Are you up for the business challenge? Ask most business owners and they’ll tell you that running a business may be worthwhile but is not easy. And as your business grows, so do the complexities of running it. If you think that you can be the boss and it will all run smoothly without you, think again. If you aren’t willing to put in the work in the beginning to set up the culture, the systems, the processes and the automations that need to happen so that it can run profitably without you, you are setting your business up for failure down the road.
I’ve been running a business for 20 years and have met enough business owners along the way to understand:
what needs to be done,
what the common pitfalls are and
the right chess moves to make.
So here are 10 homes truths you need to bring on board if you want to run a business and have it still going 5 years from now.
1. It’s all your fault – be OK with that
If there’s anything not working in your business, that’s your fault. Period. It’s not your staff’s fault. It’s not ANYONE else’s fault. It’s yours.
Either they are following systems that don’t work (and that’s your fault).
Or you haven’t put any systems in place in the first place (so of course it’s all going to go to hell in a hand basket).
Or they are not following systems that do work (and the fact that they aren’t following them is, you’ve guessed it, your fault).
It’s a valid business challenge, but whichever way, it’s down to you to
put the systems in place,
fix them when they need to change, and
hire and train the right staff to do the work the right way.
If things aren’t working, YOU didn’t put in the right checks and balances in the first place, and YOU didn’t act soon enough to stop the downward spiral when it started. Man up. It’s ALL your fault. You need to be OK with that to be a business owner.
Once you get this, everything else will fall into place because you’ll do everything to ensure the ship is not going down on your watch.
2. Eliminate a major business challenge – hire the RIGHT staff
It seems like a no-brainer, but this is where most of the foundational work needs to be laid. Too many business owners try to fit square pegs into round holes. It happens because:
They make a hiring mistake and want to give the employee a chance.
Or they hire cheap and don’t get the skills essential for the role they are hiring for.
Then when things don’t work out, they don’t feel good letting people go because they know that, ultimately, they made the hiring mistake.
It’s not the employee’s fault they can’t do the job. YOU put them in the wrong role. That’s a business challenge that will snowball if left to run its course unchecked.
But it’s not your responsibility to make them do the job right. It’s not your responsibility to train them to do the job. They should walk through the door on the first day already highly competent, not only to do the job, but to add value in improving it. You aren’t doing your staff member any favours if you keep them in a role they aren’t suited for and you will run yourself into the ground trying to pick up the pieces in the process.
Hire qualified people for every role so the only training that needs to happen is to have them understand how their role fits into your processes and systems. Their ability to do the job right shouldn’t even be a question because you should have established that in the hiring process. Remember, hire slow, fire fast.
3. Hire better than you
Hire experts for the roles you can’t do. You aren’t good at accounts. Don’t do it. Hire someone who can. You aren’t good at Facebook ads. Don’t struggle trying to make sense of it. Hire someone who has already gotten results. Hire people that will bring ADDITIONAL VALUE to your business with the knowledge they bring with them.
When you get people who know what they are doing in each role, you can focus on working ON your business not IN it.
4. Systemise everything or it will always be a business challenge
Think you are running a small business so you don’t need to document Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)? Wrong!
Firstly, that tells me your mindset isn’t on growth. When you get in more staff, they are going to need instructions to follow, otherwise it’s a free for all. Secondly, you don’t want to be repeating yourself over and over. Document down how EVERYTHING is done to the last detail. If it happens in your business, no matter how insignificant, get it documented – down to how to change the liquid soap in the bathroom! If it doesn’t get documented, it doesn’t get done or done right.
5. Trust that your staff want to do well
Keeping staff happy and motivated is a serious business challenge. Ignore it at your peril. Everyone wants to feel good about their job. They want to be recognised and respected. They want to feel they contributed. When they make a mistake, it’s just that. They aren’t trying to spite you or bring down your business. (If they are, you have a serious issue and need to resolve that.) Respect your staff, involve them, and you’ll see the returns.
6. Blame the system not the staff
Be ready to deal with the next business challenge as it comes up, for it will. Don’t play the blame game. Don’t be a victim in your business. The beauty about having systems in place is that when something goes wrong, you can look to the system to see why it didn’t catch that. Where is the leak you need to plug?
