addressing a thousand little trivial decisions all day.

You’re frustrated, perhaps. You thought you’d captured this in the employee training, yet you’re still getting these kinds of questions.

Oddly enough, this might just be fixed if you measured the right things. What if:
· You knew that employees understood and internalized the employee training?

· Your employees knew that their personal success was linked more to customer satisfaction than to the daily sales total?

· You made a big deal of every customer-satisfaction success in front of the employees?

These are exactly the kinds of conversations I have with my clients, as we search for the right balance of measures which powerfully represent the goals of the business. Every company is different, because the goals are different.

Just don’t get too many measurements in place. Each one represents work and expense, and having too many sends the message that you’re not focused on anything in particular.

How do you measure your progress towards success in YOUR business?

Carl Dierschow
Small Fish Business Coaching Fort Collins

Building A New Team

If you want your teams to work better together, I have an incredibly simple tool which will quickly create great relationships: Have them succeed at working on something together.

Maybe a little more explanation will be helpful.

I’ve had many occasions to pull together disparate teams, often people who’ve never even met each other. Or they’re in partner organizations, but haven’t had to create relationships. Now all of a sudden, they’re supposed to put aside their personal points of view and start trusting the others they’ve been thrown together with.

Trust takes time. But you can help accelerate it.

So you pull the new team together, even if it’s just two people, and talk with them about their new shared goal. Next, you do an exercise which might last 30 minutes or 3 days. This exercise has meaning, but isn’t high risk. Not trivial, not zero risk, because that will reduce its significance. But something where people actually have to work together to achieve the common result, and will feel good about having achieved it together.

In some sense, it almost doesn’t matter what the exercise is, because the important outcome is that people feel good about having worked together. But part of feeling good is that the task has some meaning and importance. Just figuring out where to go for coffee may not carry that weight.

Back in my school days, the teacher sometimes assigned group projects. It wasn’t uncommon for this to drive the kids apart, because some would end up doing all the work, and resenting those they saw as the “slackers”. Not a well-designed exercise.

What does a great exercise look like in the work environment? Here are some examples:
• Create a high-level plan of action which is reasonably complete but not rigorous
• Pull together a presentation which incorporates all the points of view
• Capture and articulate some surprising things that people learned about each other

The idea is that everybody should make a contribution, the task should encourage people learning about and supporting each other, and there should be a shared result that people can feel good about.

Then the team can get down to the real work!

Carl Dierschow
Small Fish Business Coaching Fort Collins

Why Coaching Works

Coaching has grown rapidly over the past few years, and there is a reason... it works! We can tell you this every time we see you... In fact it is listed right on our homepage, about why it works. Let us refresh your memory:

1. Business Coaching helps you make more money (more profit). (Ferrari anyone?)

2. Business Coaching helps you take control of your business. (Who has a tiger by the tail?)

3. A business coach will help you to get some time back for yourself. (Work-life balance anyone?)

4. You and your coach might work on your own time management, people management, sales, marketing, cost reduction or systems. (Who knows where it could end up?)

But the point is, even if you have missed this every time you come to our homepage, we now have even more reason to back up why it works.

The latest copy of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) newsletter included this particular graphic which gives good solid statistics on the benefits that clients get from coaching. (Click on the image to make it bigger).

Now these are some stats to be proud of!

Do you have a success story from business coaching? We would love to hear if you do. Write us your reply on Facebook!

Jon Dale
Small Fish Business Coaching Byron Bay

5 Tips Of Productivity

  1. If you are achieving nothing stop working! Get outside, head to a café, take a nap – do something to clear your mind. Sitting at your desk berating yourself for not achieving is a complete waste of (nap) time. 

  2. Be realistic about the amount of time tasks take to complete. If a task is more than two hours consider breaking it down into smaller chunks so you don’t feel bogged down by one massive job. 

  3. Take a lunch break. Working through lunch because you are too busy to stop is a crock! I guarantee that even a 15-minute lunch break will increase your productivity in the afternoon.

