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Author Archives: Big GrassHopper

Do ONE Thing Differently

Do ONE Thing Differently

What is the ONE Thing that you should be doing right now?

It’s pretty common for a busy entrepreneur to have an entire day slip by, and at the end of it, feel that they’ve achieved nothing other than tread water.

Have you ever had a day like that?  Have you ever had a whole week or month like that? Regardless of the timeframe, feels pretty lousy doesn’t it? You’ve worked your tail off and are no further forwards than when you started.

 

How do you know what you should be doing in your business and life other than what you are doing right now?

 

Let’s take finances for instance – have a look at your sales, profits or bank account. Are they better than last month? Last quarter? Last year? If not, why not?

What about your work/life balance? Are you able to work less, or take more time off than last year?

What about your team – are they improving and becoming better at serving your customers without you needing to breath down their necks?

If you didn’t like your answers to those questions, it’s a sign that you should be re-evaluating how you invest your time.

 

Here’s a 3 step process that you can use to get what you want.

1 – Figure out what you actually want – and WHY you want it. Then decide that you’ll make it happen no matter what.

2 – Now that you’ve determined your goal, and are clear that it is yours for the taking, decide on what action will get you closer to achieving your goal THIS WEEK. Just one small thing. Don’t focus on the whole mountain, just the next few steps along the path. This will stop you getting overwhelmed.

 

3 – Commit the time to taking those first steps. Give yourself a time block at least three times as long as you think you need to get it done. Then, do not let anything else get in the way of your time block. If a competing priority comes up, ask yourself ‘Is doing this task going to get me closer to my goal than the action I’ve already set time aside to complete?’ If not, DO NOT do it.

 

The only thing that will change our outcomes over time is the thoughts we have, leading to the decisions we make which lead to the actions we take, which create our results. Unless you want next year to be a photocopy of this year, start doing something different. Just one thing differently. And see how even one small thing gets you closer to your goal.

 

The Tail Wags The Dog

The Tail Wags The Dog

The more I speak to business owners the more I’m struck by the fact that most of them have lost their way. They started a business because they had a dream of a life of financial or time freedom, of being a master of their own destiny. No more a slave to the corporate world, like riding a Harley across the plains without a helmet, long hair streaming in the wind.

Several years in and the reality tends to be very different, business owners are buried in paperwork or still “on the tools”.  Tired and stressed they wonder what went wrong, those dreams slipping further and further away. But why has this happened?

 

There’s two main reasons:-

 

  1. They’ve forgotten the WHY. Mostly focused on the very short term business goals they have forgotten their personal goals. To create an extraordinary life one must plan what is ideal and then devise a plan to get it. There’s no point in aiming for a life 10% better than the one we already have. If our desire is for mansions, yachts and sports cars, will we need to take actions different from someone who actually wants free time with their family and pets? Of course! We need to design our businesses in order to serve our life’s desires. How many of you good readers have a life dictated to by your business?

 

  1. They’re working IN their businesses. Business owners can become so consumed by doing the thing that the business sells, e.g.. Plumbing, cutting hair that they forget that a business owner needs to plan ahead, to guide the business where it needs to go. To control the marketing or recruitment strategies for the business. Instead they work harder to bring the business forward, totally unaware that it is them who is holding it back. The glass ceiling for any business is always the knowledge, skills and mindset of the owner.

So do you feel like your business runs your life, rather than having an extraordinary life supported by your business? Does the tail wag the dog?

If so then you need to address these two issues. Revisit your life plans and adjust your business plans accordingly, and then get out of the trenches and look around at your business….you’re the captain, not the engine.

Massively Increase Team Effectiveness Through Clarity

Massively Increase Team Effectiveness Through Clarity

One of the most common complaints from business owners and leaders I work with is that their teams “just don’t get it” or that “I’ve told them a thousand times and they still don’t do it right”.

 

I even had one business owner who had gone through 5 managers and “they all seemed ok at the start but then they got worse and left”. He couldn’t see the one common factor with all these staff was himself. It was clear to me that he was making so many assumptions as to their understanding of the task at hand that he was giving very little instruction as to how…..just demanding a result.