Actually, having things go wrong is an OPPORTUNITY.
It’s an opportunity to improve the business.
It’s an opportunity to grow your staff.
It’s an opportunity for good internal communication.
It’s an opportunity to fine-tune your company culture.
It’s an opportunity for teamwork.
When the system fails, get the staff on the ground working the system to come up with the solutions. Don’t blame them for the system failure. Often these issues happen because your business has grown and processes have changed and something in your system got overlooked. Here’s your opportunity to fix it so that issue doesn’t happen again. By involving your staff in the solution, instead of getting reprimanded, your staff feel rewarded for being able to contribute and add value.
And if the system works and it was a staff failing, look for the reason why. Is it a one off, are they having personal problems, is it a repeated issue? If it is a repeated issue and despite corrective training it still persists, you need to have an honest conversation with the staff about moving on.
Everyone makes mistakes. It will happen. No system is going to catch them all. Accept that. If it’s a first instance, have an open discussion and put training in place on the assumption that they didn’t know or they forgot. Don’t assume that they don’t care.
7. Adopt technologies that help you automate what you can
The less you leave to human error, the fewer staffing issues you will have and the fewer mistakes will impact the business and your customer relationships. Look at every repetitive task in your business. If you have to repeat something, it can be automated. I’ve listed what I use and that’s why I recommend them. Full disclosure – I am an affiliate for some, but only because I use them myself and recommend what works for me.
Use payroll software that automates the calculations and automatically generates the required staff salary and tax slips. I use hreasily.com
Use accounting software that keeps you in the picture of your current and projected finances and that will automate invoice billing for recurring items. I outsource to an accountant and keep track using xero.com
Save time with software that will turn quotations into invoices at the touch of a button, removing time-consuming duplicate data entry
Get software that automates your workflows and sends reminders, so nothing gets forgotten. I use dubsado.com for these last two points.
Put your social media content distribution on autopilot with software that releases it for you. I use eclincher.com to preschedule all my posts.
Find a system that allows you to set tasks and separate your teams. I use trello.com to manage projects, especially my marketing and funnels.
Get a marketing solutions that gives you site hosting, unlimited landing pages, membership sites, funnel building, affiliate tracking, video hosting, course creation, payment gateways and email marketing ALL IN ONE. I use simplero.com
8. Learn to accept there are better ways to do things
Just because you are used to doing something one way doesn’t mean there isn’t a better, quicker or easier way. Instead of having a closed mind and not entertaining suggestions from your staff for improvement, have an open mind and ask yourself, what if this works? Yes, technology is only as good as the data input, so instead of seeing it as yet another business challenge by assuming the data input will be wrong, come at it with the mindset that you can systemise and train so that the data input will be right. The insights you will get from automation will be eye opening, and your business will be the better for it.
9. Create a culture of open communication
Be open with your staff about your vision and bring them along with you. Paint the picture of growth and that they all play an important role in that. Because you’ve set up systems that don’t lay blame on your innocent staff, you can create a culture of inclusion and collaboration:
where it’s OK to make mistakes and grow from them, and
where ideas for new ways are valued and tried.
Not all leaders are created equal and that’s OK. Compare Steve Jobs and Bill Gates – two very successful business innovators with two very different styles of leadership. There’s no one style better than the other. Your personality and natural strengths will dictate the kind of leader you will be. Just realise that if you tend to be the Steve Jobs type, have a layer of leadership under you that deals with the day-to-day staff communications. If you are a big picture person, know that your right-hand person needs to be detail oriented.
10. Above all, be the leader you set out to be
Remember that this is your company and that your employees look to you for direction and guidance. By putting all the above in place, you are setting yourself up to lead by example and run a business prepared for growth. You will have freed your time to focus on leading not fighting fires, working on developing your business rather than the day-to-day running of it. Replace yourself as manager as soon as you can afford to do so.
When should the customer come first? When you are running a business, it is good business sense to have processes in place that everyone needs to abide by. It improves customer service ultimately. That is when they are well thought through.
