I have been based in Canberra since 2009. Prior to this, I spent time in numerous Australian cities, as well as a 6 year stint in the Middle East based in Dubai, covering an area from Pakistan to Morocco working with a global franchised restaurant organisation in various roles... Read More
Business Coaching is a tool that you can use to help you drive change in your business
In some ways, appointing a business coach is akin to outsourcing an aspect of your business. Outsourcing is (usually) when you take a discrete business process and pay someone else’s business to ‘do’ it for you.
Now, outsourcing is often regarded as suitable for simple processes; common to many businesses and not requiring the special value proposition that is unique to your business. But more and more businesses are outsourcing high value business activities like marketing, sales, and even strategy. Large corporations are forever calling in management consultants to help them with some element of running the business.
You could almost consider a business coach as a management consultant for small business- you can outsource part of your business to your coach.
In this case, think of it as outsourcing the role of your manager- someone to keep you on track, honest and focused.
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If you are a small business in terms of the number of people engaged within it – i.e just you or you and a business partner, how do you manage to get everything done with a limited resource pool? Do you call on the support from a spouse or other family member or do you do what a lot of business owners do, and ‘have a crack at it’ all yourself?
This got me thinking back to the many business owners I have met and worked with, and made me reflect on just what roles family play in the business owners’ life? Upon reviewing, there are the typical broad range of engagement levels- from zero to fully partnered and aligned.
Let’s look at how family can help, especially if not actively engaged in the business (i.e. they may have a job, while you pursue your dreams!)
The non active family member has a number of options- they can do nothing, say nothing, not be involved, not support or encourage, just be a silent passenger to take if all is going well, or to critique if things arent going so well. Clearly this is a detrimental outcome that one would hope is not the case as it doesn’t do much for the person attempting to run a successful business- in a physical or emotional sense!
Even if the partner is working a demanding full time job there are still small things they can do to support the business owner- be it words of encouragement, offering suggestions for the business, or being a sounding board for ideas and concepts, but at least there is a sense of partnership.
For those who may not be in full time employment, but not active in the business there are many other ways they can support as well (of course some of these will depend on their skill set). They can assist with processing bookkeeping tasks, assisting with invoicing, helping to follow up on debtors, talking to their spouse about business challenges and ideas, seeking referrals from their own contacts, promoting the business with their contacts etc etc. Most of these are not major time consuming tasks, but they at least help demonstrate a level of teamwork with their spouse, who, if they are like most business owners, will go through the ups and downs of building their business.
The choice to go into business is one which takes a lot of guts to do, especially if you're leaving the prior security of paid employment, so knowing you have a supportive partner can make a big difference to the success or failure of the venture. If you are in this situation, take the time to ask your partner how they are going and if there is any small thing you can do to help. Whether or not they take you up on the offer is not the point- it is the thought of asking and the knowledge that you support them.
If your business has had an amazing first half year or a great quarter of results and profits- congratulations!
You may be patting yourself on the back, reflecting on how great that marketing campaign worked, or how the new product launch went so flawlessly, as you should do.
With this in mind it is important as to what you do next for the coming months in your business, as you have a few choices.
You may rest on your results and assume all will continue to flow in as it has
You may review or enhance the campaign with some tweaks
You may major reviews and new strategies
The most important process to do is to use this a time to re-focus and ‘start again’. This may sound a bit strange, but consider the great results as the first set of a tennis match. You have blitzed the competition and beaten them 6-0 and have the momentum, but then there is the post set break. It is during this, and during the game itself that your competitor has been watching what you have done, seen how you did it and made plans for how they will beat you in the second set.
You need to recognise what has been a great victory for sure, but your same strategy and approach you have just used will no longer apply, you need to revise it and make it stronger to start the second set again and play better. Failing to do this may result in you losing the next set, and longer term the game, all due to complacency.
So what are you going to do to tackle the second set and beyond?
And obviously like all sports, if you need a coach to help you with the second set strategy, then I’m sure I could recommend one!
Some recent events have found me in the situation of needing to review my business goals, plans and vision. This may be looked at as a painful and frustrating process, or as a great opportunity to re-focus. I see it as the latter. In doing so, I was rummaging through several books, articles and previous notes etc. and came across a book from David Novak, the then and still current CEO of my past employer.
Inside the book was a hand written note to me, which I got from him not long after one of his tours through the Jordan and UAE markets with me a few years ago. The note has given me thought to really look at this as an opportunity and use it to re-focus.