 

Another business owner experiencing similar challenges claimed that within a month his team were 50% more effective and it was mainly down to me asking one simple question after him telling me his staff woes…”Did you show them what a good job looked like?”. This means that if you have a desired outcome in mind you need to get really specific on what that is. Create a tickbox list of what the team member needs to do to make you happy, and then give it to them.

 

Here’s my quick 3 step process for creating increased effectiveness through clarity:-

 

  1. Take ownership of staff failures. You hired them, your trained them and you gave them instructions. Until you do this nothing will change as you will always blame them.
  2. Show them WAGJLL. Get clear on What A Good Job Looks Like, share and discuss it with them, ask them for their understanding of each point to be ensure that they are clear.
  3. Review and praised improved behaviour. Monitor their behaviour and results and make sure that they are praised and rewarded for improving their effectiveness in their work.

 

Follow this regularly and your team’s results will improve, guaranteed!

No one ever wrote “I hit all of my KPIs” on their tombstone!

No one ever wrote “I hit all of my KPIs” on their tombstone!

Business owners and leaders….if you are astute enough to set up Key Performance Indicators and targets for your team so that they understand what is expected of them and to stretch them to perform at a higher level than they thought possible, then you’ve done a great job but you are missing the vital piece of the puzzle.

 

If the KPI is hitting a sales target, then the steps towards that might be managing the pipeline, nurturing the prospects and making 100 sales calls a week. For the leader, the KPI being hit and bonus released seems like the end of the process but, for the team member, hitting the KPI is not the end of the process but just another step towards their own goals.

 

As an effective leader we need to align our teams not only with the KPIs but with what that means for them personally, we need to ask team individually these questions:-

How will they have grown their skills?

What opportunities will that open up?

How will that affect their finances?

Projecting forward 5 or 10 years of outstanding performance what will life look like?

Where will they be living?

What holidays will they have?

What car will they drive?

 

It’s important to remember that the KPIs are a piece of a jigsaw for the owner that will build their business but, for the team member, it is a piece of a very different jigsaw, one that builds their lives. If we can understand that and help our team build their jigsaw then they will connect with their WHY. Once they’ve connected with their why, they will be able to commit to achieving goals for you because they are also goals for them.

 

Now, when the team member looks forward at a daunting sales target, they see it as a means to that dream family holiday, or bigger house, rather than something they need to do to stop you sacking them. My guess is that they’ll perform exponentially better with that mindset.

 

When people are old and grey and reflecting on their life they won’t be thinking “I’m glad I hit my KPI in 2016” they’ll be thinking “I’m really glad my boss inspired me to make a success of myself, because I have reaped the rewards and shared them with my family”

 

I invite you, as a leader, to be remembered in that way.

Time Off From The Hamster Wheel

Time Off From The Hamster Wheel

Do you feel like your work-life is a like the hamster madly running on a wheel sometimes? Need some time off for R&R (rest and recreation)? 

 

Recently I had the great fortune to meet and spend a few hours coaching the most wonderful of our species – the local, independent travel agent!

Within a few minutes of speaking with her, my mind was transported to far away shores, to glistening sand and a fortnight of reading, relaxing and healthy eating. Within the hour I knew there was only one course of action to take – So in a week, to California I fly, on a trip to visit my fabulous cousin in Los Angeles!

Why do I tell you this? Well, I have to admit that, contrary to what I ask my clients to do, I actually haven’t taken more than a few days off here and there for over 2 years. After 6 years of self employment, I still feel guilty for taking a well earned day off – and I know that 99% of business owners reading this feel exactly the same way, because you tell me you do!

 

 

Now, I’m one of the fortunate people who gets to do something that I love every single day – coaching clients and watching them achieve things they never thought possible is an absolute pleasure and never ever a chore. That’s me and my team above, being goofy and living everyday to the max. But no matter how much we may love what we do, we all need some time off the hamster wheel to think, plan, reconnect with loved ones and grow both professionally and personally. We need to test how well our businesses can cope without us overseeing them, in our quest to build businesses that give us the flexibility and freedom we dream of when we start them.