Empower your staff on the ground. They have the intel!
Test your SOPs, get feedback from your staff on the ground and, once the processes are implemented, train your staff to use them and enforce them. However, and most importantly, empower them to recognise that there are times that the rules don’t make sense and processes should be tweaked. Obviously the larger the organisation, the harder this is to monitor, but that shouldn’t stop you empowering your staff to flag when things don’t work. It’s your staff that get the flak from the customers at the end of the day, not top management. An example of this in action is one hotel I know that gives their frontline staff a daily budget to delight guests and carte blanche to bend the rules in favour of delivering excellent customer service.
What am I talking about here? Banishing rules for rules’ sake that are enforced “to the letter” despite the customer trying to reason the lack of logic. In other words, not caring about the question – when should the customer come first?
That’s how my mum’s always done it
It reminds me of the story of the leg of lamb. I always use this example in my training. You’ve probably heard it, or a version of it, before but, just in case, let me tell it here.
There was a newly married couple. On their first Sunday married, the wife prepared Sunday roast, a leg of lamb. Her new husband watched her prepare it and, as she chopped off the end of the joint and discarded it, he asked her why since there was plenty of room in the roasting tray for the full joint. Her reply was that it was what her mother always did, so she followed.
The next time he visited his in-laws, the husband made it a point to ask his mother-in-law why she always chopped off the end of the joint. The mother-in-law replied that she wished she could cook the full joint but her roasting tin was too small to fit the whole leg.
The daughter had followed her mother’s processes without questioning why.
If it doesn’t make sense, question why!
If it creates friction in customer service, question why!
When should the customer come first?
What inspired this post today? As with a lot of my posts related to customer service, or lack of it, this piece is inspired by a visit to the bank today.
I had to make a visit to submit a form. Yes, even in this digital age and despite Covid, the bank isn’t up to digital transformation. Sigh. Anyhow. Needs must. So I submitted the form and was told to wait outside the branch (Covid safety). The staff came back after a long wait to say my postcode was wrong. This is something I’d been through with them at length mid last year. The postcode I use is correct. I should know. It’s my office. I work there. I signed the lease – the one with the postcode on it. The bank seems to feel it should be another number belonging to a building across the square, NOT my office.
It was my bad. I should have used the number the bank had and was happy to change it to whatever they had in their records. “Just tell me which postcode you want me to put and I’ll countersign the change,” I said in resignation, just hoping to complete the visit quickly. This was done and off he went to get approval once again, only to return with the observation that the phone number I had put as my business line was wrong.
I’m sorry? Wrong? Now I don’t know my own phone number as well? He explained that it wasn’t in their records. Aah. OK, so it wasn’t wrong then. Just not known. I said it had changed last year and that it was correct. I asked if he could change it in their records. My signature was now on this form twice after all. Surely that was authorisation enough?
That would be too easy. I would need to fill out another form for that. Could I step back into the bank, he asked, to complete the form.
I didn’t have the time to go through that. Last experience in the same branch to fill out the change of address form took over an hour and then another three months to get them to accept an address they thought was valid. I didn’t have any reason to believe changing the phone number would go any more smoothly. Again I asked: what phone number would you like me to put? Would my mobile be OK? You have that on file.
He agreed and I countersigned the change. Three signatures on one form now.
At least I had the form submitted and could get on with my day. But it still left me wondering – when should the customer come first?
How it could (should) have gone …
Can I check your postcode and phone number as they don’t match our records? (.i.e. get all info at one time and check it in one conversation rather than going back and forth.)
After my explanation on both points …
OK. I understand. Could I trouble you to change the postcode to the one we have agreed to have on file while I update your new phone number in our records since the signature here matches our records.
I know that’s asking a bit much. They have rules in place and there’s data protection to consider and all that. But do they serve? When should the customer come first? Could staff be empowered to update contact records on the spot with a signed authority that can be scanned and filed as proof? I may have left as a happy customer.
I’d like to think my customers aren’t put to unnecessary trouble just to follow rules for rules’ sake. I hope yours aren’t too.