The lines that hit a reality were, “All the best to you as you pursue your dreams. Take it from me, you never know what you are capable of!”
This is so true in business. For those who have the power to dream and create a lifelong vision for their business, absolutely anything is possible. From any book, blog or article you read about successful people, there are always ups and downs, but the key is they bounce back, and NEVER lose track of that dream. For us in business, this is our vision. Make it clear, concise and go big with it, as you never know what you are capable of!
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 opinions on the direction of the business?
Lack of defined roles?
Imbalance of workloads and ‘fairness’?
Inequality in remuneration or benefits?
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.
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!
...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.
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.
Are You Going Backwards or Forwards - The Importance Of Business Planning
I was sitting in a train today facing the wrong way I was travelling and was thinking to myself I can see where I have been, but not where I am going. This got me thinking about life and also about how this may be relevant to business.
How many times do you look at where you have been, but not where you are going?
We always look back and say things like ‘that promotion didn’t work’, ‘I hired the wrong person’, ‘sales were bad last week’ etc. But how often do we look forward?
Looking forward to determine where it is you are going (or want to go) is a critical part in your planning for your business success. Take the time to work out where it is you want to go and look beyond the immediate horizon.
If you are ‘looking backwards,’ take the time to now start ‘looking forward’ at where you want to head. Make a plan, write it down and work out what needs to be done to get there.
It may be as simple as defining what your ideal team member looks like, does, and needs to do, or to plan sales forecasts, marketing plans etc.
The most important thing is to DO IT, and now is a great time.
Another year done! What will you change next year?
As we approach the end to yet another calendar year, it is useful for us to use the upcoming months to reflect on our successes or opportunities. What will your reflections reveal this year of you and your business?
Did you hit your goals for the year? – goals can be financial, growth based, development based or to focus on any aspect you wanted to achieve. The main point being that you actually had a goal for the year? Don’t panic though if you didn’t as all is not lost, set one now for next year.
Does your business look like you wanted it to look? – Physical size as far as turnover, number and quality of staff, the types of clients who buy from you etc.? If yes, then review what it was you did well and continue or enhance it. If no, then establish some plan of action to fix the gaps to make next year better.
Is your work-life balance where you want it to be? - have you had a holiday and was it stress free, or did you call the office every hour while away? Have you missed those important family events or kids sports days? Unfortunately it will happen, but how can you reduce this lost time opportunity in the coming months? Do you need to ‘let go’ a bit and have someone do some of your tasks?
Are you making more, or building an entity worth more than you would have if you had one of those 4 letter words, A JOB (well not technically one word, but it works for my point!). Should you go back to the corporate world, or have you got what it takes to turnaround your business if it was a bad year?
Now would be the perfect time to go on about the needs or benefits of getting a business coach, or utilising one of our awesome products like the Business Audit Consultancy, but I won’t do that (unless you decide to click on the links of course! What I will say is DO spend the time reflecting on your year in the coming weeks. Write down what worked and what didn’t, and spend the time to plan for an awesome year next year.
For those who have newsletters, blogs and regularly updated websites that need new content, I am sure you can relate to the challenge of finding things to write about each day, week, month or year!
Myself, I find I go in bursts of excitement (like lots of things I do). I do none for a long time, then go BANG and write a few to stockpile. We are lucky at Small Fish in that we all share the load in submissions to this awesome weekly newsletter- partly so we don’t bore you with Jon writing every week, but more so to expose all of us regularly.
I’m in one of those BANG moments right now, and turned to my friend GOOGLE to get some inspiration on blog topics. I found one suggestion that said to make a list of how your industry compares to day to day things or to other industries.
Great idea, but then I had to think of what to compare it with…..hmmm….got it, the weekly grocery shop.
So here goes….get ready for it, here is my list for the 7 ways Business Coaching is like the weekly trip to the supermarket (riveting hey?)
You might not like what you come out of there with, but you know you probably needed it in the long run.
You may need to buy extra tissues just in case things get a bit emotional.
The vegetable section may have items that don’t taste very good, but they are good for you, just like some of the ‘discoveries’ in coaching.
Make sure you select a coach carefully, a bit like picking a shopping trolley - some are a bit wonky and may try to take you in the wrong direction and you have to feel comfortable with it.
They both work better if you leave the kids at home.
Price alone isn’t the only driver of value in either case. You have to feel satisfied with the overall experience and the process
They are both less stressful if you have a plan and follow it.
Wow that wasn’t too bad…so as you can see shopping and business coaching are very similar! Can you think of some comparatives for your business? Would love to see them.