In a recent study by Post Office Travel Insurance (2016),  a psychologist has revealed that today’s increasing working hours and work loads should also mean more breaks for the workers to refresh themselves.

The study estimated Brits now require six holidays a year, for example: a break every 62 days, to stay focused and avoid excessive stress burnout.

People who wait more than two months between holidays are more likely to become stressed, angry and sick, the study found.

“Workers really should take a break every few months otherwise they will burn out, which is bad for them and their employer,” said Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University.

“People who fail to go on holiday are more likely to become anxious, aggressive and withdrawn. They may also develop aches and pains and struggle to sleep. Over-working depresses your immune system, making it more likely you will catch a cold or the flu.”

 

“I believe deeply that if you have a really great vision for your business and your future, the right people will engage with you, buy from you, want to work for you or invest in you.” Cassandra Bodington

What are the people and experiences you are working for and are they a part of your business plans now? Don’ wait for 6 years like I did for a well deserved break! Crack open a travel magazine and start setting your R&R goals now! Actioncoach Wales team can help you reach your goals (but we don’t provide the sunscreen).

I will be back to business soon, feeling refreshed and ready to take on my mission once more.

Action: – block out a week in your calendar now and start planning your R&R. You really deserve it and not taking holidays can be quite detrimental to your health! 

How I Was Nearly Sunk by a Newport Ship

How I Was Nearly Sunk by a Newport Ship

You never know in advance what to prepare for in life, but I have to admit my planning never included what transpired…

 

I had kicked off the architectural studio three years previously and we were now five strong and growing. The chance to bid for a major theatre project was too good to resist. We were up against established major practices with big resources and great track records in theatre design. But we were local, we linked with good teams and we interviewed well. We won the competition.

 

I had to juggle staff to resource the project, recruit a few more and decided not to bid for a few more mundane projects which we would probably have won had we submitted. The theatre project started well, we got the permissions, had all the site investigations done (ground conditions. archaeology, boundary and geological surveys) and we commenced on site with confidence.
A few weeks further on a concrete piling rig hit big timbers – we halted work, checked and found the ribs of a medieval ship in superb condition lying across the site. Work stopped, we were accused of desecrating a major archaeological find (the ship was bigger and older than the Mary Rose) and politicians got involved. The archaeology report had stated that we would find nothing of any value on the site and we had assumed they were experts – but that was of no help to us. The weeks of delay turned into months of no progress and no fees.

In hindsight I should have pitched at the other, more mundane projects to have some work to fall back on and allow me to re-assign staff resources. I should also have had a much greater reserve of cash ready for such an event. I could have also insured myself against such an outcome.

 

The end result – I had to make two staff redundant, we made four straight months of losses and when it all kicked off again I had trouble getting appropriate resources available. It caused me and my team enormous stress and put the development of the studios back a number of years.

 

The lesson I learnt is that you should always plan for the worst, expect the unexpected, but hope for the best and strive to make the most of it.

 

Planning is the key.

 

Thorough planning, in advance, to enable unplanned events to be accommodated relatively easily.

 

At ActionCOACH we ensure our clients understand why planning is so important, and help it to become a natural and instinctive part of their personal and business life.

3 Easy Ways to Improve Your Business Cash Flow

3 Easy Ways to Improve Your Business Cash Flow

Need to improve your cash flow?

Well who doesn’t?!

Here’s three small things you can do to have a significant improvement on your cash flow that my clients have applied successfully.

Pricing

How long is it since you last increased your prices? A few months, a year, two years even? I find that many business owners haven’t increased their prices for well over a year, even though their suppliers have! So, why is that?

Often it’s simply that they fear losing their customer.

So let’s consider why they think that way, but from their customer’s perspective.

I am assuming here that the customer is perfectly satisfied with the service/product they are buying from us. If not, then we have a bigger problem than thinking about raising our prices!

Thus, if our customer is satisfied with our service/product, what are their options when we raise the prices?