  4. Stop micromanaging – if you are constantly watching and questioning what everyone else is doing, stop! It is a waste of your time and does nothing for the productivity of the people around you. Plus it is just plain irritating… 

  5. Outsource the jobs you are crap at. Why waste hours trying to balance the accounts if a bookkeeper can do the job for you faster and more accurately. 

Melanie Miller
Small Fish Business Coaching Gold Coast

Business Tips From A Business Coach

Business Tips From A Business Coach

Learn about the ten most commonly overlooked business and marketing opportunities that may hold your business back.

In his first published book, Tony Ozanne, a successful Canberra based Business Coach, shares ten most common opportunities for business owners that may be holding their chance for success back!

This book’s chapters include:

  • How to Organise Your Office for Success
  • Systemising Your Business and Developing Effective Processes
  • Profits through Building A TEAM 
  • Define Your Target Market
  • Use Scripts to Increase Sales Immediately
  • Profiting from Internet marketing…plus four more great tips.
This book is out in hard copy now, but as this is a limited print, you should secure your order NOW for $29.95 + $6.95 P&H.

Reserve your copy now
Click the link and you will be taken to a page where you can purchase the book securely over PayPal.

Conflict in Business

We all hopefully go into business with the intent for bigger and better things, or for financial riches or the lifestyle working for yourself is meant to bring i.e being accountable to self. This is all good in theory but what happens when a point of conflict comes into play?

Conflict can come from numerous fronts- from home, from your business partner or from clients; but from my experience the biggest issue and the one with the most potential for damage or destruction to a business is from business partners disagreeing.

This can become a cancer for the business if not eradicated.

So why is there conflict?
  • Differing personalities?
  • Differing opinions on the direction of the business?
  • Power struggles?
  • Lack of defined roles?
  • Imbalance of workloads and ‘fairness’?
  • Inequality in remuneration or benefits?
  • Etc

So what do you do? One approach is to understand how it is you deal with conflict in the first place, as we all deal with it differently. One great model is the TKI Model, or the ‘Thomas- Kilmann Instrument tool.' This identifies where you sit in the 5 various conflict management styles by the use of a simple survey to rank your status. The ranges are shown in the diagram below.

Interaction Matrix

These styles show the varying degrees of assertiveness and cooperativeness we use as our ‘default’ style and how one or more may dominate our style. Like a lot of these tools, the TKI model doesn’t state there is any one best way, but rather it allows an understanding of the dominant areas and allows for methods as to how to perhaps modify your approach to various situations.

If you find yourself in a level of conflict, one starting point is to complete such a tool to see your style and learn tactics to modify or to deal with people with competing styles. Another strategy is to seek an independent third party mediator (maybe a coach?) or a professional counsellor? The main key is to not allow business conflict to destroy the goals you are attempting to achieve. Get in early and focus on a resolution to solve and work together for the vision of the business. There are never any winners in a war, so don’t let your place of business become one!

Tony Ozanne
Small Fish Business Coaching Canberra

The Difference Between Being "Reactive" and "Proactive"

There is a big difference between being proactive and reactive in your business. Successful business owners focus on proactive. Being reactive is not only stressful and potentially expensive, it can kill your business.

Proactive business owners;

  • Plan ahead – they know what the next 1, 6 and 12 months should look like.
  • Have budgets – they know what their goals are in terms of sales, customer retention, average sale etc. They also plan their marketing spend and set goals for return on investment. 
  • Understand the financials – they don’t wait until their accountant tells them business is ok to know business is ok. They check their sales, profit & loss and balance sheet regularly. 
  • Focus on the business and customers they want to attract – they know who is profitable and who is not. They don’t waste valuable time and money attracting the wrong customer to their business. 
Reactive business owners;
  • Never plan – they are scrapping by day to day hoping they will still be in business in 6 months.
  • Never set budgets – they are unsure how or why budgets are valuable or simply don’t see any benefit in having them, some are far too scared to set goals.
  • Hide from the financials – they don’t understand or want to know about the financials of the business. They hope that someone else has this under control for them. They are not sure who they owe money to and worse who owes money to them! 
  • Take any business from anyone anytime – they are so desperate for cash they take any customer they can regardless of how profitable the work might be. They continue to work for customers that fail to pay on time. They discount prices and under quote just to get work in the door.

