A job versus a business

Hi, welcome to “Don’t Panic“, which is a short, to the point, show aimed for business owners who sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed with it all. If you’d like to listen to the audio of this show, click here.

I’m Baz and I’ve had my own company for 11 years now. It’s been renamed, it’s been through a few changes and there have been many, many times when I’ve wished I’d never started it and almost gone back to my day job.

But I’ve stuck at it, and I like to think I’ve learnt a few things over the years.

Which is what this show is about.

Although I’ve had this company for 11 years, something I’ve realised recently is that I’ve never owned a business.

This might sound weird. I’ve worked for myself. I don’t have a boss. My company has its own bank accounts and I’m the sole director and sole shareholder.

But I don’t own a business. I run a business. And I have a job.

So what’s the difference?

Basically, if I was to take a year off. Or take six months off. Frankly, even if I took one month off, I probably wouldn’t have a company to come back to.

I have some people who work with me. But even with them, everything goes through me.

I run the business. It’s my job.

A true business owner doesn’t have that issue. A true business owner can swan off round the world on their yacht, and when they return, the business will still not only be doing well, it will probably have increased its profits in the meantime.

A true business owner has an asset that brings them money. And all they need to do is check in, make sure things are heading in the right direction and that everyone’s doing their job.

That’s a very very different situation to the one I’m in. And if you’re listening to this, it’s probably a very different situation to the one you’re in.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad thing, having a job. Although the reason I quit my last one was because the people were idiots.

No, it’s not a bad thing at all. Especially if it’s something you enjoy doing and it pays well.

But it’s not owning a business.

And I guess that’s what most of us secretly wanted when we started out down this road.

So what does owning a business entail?

I always used to think a business was defined by the product or service it offered.

You’re a plumber? You fix leaky taps and install great looking bathrooms.

You have a cafe? You create great tasting food in lovely surroundings.

You sell insurance? You have a range of financial products that protect people if the worst happens.

But that’s not what a business is at all. Not at all.

A business is a series of systems that underpin those products and services.

That sounds pretty weird, so let’s say it again.

A business is a series of systems that underpin those products and services.

What on earth does that mean?

Well, most businesses have at least three systems that need to work in order to keep the business going.

There’s your finance system.

How do you make sure that the money comes in at the right time and your suppliers get paid? How do you make sure that you’re covering your costs? How do you make sure that your staff get their wages?

There’s your operations system.

When we get a new order, how do you deliver it? How do you ensure that it’s exactly what the customer is expecting? What do you do to meet the required quality standards? The required health and safety standards? And what do you do if the customer’s not happy?

And, in some ways, most important of all is your sales and marketing system.

How do you get people interested in what you have to offer? Where do you find these people? Why would they be interested in you? What do you say to them when they are interested? How do you choose your prices? What guarantees do you offer?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you sell.

Your business is, at the very least, those three systems.

For most of us, those systems are haphazard, frequently made up on the spot, and generally a bit chaotic.

But if you get them right, you can get to the point where you can hand the day to day running of those systems to other people. And you just need to check in and make sure everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to.

You can move from having a job to owning a business.

And that’s what I’m in the process of doing. And that’s what this show is all about.

Is this the end?

I’ve been writing these daily letters for over a year now. To be honest, I’m surprised at how easy it’s been. I’ve rarely struggled for topics, they don’t take long to write, and although some are a bit light on content, I also think I’ve written some good stuff.

But, I’m now considering stopping the daily letters.

You might have noticed I’ve been thinking about making best use of my time for a while now. And I’m not sure the emails are the best thing for me at the moment. Instead, doing another podcast (something I really enjoy doing), or video (something I don’t enjoy doing, but practice always helps) are what I’m considering.

The issue with both of those is a one or two minute daily episode probably wouldn’t work, so I’d have to switch to weekly. And weekly has challenges when it comes to writing and publishing.

Every day I ask you to take action, hopefully to help you. Today, I’m asking you to take action on my behalf. I won’t write anything else this week, while I think about what to do next.

Take action: Please email hello@echodek.co with one word – PODCAST, VIDEO or EMAIL.

How I turned my business around

I knew I wanted things to change. I just didn’t know what to do next.

I wanted more money coming in, because I had a small team of software developers working with me, and, to be honest, I wanted to pay them and myself.

To do this, I needed bigger jobs. To get bigger jobs, I needed to get more clients. To get more clients, I needed to get out there.

So I went out and started meeting people. And I tried to persuade them that they wanted my services. Because I am good at what I do.

It was awful. I really struggled with it, didn’t enjoy myself and, to make it worse, I was losing money.

But then I had a revelation.

All my clients so far were long-term. It was very rare for me to work with someone who didn’t stay for five years or more.

Why was that?

Because we had a great relationship. We trusted each other. We knew that every decision was made for the right reasons.

So I changed what I said to people.

Instead of trying to get them to say “yes”, I started looking for reasons for me to say “no”.

I asked them questions. Got them to consider the alternatives.

“You can get this cheaper if you choose X”.

“That’s all very well, but it will take me months to get that built for you, you might as well go with company Y, who will get you a system in weeks”.