Yes – they could look to buy from the competition, but how do they know that the service they provide will be as good as that which they currently receive from us? It might be, it might not. So now an element of uncertainty has arisen in their minds. Mostly, we prefer the known to the unknown.

Secondly, they now have to spend their time looking for someone else, and even if they do find them, they then need to spend time effecting the changes to a new supplier. This whole change is now beginning to look like a time consuming exercise and mostly we value convenience! In short, often we can’t be bothered, unless we are certain of a significant improvement in value for money.

Accordingly, our customer finds themselves balancing a price increase against the uncertainty of the quality of service/product from another supplier and the inconvenience of spending their time making the change.

If our price increase is perceived as reasonable, given the long time since the last increase, then most customers will simply accept it and get on with their business life!

All we have to do is give them a rational reason for the increase and that usually satisfies most people.

So what is a ‘rational reason’? Typically it runs along the lines of ’in order to continue to provide the service you currently enjoy, I need to be able to pay good rates to attract the best staff and afford the best materials. These have increased over the last year or so and I now need to reflect those changes in my own prices. Does that make sense?’

They may not like it (!), but they will more than likely accept it.

As always, there’s no guarantee that all customers will accept it, but the increased profit from the majority who do, will more than offset the loss from the few who may not.

Give it a try, and see the benefit!

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Billing

So how promptly do you raise your invoices? On completion of the job/delivery? A few days later? A few weeks later? Hmmm!

Do you even raise interim invoices for jobs lasting more than a month?

Do you require a deposit on acceptance of order to secure the timing of the delivery of your service/delivery?

All of the above can often be tightened up with a significant improvement in the timing of receiving payment.

If you’re not delivering your invoice within 48 hours of completion of service/product delivery – why not? What’s getting in the way of this? Haven’t got time? Don’t like doing the paperwork? Then consider firstly how important to you is it to achieve this improvement. What impact would it have on your business if you got this sorted out properly?

Could you take on someone else to do it for you? Consider the benefit to you of this improvement and balance that against the cost of someone else doing it. It may well make sense when you take the time you save in to account as well, especially if you can do more revenue generating activity yourself now that would pay for their cost.

Interim billing. If the job takes more than a month to complete, consider positioning all customers before you start, that interim bills will be raised as you need to fund staff salaries and supplier payments as the job progresses. Most customers will understand this. Make sure you agree this before you start the job, when you have the most leverage!

Deposits.  Often customers will value the peace of mind of knowing that they have secured a supplier and a date for completion of the service/product. If this is particularly important to them, then they will be open to paying a deposit to secure that. Don’t be shy in raising this at the time of them agreeing to place the order with you. Again, this is when you have the most leverage.

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Debt Collection

Probably the area most business owners dislike, is having to chase for money! None of us do, as it feels incompatible with our normal client relationship.

So what could we do to alleviate it?

In short, the key lies in how we position our payment terms with the client when we first take them on.

Many don’t say anything at that time. They simply hope the new client will read the small print on our invoice and pay accordingly. Wish that everyone was so conscientious!

The reality is that people pay when it happens to suit them, unless they have explicitly agreed to your terms.

Thus, we need to explicitly agree our payment terms when we take on the new customer. It needs to be a standard part of our conversation. Not something to be avoided or omitted altogether.

The best time to advise them of your payment terms is immediately after they have agreed to buy from you. That is when they are least likely to demur.

Without obtaining their oral agreement to your terms at that moment, debt collection will be much much harder.

Once we have obtained their agreement to your terms, debt collection becomes a relatively simple process of invoicing promptly as you have agreed and following up no more than 2 days after each payment is due.

The conversation can be along the lines of ’just wanted to make sure that everything was ok with the service/product we provided the other day. Is that ok?’

If they say yes, then just gently remind them of the payment terms they agreed and ask if there is any difficulty in applying those. Whatever they say, deal with it as appropriate, but do not finish the conversation until they have given you a specific date when they will pay.

If they still don’t pay, then repeat the above process . The general rule here is that if they don’t do what they explicitly say they will on three occasions, then maybe this isn’t a client for you and it moves to legal proceedings.