Do you identify with the proactive or reactive business owner? Maybe you identify with a bit of both. There is no shame in seeing your self reflected in the reactive business owner. Business can be scary; the financials alone frighten the heck out of most people. The important thing is that you do something to change. It is almost a new financial year, time for new challenges, new ideas and a fresh approach!

Melanie Miller
Small Fish Business Coaching Gold Coast

Are You "Road Blocking" Your Success in Business?

How many roadblocks do you have in your business? A roadblock is something that you use as an excuse as to why you are not getting the important stuff done. The important stuff is the money making stuff! That means getting on the phone to drum up sales or book appointments, or starting that big project that could help grow your business.

Roadblocks are dangerous and using them allows you to continually sabotage your own success by creating diversions that are not going to lead you anywhere but to exactly where you are today.

Still confused? Here is a list that I have come up with, tick off the ones you allow to block your success;

  • My office is messy – I need time to sort it before I do anything else
  • I don’t have my database set up properly so there is no point in calling anyone
  • My staff are constantly interrupting me so I never get anything done
  • Our sales material is out of date so I won’t call anyone
  • I have too many small jobs such as data entry or filing to move on to larger projects
  • I spend all day checking and answer emails, there is no time for anything else
  • I have to get through my never ending “to do” list first
  • The phone is always ringing with people needing my attention
  • I don’t have enough hours to get to the big stuff
There are thousands of road blocks that small business owners use as daily self sabotage on their own business. There is rarely one that I have heard that does not have a logical and relatively easy answer.

Be honest! How many are you guilty of? How many “urgent” tasks do you allow yourself to get sucked into to avoid doing the “important” stuff?

Melanie Miller
Small Fish Business Coaching Gold Coast

Energy Sucking Black Holes in Business

I meet a wonderfully wide range of people in a typical week, and this one has been no exception. Despite the huge differences, a common theme has been emerging – the phenomenon of Energy Sucking Black Holes. We all have things we know we should do, but haven’t acutally done yet. There is a variety of reasons for this – we’re busy doing other things, the job is not something we enjoy doing or the project is just too big and scary to even think about. Sounding familiar? 
So this job sits on the ‘to do’ list… glaring at you! It starts to haunt you – it interupts your sleep and invades your private moments of solitude and reflection. It begins to take on a life of its own. As a consequence, whatever the reason you haven’t got around to doing this thing seems to become more real also – if the job was scary yesterday, its terrifying today! If you might have found 5 minutes to make a start on it yesterday, there’s no way you can do that today… you're just too busy!!!
You know the job is important, or else you would have crossed it off your ‘to do’ list days ago. Bad things will happen if it doesn’t get done. That makes you afraid. Fear breed paralysis. And saps your energy. Before you know it… you’ve created an Energy Sucking Black Hole. To an outsider, they’re easy to spot. The person your talking to is distracted. They’ve got 100 good reasons why the job hasn’t been done yet. They are busy doing other stuff. But you can see the energy being drained and performance drops. The spiral is self-perpetuating. 
STOP! Step outside yourself for a moment, stand next to me and look at the situation as an outsider. We don’t have the emotional baggage, things are much clearer from out here. How to tackle this sucker? Here’s a few techniques to get you started. 
Forget an A+, you just need a ‘Pass’. Perfectionists often set themselves very high standards. Often, this is a good thing. But not when it makes the bar so high you’ll never get over it. Aim to get the job done… just done. Nothing fancy, just finished. There is more good in a project finished to a reasonable level than the best project in the world never getting off the ground. 
Take a different approach. If the idea of walking into your office, turning on your PC and writing that report fills you with dread, don’t do it. Put on a Hawiian shirt, grab the laptop and find yourself at a table at that cool café on the beach. Or take some fancy note paper and a purple fountain pen. We’re after a result here, it doesn’t matter how it gets done. 
We all know how to eat an elephant. One bite at a time. So make your first step breaking this huge, scary monster of a project down into cute little bite sized pieces. 

