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.
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.
I want to touch in this blog on branding for your business and getting you to look at how to create a brand experience your customers will love, whether you have an in-store service business or you are completely online. Either way, you will be offering touch points where your customers get to experience your brand and they all add up to that customer brand experience and ultimately how your customer feels about your brand.
So think about how your are going to create a brand experience that your customers will love.
So why is that so important?
You want to create a brand experience that build that people want to come back. Let me give you an example of that. We all know Starbucks. So, when you go into Starbucks, you know what you’re going to expect:
a comfortable seat to sit in
an easy chair if it’s not too crowded
a table where you can plug in your laptop and work all day
friendly staff that will engage you in chat when you place your order
coffee that’s the same whichever branch I go to
Starbucks has done a great job of creating a reliable brand experience for its customers. It sets the expectations.
But there was just this one time when I went into Starbucks and I didn’t get that experience. It actually made me do a double take and look around to check that the branch hadn’t been taken over by a different brand since my last visit. I can’t be in Starbucks! I thought to myself. But sure enough, it was Starbucks.
What happened was the gentleman behind the counter completely ignored me, didn’t speak to me, didn’t ask for my order (I was at the counter and was the only one there). I soon realised that he was in training and his trainer has walked off and left him alone, and he didn’t know what to do. However, when the trainer and served me, it still wasn’t the usual friendly Starbucks service. And it really made a difference to the experience.
How to create a brand experience at every touch point
So you want to think about your brand and you want to think about the experience that you want to deliver for your clients. How are you going to make that consistent every time so that your customers don’t have a bad experience?
Sure, it’s OK when you are a one man show. You are solely responsible for the experience you create. But when you start to grow and you have a team, how are you going to communicate the brand experience you need them to deliver for you. You’ll need to create a system that helps them to deliver that same brand experience each time. So you want to train your staff on how to speak or communicate to your customers at the different points of contact. It’s not always going to be when they are around you to supervise them. It might be you have staff that go out and go to your client’s offices and visit them there. How should they act on brand? It could be people answering the phone or how they reply to emails. Emails by nature are short communications and the intended message can get lost in their brevity. How do you keep it on brand? How can you create a brand experience that sticks?
Start planning now
So start thinking now about how you will train future staff to make sure that they’re delivering that great brand experience at all touch points.
The bets place to start is to think about what your brand stands for, the values that your brand has and how you are going to communicate that through everything you do in your business so that you don’t end up with a customer wondering if they are in the right place.
Well, the new year is well upon us now. Writing 2020 takes some getting used to but it’s exciting to be entering into this new decade. It’s time to take stock of how you manage your time and how better time management can make ALL the difference. In fact if you change just ONE thing this year, it should be that.
The new year always gets us thinking, doesn’t it?
I’ve been thinking about what I’ve done in the past and how I can turn these experiences into lessons I can pass on. And I realise that one of the biggest challenges I overcame in the last decade was time management.
You know, that dream of being able to get so much more done in your business and as a result potentially 10 ex your income or more and blast through those deadlines. That’s especially so if you have to write content as part of your role for your business or someone else’s.
It’s time to gain control with better time management
I can vouch that being able to manage your time in whatever you are doing, not just writing (for me it’s writing as I’m a copywriter and I need to make deadlines) will completely change the way you work.
You’ll enjoy your work more, you’ll feel less stressed and more relaxed, You’ll demand others respect your time, you’ll have the capacity to do so much more AND you’ll have that work life balance you’ve been chasing for so long.
I know this is possible because that’s exactly what happened to me
If I may, I’d like to share my story. You may relate. I remember back in the day, when I first started my business I was so disorganised, was running around like a Kan Chong Spider as they say in Singapore, where I live. A kan chong spider is someone who is tense, easily flustered and does everything super fast and doesn’t relax or enjoy the moment.
I think I used to be that way because I was constantly panicking about the work that would come in next. If I didn’t finish what I had on now, I wouldn’t be able to take on the next job opportunity and I’d be turning down opportunities to earn more money. So I was always on the go. I had no plan, and I was living in constant panic. Thinking back to it now, I don’t know how I made it through and kept the business!
