Your team has been under the cosh for the last fifteen minutes. Barely able to get out of your own half. Waves and waves of attacks, thwarted by last ditch tackles and fingertip saves. When you do get possession it goes straight back to them. Relentless pressure.

Then it happens.

Your big ugly number 5 puts in a crunching tackle. The ball spills to your cultured number 4, who plays an exquisite pass, releasing your left winger. The number 11 sprints past two of the opposition, clear space opening up. Another jink and an amazing cross-field ball to pick out your right winger. Their left back closes in, but the winger takes it outside, looks up, and sprays in the cross.

And totally overhits it, as it goes out for a throw in on the left hand side.

What, as a fan, is your reaction?

Screaming “what the hell was that” or a quick clap of encouragement as you’re finally out of your own half?

Take action: Positivity makes a huge difference. Try to keep the negative stuff out of it.

New business essentials

Lots of us started our business because we love what we do. Because we were made redundant. Because we were tired of working for an idiot.

They’re all really good reasons for starting a business.

But they don’t tell you anything about running a business.

The skills needed to deliver your product or service are one thing. You’re really good at that.

But do you know about pricing? Have you got a marketing plan? How do you get repeat business? What’s your referral strategy?

And then there are deeper questions.

Who do you help? Why do they need you? Why do you do what you do? Are you worth the money? Do you want to be doing this in five years time?

Take action: You need answers to those questions. My new course can help you find them.

Metrics and reporting

If you’ve got people working for you, what are your expectations of them? How do you rate their abilities? How do you measure their performance? If someone needs a talking to, what evidence do you have? If someone is doing fantastically well, would you notice?

There’s this idea that if you don’t measure it you can’t improve it. Well, I don’t believe that. But if you do measure it, and you’re careful about how you measure it, you can prove that you’re improving it. Or more importantly, you can prove if it’s not getting better and you need to change course.

Publishing a scorecard every month is a great way of letting everyone in your organisation know where we’re doing well and where we need to improve. Make sure that everyone understands how the scores are calculated, so they can take action themselves to remedy the areas that need improvement. And suddenly, your job has become a whole load easier.

Take action: Design a system to track what’s important.

The psychology of pricing

“Raise your prices” said the article.

So I tried.

And I couldn’t. My fingers literally could not type the numbers on the web-page.

Pricing reaches deep in to your soul. Especially if you’re a small business, delivering a service, as opposed to a standard product. Because what you are offering is tied to you. And you have to believe you’re worth it.

So if you harbour any doubts about who you are, whether you’re good enough, why you’re doing this, it’s all going to reflect through in your pricing.

Before you can raise your prices, you need to believe in yourself. Or at least tell yourself that you believe in yourself.

Take action: Learn how to fake it till you make it. As they say.

Why sales isn’t a dirty word

I’ve been a software developer for over twenty years.

I don’t know if you’ve ever spent time with software developers. To massively generalise, we tend to hide in darkened rooms behind big monitors. There’s a good reason for this – programming is hard and it requires focussed, uninterrupted, concentration for a minimum of four hours, or you just get nothing done.

But because of that, I always had a disdain for sales people. They flit around making promises they can’t keep, sticking their foot in the door, never shutting up, wearing really bad suits.

A couple of years ago, while I was trying to grow my business, I had a revelation. My best clients have been with me for years. We have long-standing relationships. So I should look for the same when I’m trying to get new clients.

My sales process became one of saying no to people. Why not do this instead? Do you really want to work with someone like me? It would be cheaper to buy something off-the-shelf.

And, while I put some people off, the contracts I won were better – higher value, with friendlier clients.

Take action: If you want to know more about how to get more sales without being an arse, check out this seminar I’m running with my friends Lisa and Marshall.

Money is a mindset

How do you feel about money?

How do you feel about profit?

A lot of us have a conflicted approach to money.

We want more of it. But we think rich people are arseholes.

We want our companies to be profitable. But we see those fat-cats trousering massive bonuses whilst their company’s repeatedly let people down.

No wonder we struggle.

It’s important to remember one thing though.

Profit isn’t a dirty word.

It’s the vehicle your business uses to give you the life you want.

People like us aren’t in the same situation as those fat-cats. If we give shoddy service, we don’t survive. When we give great service, we deserve just rewards. And that means taking home a decent salary (you do pay yourself right?) and putting aside a decent profit.

Take action: Money is a mindset. Learn more.

How I built a high performing software development team

For years, I couldn’t get any software developers to work in a way that was acceptable to me. I did have a process to follow, but I never did any of the checkpoints that I’ve been talking about this week. And I definitely didn’t measure progress against those checkpoints or publish that progress on a Key Performance Indicators board.