Step 1. Write your plan. Make a fancy title page. Turn off the PC and celebrate the completion of Step 1 with a nice glass of wine. Just make sure you come back for a similarly easy Step 2 tomorrow. 
Sorting out your filing cabinet, writing your marketing plan or making an appointment with your bookkeeper can be daunting, but the pain of dealing with an Energy Sucking Black Hole is far worse. Go on… just do it! 

Richard Everson
Small Fish Business Coaching Canberra

The HRMWEB Recipe for Better Customer Service

...whipping your staff admin processes into shape!

Your workforce is your most important, and often your biggest, business asset, so better structure and processes around managing your staff offers many obvious benefits such as time savings, money savings, better staffing decisions, increased control and peace of mind. However, there are benefits that are not always so obvious... one of those is better customer service!

Essentially, your staff are your business. They are your representatives, your front line, the driver behind your day to day operations. Your product and service offerings, customer service and reputation all rest on your staff - so you need to ensure you manage them effectively.

It’s easy to understand that when your administrative processes and your workforce are well organised and working effectively it results in a professional looking business (which consumers do notice) and happier staff - and that means better customer service and a better overall customer experience!
See our three key ingredients to gearing your workforce towards better customer service...

1) The “right” number of staff

It’s the thing that keeps you up at night - figuring out how many staff you need working at any given time, who will work what shifts and what's it going to cost you. It's called rostering and if you don't have processes around how you do it, it will cost you time and your business money.

Not enough staff rostered on - customer’s won’t get the level of service they expect, you'll lose sales and the staff you do have on will be overworked and stressed. Too many staff rostered on - it’s a waste of resources and money... and your staff are bored and frustrated.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: You are at a bar... the line up is 5 people deep. It’s slow, it’s frustrating and all you want is a beer or a wine or maybe even just a soft drink. Is that too much to ask? It is a bar after all – isn’t serving drinks their staple?

Rather than wait you bail and go to the bar down the road (there is always a bar close by!). Not only did that bar lose your business, you’ll tell everyone about that bad experience you've had and you’ll think twice about going back there or maybe you’ll never go back there again!

All that bar needed to do was make sure it had more staff members on to serve... imagine the extra cash that business could make by putting just one extra person on. Now, what if they could use software to predict their “busy” periods and suggest appropriate numbers of staff. Or what if they could see it was getting busy and send a broadcast SMS to all the staff the system knows is free to work a shift at that time – a staff member could be there within 15mins! This is all very possible!

2) Organised and informed staff

If you want your staff to feel like a part of your business "team" then treat them in a way that shows you respect them. Keep them well informed and manage them in a way that is consistent.

Your staff want to be kept in the loop and want easy ways to communicate with each other and with you. Most importantly they want to know you have things under control. They want to be able to come into work and do their job. No one likes surprises!

When your staff feel secure in your ability to manage them and run your business that attitude of calmness and confidence is passed onto the customer.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: Joe comes to work and does his hours, he fills in his paper timesheet... it’s hard because he has to rely on his memory quite a bit but he uses some post it notes to jot down his times every day to make it easier.

Every time his pay is deposited into his account he goes through it with a fine tooth comb making sure to match it up with the post it notes he has been keeping. It’s such a hassle for Joe but he has to do it because his pay packet is sometimes wrong. Joe doesn’t want to be underpaid or overpaid because every time there is an error it is such a hassle to chase up and takes a lot of time for him to do so.

All he wants is for his work hours to be documented accurately and his pay to be correct every time. Is that too much to ask? He does his job properly why can’t he be paid properly? Eventually frustrated, Joe goes and finds a job with another business that has automated systems in place that make his life much easier! Joe was a great worker and the customers loved him... he was a great asset that is now lost.

If only Joe’s employer had an automated roster, timesheet, pay rate calculation system. That way Joe could fingerprint on and off his shifts, have his hours automatically recorded, have his pay rates calculated automatically and then that could all be sent through to payroll. With the reduced reliance on human intervention in that process, Joe could ditch his post-it notes and have the confidence in knowing his pay packet is correct!