How to create great content without the overwhelm? As business owners, we all want to be visible, to get exposure for our business. One way of doing that is to create great content. So I want to look in this blog at what is content, why do you need to create it, what kind of content should you be putting out there for your type of business and your personality, and how you can do it without being overwhelmed and by working smart.
What is content?
Rather than assume everyone knows, as they don’t, this term needs to be explained before I move on. Content is educational, promotional and personal material you put out on social media, on your blogs and on your website, or in printed materials that helps people to get to know you or your products and services, or gets to understand through educational material why they benefit form your offer, why to trust you as a brand and eventually make a buying decision.
Why do you need to create great content?
It can be tempting to think it’s a waste of time creating so much content especially when you feel it isn’t directly driving sales. Most of the time you are correct, it isn’t going to directly drive sales because mostly it’s not promotional content that you are putting out. So is it worth the time? Well, I’d say make the most of your time and work smart. More on how to do that later in this article.
Content really helps your business in several ways. It can help to promote your brand so clients become familiar with you and eventually begin to trust you. When they trust you, they are more likely to buy from you. It also helps to establish you as an authority in your niche. As your content starts to be shared and spreads, you will also gain more followers. Again that helps to build trust. So with content, you are growing a pile of a different sort of currency – trust.
What kind of content can you create?
There are different mediums of content you can create and the ones you choose will be the ones that suit your current skills and your personality type. The basic choices are:
You don’t have to do every type of content there is, just what you feel comfortable doing. Or you can outsource the creation of most of it (except the videos you appear in) to a Virtual Assistant.
If you are not comfortable on camera, you may be better doing written or audio content. If you hate writing but have a flare for the dramatic, video would be your obvious medium. I would recommend you try to become more comfortable on video as this tends to reach further on Facebook than static content and by putting content on YouTube, you take advantage of one of the world’s best search engines.
Written content is great for getting found on Google. The more good quality original content you can put out in writing on your website, the more chance you stand of showing up in searches for relevant content.
Having a blog on your site is a great way to organically grow your website page by page with good written content. It is not a feature reserved for foodies and travel writers. It’s a proven strategy you can use to get seen on line in any business.
A case in point, one year, we were asked to provide a transcription service for an existing client. It wasn’t a service we provide and we don’t list it as such on our website, but it was something we could easily provide for our client, so we did. In that week of doing it, we wrote a “behind the scenes” blog about the experience and posted it on our blog. Shortly after that, we started to get enquiries for transcription services and at first we were confused. Why are people suddenly phoning about this? we asked. Then we realised it was the blog article that was coming up in people’s searches! So be careful what you blog about!
You can also write long-form copy on your Facebook and other social media posts. These do well and yes, people do read them. How much they read depends on how engaging you make the article, but don’t avoid doing this type of content based on a misconception that people don’t read. One of my clients put out a long post on Facebook and because the article was engaging, emotional and relatable, it went viral.
Using illustrations, images, photos and infographics are great ways to add engaging content to the mix. If you are strategic about this, you can create 3 months’ worth in one go and schedule out the posts to drip daily.
I put out a lot of inspirational quotes using my Fairy Godmother illustrations and this helps to perpetuate the brand. You can also take photos of yourself in different scenarios and poses and put quotes next to these.
Infographics are a great way to make a complex idea easily understandable, especially processes.
If you aren’t comfortable on video just yet but know you need a show, some way to reach a wider audience while giving of yourself not just in static form, then a podcast may be the answer for you. Creating a podcast show is not as difficult as you think. In fact it’s really easy once you know the equipment and software you need. There are free and paid podcast hosting platforms you can choose from. You simply choose your format, i.e. just you, or interviews with others, then decide on the average length of each episode and how often you will release an episode.
I built my podcast myself, including designing the visual tile used to promote the show online. I designed this with Canva and the intro and outro recordings were edited using video editing software.
The hosting software will place your podcast to all the main places where people listen to their chosen podcasts like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.
Having a podcast with interviews is a great way to grow your listening audience as you will have your audience and your interviewee’s audience tuning in at the same time.