However, in 2017, I started doing this. And the performance of my team sky-rocketed.

One of the most important stages in our development process was that each piece of work was given a points value. This was a way of estimating how difficult the work would be to complete – a complexity score (from 1 to 3) and a confidence score (from 1 to 3). Multiply these together and we get a points value from 1 to 9.

I wanted each developer to complete as many pieces of work as quickly as possible. But we didn’t want hastily written code that just breaks and causes bugs. So to deal with that, any bug reports were immediately given a score of zero.

I then tracked how many points each developer completed during the month. As well as how many hours they had worked, and how much I had paid them. I put them all into a spreadsheet which calculated “points per hour” and “cost per point”. I then added a formula that converted these into a score from 1 to 10. Basically if the “points per hour” is greater than a certain value then add X to your score, if the “points per hour” is greater than another value add Y to your score, if “cost per point” is less than a certain cost then add Z to your score.

I cut out the pay information, then published this spreadsheet every month, along with the rules for how the score was published. I then offered a bonus for anyone who got a score of or higher. The developers could see how they were doing each month – and more importantly what they needed to do to improve. And because bugs took up your time without adding to your points tally, there was an inbuilt incentive to write reliable code.

All of which is a long way of saying that delegation is possible. But you need to invest the time in writing out the processes, deciding how to check on progress and how to measure and publish that progress.

Take action: Not sure how to implement this scheme in your business? Drop me an email – hello@echodek.co – I’m happy to help.

How to delegate … part three

So we’ve got a procedure to follow when performing a task.

We’ve got follow-up checks to tick off when we’ve completed the task.

We’re getting good at this delegation lark aren’t we?

Almost. Not quite.

Now we need to take those follow-up tasks and record them somewhere. Put a chart up on the wall, do a spreadsheet. Add a point for each item checked off o the procedure. If you’ve got more than one person doing these tasks for you, put all their names up there.

And then decide which tasks, which checklist items are the most important. Devise a little formula that adds weights to the important items and converts it all to a single score, out of 10, or out of 100.

Then, every month, publish everyone’s scores (along with the formula for calculating the scores).

Not only do you have a written down procedure, a checklist to ensure things are done properly, but an indication of who is doing well and who needs to improve.

Take action: This scoreboard indicates who is performing well on key tasks. We just need a three letter acronym to describe these scores.

How to delegate … part two

Now you’ve got a procedure for some task you want to delegate to someone else.

Job done, right?

Well, that’s where most of the articles on delegation end.

But not this one.

You see, the reason you can’t trust people to do these tasks properly is because you aren’t doing the next bit.

You need to follow up.

Again, it will feel like it takes forever. And it will feel like it would be quicker to do it yourself. And it probably would be. But, in a couple of weeks, you’ll thank yourself. Because the process of following up is what makes delegation work.

Our procedure looks like this:

Test the XK71

Wipe off any marks and debris

Seal the cover

Screw the XK71 into place

Unscrew the old component

Remove the cover

Use a small knife to loosen the cover

What follow-ups do we need? Well, the most important one is that the XK71 actually works. Actually, even more important, that the client is happy with the XK71 that you’ve just replaced. Other things to check, that the cover is replaced properly and the marks are cleaned up.

So we add them to the checklist:

Use a small knife to loosen the cover

Remove the cover

Unscrew the old component

Screw the XK71 into place

Seal the cover

Wipe off any marks and debris

Test the XK71

Check that the cover is properly replaced and wiped clean

Check that the customer is happy with the XK71

Wait two weeks and check that the customer is still happy with the XK71

So we’ve added three new steps into the procedure. And those extra three steps are to be recorded on your job sheet or whatever else you use to hand out tasks.

However, that’s not all … more to come tomorrow.

Take action: For the two procedures you wrote about yesterday, add some follow-ups.

How to delegate … part one

Before you can delegate properly, you need to know what you want done.

This can be tricky and time-consuming. It’s a good reason not to delegate at all. And then you remember working till 11pm on Friday nights, knowing you need to be up at 6 on Saturday, just to get your admin done.

You need to take the time to do this.

Grab a piece of paper, or a fresh page in your note taking app.

And just write down how to do a task.

I often find it useful to start at the end and work backwards.

Test the XK71

Wipe off any marks and debris

Seal the cover

Screw the XK71 into place

Unscrew the old component

Remove the cover

Use a small knife to loosen the cover

You need to do this for everything you want to delegate. It gets more complex when there are decisions to be made. I never said it was easy. But it will make your life better.

Take action: Think of two things that you would rather someone else was doing, and write out a procedure for each. Give yourself no more than ten minutes per procedure to write it out.