Conclusion

  • Raise your prices –  Update in line with inflation, wage costs, and all other overheads, and do it confidently because let’s face it, we ALL need to recalucalute regularly.
  • Billing – Either consider interim billing or taking a deposit for your services and have a system to invoice promptly (within 48 hours of service).
  • Debt collection – get a clear answer when they will pay if they are late for some reason. Three Strike Rule: if someone will not pay their dues on time, consider letting the client go. All the time and worry you spend chasing them up is also a lost resource!

If you apply all five of the above, then cash flow will improve significantly.

How to Entice New Clients in A Busy Market

How to Entice New Clients in A Busy Market

How many ads have you seen today? I can’t give you a reliable answer because ads barely register my attention anymore. I see a traditionally presented ad-format and I develop Selective Seeing Syndrome. The whole landscape of a webpage is divided into Stuff I Want to Look At (content), and Stuff I Automatically Skirt Over (ads). Chances are you do too.

 

“How do I find new clients?”

Is the question I am constantly being asked (at parties, weddings, work…)

 

Traditional advertising is a dying medium. People’s attention is evolving, most likely from sheer exhaustion at the amount of text and messages they are bombarded with daily.

 

So what has replaced traditional advertising? Content. Stories. Information. Call it what you want, it all boils down to the same thing: “How am I presenting a deeper message than my visual branding and the service we provide?”

 

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make but about the stories you tell.” Seth Godin.

 

For example, I work at a marketing firm and one of our clients happens to be a small day nursery in the UK. The nursery itself is fabulous; dedicated staff working tirelessly to make enjoyable memories for their children, brightly decorated rooms, good location. However, before we started working with them, they were registering only the sporadic sign up (despite leaflet drives). The owner was concerned on keeping all his staff if the trend continued.

 

We got to work co-creating content with the staff… each week I have a conversation in which I record the KPIs (show rounds of the nursery, conversions) and we discuss new topics for the company blog. With their help, I have been able to market who they are, and what they stand for each week on social media for the small cost of around 30 pounds a week.

 

The result: around one hundred people read the blog each week (targeted to local area) and there has been one sign up a week for four weeks running (from 2 – 3 show rounds). Of course I must credit the beautiful staff for making a good impression on show rounds, and keeping an attractive nursery. However, the difference is that now, people are connecting with the business and its stories, not just “advertising” to a jaded market.

 

The blog stories show the soul behind the business. A business is collection of people, working together everyday, consistently bringing value to their customers – and every business is different. To communicate who you are and get value from your writing efforts, here are my 6 tips;

 

  1. Work out your business’s personality

What makes your business special? Hint: don’t pick something like “excellent customer service” – everyone says that! The nursery we market really has a great grasp on children’s development and creating activities which nurture their growth, so the blogs try to capture that knowledge base.

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  1. Don’t be boring

Don’t make the mistake of wanting to sound so professional, that your blog or social media content sounds like a dry textbook analysis. Write conversationally, and add some interest or colour where you can. Always test the title with “would I click on this if I were my prospective client?”

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  1. Keep it real

Get photos of your staff or examples of your projects, anything that shows your daily life doing your “business thing.” My local Vietnamese restaurant posts consistently what daily specials they are making everyday, and knowing that a freshly made, Vietnamese sandwich is on the menu makes me reconsider my lunch plans!

 

  1. Let them know what to do

 Always have a “call to action” to take another step. They’ve read your voice, know a little what you represent – use this as an opportunity to offer the reader something. It could be more information, a quote, a sample, a discount… but allow them to get to know your business better. To make a difference and entice clients in a busy world – it’s what you give that sets you apart. For example: at the bottom of this page I invite you to try our free cash tracking resource, which has helped our coaching clients to get to grips with their current financial position.

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  1. Pay for readers (avoid screaming into the void)

Many, many people write blogs, and without some paid advertisement no-one is going to stumble into your corner of the internet and see what you are saying (unless you have a wide FB page following already, in that case you can succeed publishing organically). You need to invest in a long term strategy of helpful blogs, promoted on social media to new clients.