Because I didn’t want them as a client. Not unless we were a really good fit.

It was astounding. Suddenly I started winning contracts that were ten times the size of my previous work. A lot of people went away and looked at the alternatives that I pointed out. But the ones that stayed had convinced themselves that I was the right person to work with. That we were a good fit together.

Without realising what I had done, I had built myself a sales process. A system, a series of questions and steps to follow, that worked to qualify my enquiries, figure out which ones to follow up with and make sure that we both got the outcome we wanted from it all.

Take action: If you’d like to learn how to do the same, check out our sales seminar, which is being held in north Leeds in a few weeks.

How to win more business

Not all sales people have shiny suits, fancy cars and big egos.

Being good at sales isn’t about closing as many deals as possible, it’s about making sure that when you do close a deal, the client is happy with their decision.

It starts with attracting the right leads and then building trust.

You need to show your potential clients how you add value to their life or business.

Closing the deal should feel natural, not awkward or forced.

Make sure your sales process is effective at every stage, and you’ll find that you win more of the clients you want with less effort.

Take action: Our sales process workshop will help you find inefficiencies in your process and show you how to address them.

That guy in a shiny suit

Don’t you hate him?

Foot in the door.

Never stops talking.

Won’t leave you alone till you’ve bought some crap that you don’t really want.

Is that what “sales” means to you?

Frankly, without sales, you haven’t got a business.

But it doesn’t mean you need to be an arsehole about it. You just need to think about it differently.

How can I get to an outcome that helps both me and my potential customer?

Take action: We’re running a very affordable seminar on how to approach sales – from your marketing through to winning repeat business. Marshall, Lisa and myself have very different backgrounds, so we cover things from a variety of angles. And our aim, throughout, is to make sure that you have a happy customer at the end of it all. If you’re interested, take a look here.

How to decide what’s worth your time

At some point, you need to start thinking about why you’re doing all this stuff. Because there will be dark times, when everything’s all a bit too much, when you will think about packing it in and keeping llamas on a mountain.

But, if you do figure out your purpose, it also guides you when you’ve got far too much to do.

If you know why you’re doing this stuff, you can design some simple questions.

In five years time, I want to be doing X and living like Y

So when someone offers you an exciting new opportunity, ask yourself:

Does this help me achieve X?

Does this move me towards Y?

Take action:: If the answer to either of those questions is no, then don’t do it.

How to avoid wasting your time

So you’ve decided that you know what you want to focus on. The stuff that will make a massive difference for your business, that will push you forwards.

But then the phone rings and someone asks you for something.

Or you look at your to-do list and it’s thirty items long and you feel overwhelmed.

Or someone offers you an amazing new project that won’t pay for a few months but it’s going to change the world!

It’s these things that derail you.

Take action: say NO

No plan survives contact with the enemy

By planning for tomorrow, I can deal with the stuff that changes, the things that get in the way of my overall goal.

I can roll with the punches.

But that’s not enough.

Every week, I look at my month’s goal and update the next week’s target.

Every month, I look at my quarter’s goal and update the next month’s target.

Every quarter, I look at my year’s goal and update the next quarter’s target.

You get the picture.

The reason plans fail is because they don’t reflect what’s actually happening in your life. So take action and revise them regularly, starting from tomorrow, moving to five years, because that way you can make sure the plan stays relevant. And you keep heading in the right direction.

Plan for tomorrow

Every day, before I finish work, I plan for tomorrow.

As I said yesterday, I already know what I need to achieve this week, this month, the next three months and so on, in a great big chain up to my five year plan.

So, knowing what I need to do this week, it should be pretty obvious what I need to do tomorrow.

As I said the other day, I have blocks of time in my diary marked as “priority”. Each day, I rename tomorrow’s block into “Project X” or “Project Y” or whatever it is that will most move me towards this week’s goal.

This means, each day, my plan adapts, but I keep heading in the same direction. It’s like going from London to Leeds, discovering that the M1 is shut, so cutting cross country and taking the A1 instead. The route might change, but the destination’s the same.

And I still have half a day spare each day to deal with all the other stuff, the things that don’t move me towards that end goal.

Take action: What’s your plan for tomorrow?

Plan for the future

I’ve spoken about this before.

If you make a five year plan, you will fail. So much changes in five years, the plan is meaningless, almost immediately.

But if you only make a plan for tomorrow, you’re directionless. Whatever feels most urgent at the time will get done, if you have something you really want to achieve, it will get lost in the day to day.

So instead, you should plan for all.

  • Where do you want to be in five years time? What do you need to do to get there?
  • So where should you be in three years time if you want to achieve that five year goal?
  • So where should you be in one years time if you want to achieve that three year goal?
  • So where should you be in six months time if you want to achieve that one year goal?
  • So where should you be in three months time if you want to achieve that six month goal?
  • So where should you be in one months time if you want to achieve that three month goal?
  • So where should you be in one weeks time if you want to achieve that one month goal?
  • So where should you be tomorrow if you want to achieve that one week goal?
  • So what should you do next if you want to achieve tomorrow’s goal?

Take action: What should you do next? To achieve tomorrow’s, this week’s, this month’s (and so on) goal.