The trouble was, I didn’t know how to manage my time and I didn’t know how to have others respect my time. I was practically working every hour I was awake. I worked from home in the beginning and I just couldn’t find that dividing line between home and work.
On top of that I had two young toddlers at the time and I was running myself into the ground. The pressure was real because as the main breadwinner, I had to make this business work.
I was too busy to see the signs
I was constantly busy, surviving on an average of 4 hours sleep a night and while I was making a reasonable income, it certainly didn’t reflect the amount of time and energy I was spending on my work. I was sacrificing time with my family – the reason I wanted to work from home in the first place – and my health, and for what?
My body turned against me. (Well I wouldn’t listen to all the warning signs). I finally ended up in hospital and it was only then that I realised what I was doing to myself. It was an incredibly humbling experience. I remember discussing the operation I had to have with my doctor saying that nothing could happen to me as my kids were still young and needed their mum. On top of that, financially how would the family manage without me?
I had to stick around
I had to stick around, so I had to change the way I was living. I had to learn how to manage my time and learn to respect my limits and say no when I needed to.
From now I was going to do things on MY terms. Anybody that didn’t like that didn’t belong in my world.
So I put time management practices in place that dramatically changed my copywriting business:
gave me time freedom
allowed me to leverage on other people’s time
allowed me to take advantage of business and pleasure opportunities as they arise without having to think “can I afford it”
enabled me to track all projects and ensure deadlines are met and projects wrapped up in a timely manner so the cash flows
It’s a different life today 🙂
Today, I work a few hours a day, mostly delegating work and socialising with my clients. I cherry pick the projects I want to work on myself and which to delegate. (Thank the heavens for delegation!) I have the time and money to travel when I need, take cruises, celebrate my children’s victories with them, and visit my family across the world any time I choose. I’m living a completely different life.
I’’m no longer that kan chong spider running around at full speed. Today I live in the moment, I’m in complete control of how I spend each day and with whom. I’m known as the Copy Warrior, but today I pick my battles carefully.
I have a great life as a copywriter. If I can do it so can you.
If the above sounds like you and you’d like to break free like I did, ask me about my time management course. I’ll show you exactly what I did to make the transition from being at the mercy of other people’s time to completely controlling my own.
In my courses, I cover modules on knowing your avatar. No, I don’t mean blue creatures from the movie of the same name!
In marketing, your avatar is a profile of your ideal client – the kind of people you want to work with, have the same shared values with, who appreciate what you do and see the value it delivers for them.
For me, my ideal avatar has to be clients who have high standards in the work they want to put out and who see themselves as a partner in the process. For them, I am not a slave to deliver per their demands because they are “paying me”.
My ideal avatar is someone who acknowledges the work done and expresses gratitude for the effort. They are excellent communicators of what they need to see. If they fail to communicate their expectation accurately or it gets “lost in translation”, they find good things to comment on first and then raise the aspects that need improvement in a positive manner. When I have a clear explanation of what they needed it to be like, I can quickly rectify and deliver to expectations.
My ideal avatar is not someone focused on only giving feedback to find fault and does so in a condescending manner.
My ideal avatar is not the client that agrees to a monthly retainer then can’t get their accounting department in order to make the monthly payments on a regular basis to see me retained – not because they have cashflow issues (they don’t) but because they simply don’t value their vendors enough.
My avatar is not someone who thinks I owe them something because they hired me as if they are doing me a favour then tries to weazle out those extra little services for free.
These kinds of clients may have various sources to go to for the same service, so my services are not indispensable.
But neither, for me, is their business. And it shouldn’t be for you either.
For me, respect comes first. The money issues will then always be “workoutable”.
So know your avatar, not only in terms of their age, lifestyle, financial clout and where they hang out. Decide too how your avatar will treat their vendors.
Decide how you want to be treated and what kind of behaviour you won’t tolerate from anyone, no matter what they are willing to pay you (eventually).
Ask yourself if working with a particular client makes you feel good or bad. If it’s the latter, move on.
It’s OK to fire a client!
There are always more clients out there willing to treat you right.
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.
Stay updated on all things business and marketing with my monthly newsletter SIGN UP HERE!