 

  1. Analyze This

Make sure you have installed Google Analytics so you can stalk your viewers’ activity – which blogs have a high bounce rate (clicking away) and which seem to interest the reader enough to look at other website pages? Look at your Facebook ads results to see what topics have high CTR (click through rate). The numbers tell a story, are you listening?

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These 6 tips above will help you get your content marketing away and some fresh, new clients to serve.

How Erica Fiedner Sold 41 Million Dollars in Pianos

How Erica Fiedner Sold 41 Million Dollars in Pianos

Truly amazing Salespeople seem a breed of their own, but just like all talents only some of it is innate and most is developed through training and experience.

 

Erica Feidner is one of the world’s leading salespeople.

She was the top sales representative for Steinway & Sons worldwide for eight consecutive years, selling over $41 million dollars in pianos, costing anywhere between $2,000 to $152,000.

Bearing in mind selling pianos is a difficult job (high investment, requires skills to play,not many repeat purchases), how did she become famous for her sales skills? More importantly, what can we learn from her?

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1. Share Your Knowledge Freely

When she is selling, Erica will often use her skills as an ex-piano teacher to sit down and teach a novice to play something very simple.

This opens the potential customer’s mind to the possibility of playing the piano, even if they have little or no starting ability.

What starts as a browse in the piano showroom (maybe due to a long buried interest in playing) becomes playing a song, which turns into the grand step of purchasing a piano!

A reporter interviewing her thought a fine piano out of his price range, but Erica showed him two second-hand pianos and encouraged him to come in again with his favourite sheet music. The second hand pianos were still priced far out of his expectations for an instrument. However, he did come into the showroom again, with his favourite sheet music. When he experienced how much better his playing sounded on a fine piano, he quickly put down a deposit for the remaining secondhand piano (as the other one had already sold).

The lesson – they wouldn’t have come to your store (or wandered onto your website) unless some aspect of them is inherently interested in your product.

A little more understanding about your product or industry may sway them to buy from you.

 

 

2. Share Your Passion

“It is not unusual for Feidner’s customers to describe her as a force of nature. This is not because they feel pressured by her but because after they meet her many soon find themselves in the grip of musical ambitions they never knew they harboured. These ambitions often include buying a specific piano that they feel they can no longer live without, even if it strains both their living rooms and their bank accounts.”” – The New Yorker.

 

Erica has gone on record saying that each piano is so different as to have a type of soul, which needs to match with the personality of its player.

She once described one piano as having an “inner fire” which matched the personality of its buyer. The way Erica views pianos through the lens of a sensitive artist or poet.

This comes across to people, who are buying into her passion  as much as her product.

Erica

3. Know Your Product and Your Customer

 

The combination of in depth product knowledge and understanding her customer needs has placed Erica into being recognised by Inc. as one of the world’s top ten salespeople.

Once she learns more about a person, she educates them on the different sounds and feels of different models of piano. Like a wine tasting tour in sound, the customer is shown how each type of piano differs from each other, and using the feedback she gains more information about what the customer really desires in an instrument.

She now works independently and has a website called Piano Matchmaker, where people can try pianos all over the world until they achieve their perfect match.

 

4. Be Patient, Not Pushy

Erica is famous for spending an hour or more with a potential customer. She is also known to never push a sale, but advise a customer to wait until they found the right piano for them. This seems counter-intuitive to many people in sales (“strike when the iron is hot” type of mindset) but it shows that soft selling can be more effective in the long term.

Erica knew she could make record sales (over 5 million dollars in each year) without hurrying or hard-selling anyone, just by sharing her expertise and passion in a personable way.

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Conclusion:

Erica is recognised as being one of the most talented salespeople in existence, but as for herself, she doesn’t see herself as a “salesperson”.

By not focusing on the bottom line, and focusing only on the customer experience of buying, sharing her knowledge (in pianos or playing) and communicating her incredible passion – she built a following of customers through referrals.

 

If she can sell PIANOS like hotcakes, just imagine what you can do – with the right technique and mindset, following your passion for your product or service.

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