You also get to interview people from all around the world that you would never have met otherwise.
As mentioned above, videos get the most research and you get to draw on the massive search engine that is YouTube as well.
If you can do Facebook lives, so much the better. Nowadays you can use StreamYard a streaming service to stream your live video presentation to multiple platforms at the same time. I regularly stream simultaneously to my Facebook Page, my Facebook Group and my YouTube channel.
Some people are shy to go live as they may not get many live viewers, that’s OK. Firstly, you can announce on Facebook the time you intend to go live so those interested may turn up. Secondly, it doesn’t really matter if no one’s listening as people will watch the replay anyway. Remember the money is always in the follow up.
So what can you put out videos about?
These are common to do. Quickly plan out your topic structure with 3-4 main teaching points and you have a handy video presentation in the making.
Video is a great way to demonstrate products, how they work and their benefits. You can also use case studies in the same way. Show on video how you have helped a customer, their issue before you met, what you did for them, how you did it, and the proven result you delivered.
Testimonials on video are the most compelling you will be able to show.
You know, you’ve seen these online. How to lose X kg in 10 days, the ice water bucket challenge, etc. These can be highly engaging as you get people to do the challenge with you and post their daily results.
How to save time by repurposing one piece of content multiple times
This is how I do it:
I record a how to video of me speaking on camera and use that for social media and YouTube.
I take the audio recording and make this a Podcast episode.
I cut up snippets of the video content to show one by one on social media as short videos of around 30 seconds to a minute each. I could get between 10-20 pieces from one video.
I play the original video with Google Docs open and the Voice Typing tool turned on and Google Docs transcribes the whole video for me. That gets edited and becomes a blog article or two.
I send the transcript to my VA and ask her to pull out interesting quotes from the text and they become my static image posts and quotes. Again I can get 10-30 quotes out of one transcription.
And all I did was record a 30-min video and now have around 50 pieces of content!
When the first attempt at anything doesn’t work, do you give up or stick with it and try again?
Of course, you try again. Why would marketing your business be any different? Like anything else it requires consistent marketing.
I want to talk today about this misconception some business owners have when they’re trying to market the business themselves. This is something that I cover in my new book 11 Reasons Why Your Business Is Not Growing, which covers 11 typical mistakes that businesses make when trying to market and brand their business.
So I’m covering now one of the ways businesses make a mistake in only trying something once and, when it doesn’t work, they give up.
One reason is that they expect immediate results, so when they don’t get sales conversions they decide the approach they used doesn’t work. But what they fail to realise is that sales and marketing are different and work differently.
Sales will give immediate results while marketing is more like planting a seed and you’re going to watch it grow over time as you build a relationship with the client. It won’t be an immediate sale. You’ve got to build that trust. People don’t buy from you until they trust you and know you.
The way to build that trust is through consistent marketing
I see this with a lot of customers requesting my copywriting service for a single email. They want to book one email, as if that is going to do miracles for them. I have to explain that the content needs to be dripped consistently over a period of time. When the first email doesn’t bring in great results, it isn’t that it didn’t work. It’s just the first phase in warming up your audience.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. You’ve been there. Think of all the times you’ve received unsolicited emails offering you something the sender is sure you’ll need. The email arrives when you are busy at work and you didn’t really see it at all. You certainly didn’t open it.
Then the next email arrives from the same sender and this time the sender got lucky. You saw it and it roused your interest. You make a mental note to look at it later when you have time. Of course that time never comes and it gets buried with the rest.
The next time you get the email, you actually move it into your to-do folder to look at later. But it isn’t until the next email arrives that you think, you know I really need this, let’s have a look now.
Imagine if that sender had only sent you the first email and decided this email marketing lark doesn’t work!
Now, statistics prove that your first email will land in a few people’s inbox on exactly the day that they needed to see it and they have an exact need for it and they respond straight away. But more often than not, you need to work at building that trust first.
So think of ways to get emails to your clients on a regular basis and when you have an offer, make it a campaign not a single email!
Keep marketing this way often and even if they don’t need your services now, you’ll be top of mind when they do! Adopt a strategy of consistent marketing.