3) Happy staff

It's simple. If your staff are happy it will influence how they behave with your customers. It's all about positive vibes - most customer experience goes beyond words - attitude and actions is where it really counts.

A major gripe of staff is how they are managed especially with regards to administration or as we like to call it "the paperwork". For instance, staff want to be allocated shifts based on their availability and they want to easily see what shifts they are working. They want to do as little admin paperwork as possible - they see it as a waste of time, and it usually is!
Having sound processes around how you manage your staff will make their lives, and yours, easier!
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: Susan always makes sure her manager knows what times she is available to work. She studies and works part time at another job so she has to manage her time effectively and make sure she is super organised.

Even though she goes to the trouble of detailing her availability in emails and post it notes her manager is always losing them or not looking at them when he does up the roster. So many times she finds out about shifts less than a week in advance or she is rostered on to work at times she has already said she can't do. She has had to amend other parts of her life many times to accommodate shifts that she didn't know she was working.

Every time she is given an incorrect shift she gets frustrated and often the manager asks her to help out and find a replacement. Eventually Susan becomes so frustrated that her "needs" are not being taken into account that it starts to show when she is dealing with customers. She still does a competent job but she is less than happy and customers see that - they walk out of the store saying things like "gee, it would have been nice if I could have at least gotten a smile". They will get that smile somewhere else and then you lose their business.

Staff feel respected when their employer takes into account that fact they are human and have lives outside of work, that they like to know what they are doing in advance and that they can't just drop everything and work a shift. If only Susan's work had an automatic rostering process. She could enter her availability online and the rostering software would take it into account when building rosters. Then the system would sms her the shifts she is to work, well in advance! She could sms back to confirm she can work those shifts and if for some reason she couldn't work a shift wouldn't it be great if the system could find a replacement for her. How easy would that be for Susan! How easy would it be for her manager as well!

...and of course with any good recipe there needs to be a binding ingredient: Technology.

To enable the above three ingredients to be achievable you need to add a fourth “binding” ingredient that pulls everything together – and that of course is, technology.

The days of rostering via Excel spreadsheet, staff availability scribbled on bits of paper, phone calls to communicate shifts, written timesheets based on memory, calculators to add up hourly rates and fat fingering numbers into payroll, are over. Those frustrating, error prone tasks are now able to be completed quickly, easily and accurately by software solutions that are geared specifically to helping administer a business workforce.

Look for a cost effective, web-based, easy to use software product backed by a provider who will deliver you a fully supported solution. Web-based is the way technology is moving (you will hear “the cloud” mentioned a lot these days!) and it’s great because you can access your system from anywhere with an internet connection – so you can run your rostering, payroll, check what staff are on duty etc from home, work, Hawaii – wherever!

Look for guarantees as well - like metrics on exactly how much time and money the product is likely to save you. Also your provider should be able to do continual evaluations and analysis of your “savings & benefits” for a couple months after the software solution is implemented - just to check its working properly for your business.

Be careful of big up-front costs. Older desktop based solutions will cost a lot up front as you are paying for expensive and probably already out of date hardware. Look for solutions that have small set up costs, require minimal hardware and charge an ongoing monthly rate that is calculated on a “per person” basis – that way you will only pay for what you need.

...and most importantly look for a provider who will actually get to know your business processes before they even suggest a solution. The more they find out about how you currently manage your staff the more value they can offer in terms of streamlining your processes and matching software to your business needs.

In Summary...

Streamlining staff admin processes will result in better staffing choices and a smoother running and happier workplace for owners, managers, and employees. The flow on will be obvious as a better work environment will result in a better customer experience.

Streamlining may seem like it’s a difficult or costly thing to do, but it’s not. There are tools out there that can be tailored to your business to quickly and easily streamline your staff admin processes. Just be sure to look for a cost effective, web-based, simple to use product that does everything you need and is backed by a provider who will deliver you a fully supported solution.

Irene Hazilias
Director, HRMWEB