When building your brand, don’t try to be what you are not. That’s hard to live up to. Build an authentic brand that isn’t trying to be something it’s not.
You want to show up as yourself, but the highest version of yourself. But it needs to be YOU!
Really own who you are as a brand. Own what it is that you stand for and don’t try to be something you’re not.
A good example I can give you of this would be the hotel industry. In the hospitality industry, hotels, as you know, are graded with stars. You can find three star hotels, four- or five-star hotel, you get the idea. The expectations and the experiences at hotels of different stars is different. The star rating serves to tell guests the standard they should expect.
They bring different values to their customers and obviously different price points and different experiences within those price points. So if you go to a three-star hotel, you’re going to expect a certain level of service, a certain standard which is going to be for the most part quite acceptable. What I’m saying is, if you are setting your brand to be a three-star brand, you don’t want to market it as a five-star. You don’t want to try to be that five-star brand if you are actually only a three star. There’s nothing wrong with being a three-star brand. Own it if that’s what you are and market to the segment that will respond to that brand. Put out messages and the values of that brand at the three-star level. When a three-star is being a three-star that’s an authentic brand. The same applies the other way around. If you’re a five-star brand, you don’t want to be slipping down to a three-star level and confusing your customers.
Deliver to the expectations that you set. If you’re a three-star trying to be a five-star, you’ll have serious trouble later on.
Just do you. Be proud of you and totally own your brand. If you aren’t clear on what your brand is meant to be, your customers won’t be clear either.
If you’ve listened to me or know me, you know you have to not only create value for your customers but communicate value.
But how do you communicate value?
Well, first of all you need to be able to communicate in a very simple way to your perspective target audience or your customers. You need to be able to communicate what your value is to them. Do this in a very simple sentence.
That sounds easy but it’s actually hard work to get that sentence crafted in a way that’s going to resonate with your clients. But if you can create this sentence, you will have created a short, powerful communication that is what we call your value proposition.
Your clients are going to understand so much more easily why they should do business with you when you can explain clearly how you create value.
Let me give you one example of quite a clever value proposition that explains exactly what the company does, and exactly what the value is to the user in a very short clear sentence. Then use this to model to write your own about your company and what you do and the value you deliver. Think first what is it that you really do, and it’s usually not what you usually say you’re doing. For example, I can say I’m in the copyrighting business, but what does that mean to you? What value am I creating for you with that statement? Nothing.
So you’ve really got to think about what is it that you actually really do for the customer. What is that value that they keep coming back for?
My example is from Evernote, an app that allows you to collate all your information into one platform and be able to file it and organise and sort everything. You may have used it it. If not, check it out. It may be a really useful tool for you.
“Feel organised without the effort.”
Wow! There’s value right there! I’m going to get organised and it’s not going to take me a lot of hard work to get it done. So they’re selling me the value of it being really easy and I don’t have to do anything much but I’m going to get organised. I’m already in.
After that sentence, they say:
“Evernote helps you capture and prioritise ideas projects and to-do lists so nothing falls through the cracks.”
Mind blown again! So now it’s promising me that I won’t forget things like I usually do. I understand exactly how they can create value for me. You can prioritise, you can capture and you can just organise everything so that you forget nothing. That is so valuable and it is said in such a simple way.
Communicate value by being clear on how you create value
The value is crystal clear.
So think about what is it that you really do. Remember, Evernote didn’t start with – “We have an app …” They take a completely different approach. You want to think about what it is that your business really does. How do you really benefit the customer and write your value proposition in a crystal clear way that says in one or two sentences exactly why your customers should buy from you.
Master copywriter and content marketer Ange Dove, AKA Your Business Transformation Fairy Godmother, founded Proof Perfect in 2003 to improve business communication and marketing, one business at a time.
Ange and her Proof Perfect team focus on providing compelling copy backed by powerful visuals to make clients’ content stand out both online and offline.
She is adept at planning strategies for her clients and using the best of today’s technologies to automate their marketing so they can Get Ready, Get Seen, Get Business.
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