Have you ever looked at your task list and despaired?
Have you heard the phone ringing yet again, saw that it’s that client (the one who always needs their work completing TODAY) and had your heart fill with dread as you realise that, once again, your plans for the day fly out of the window?
Have you ever thought “if I just had a few more hours in the day, then I could get all this stuff done”?
So you hunt for time management systems, productivity hacks, maybe even change your sleep pattern to try and squeeze more in to your day.
Because you’re so close to getting it all done. You’re so close to clearing that list.
But is that really the problem?
Do you really suffer from a lack of time?
Or is your problem that you actually have too much to do?
Deadlines that made sense when you agreed them but don’t any more.
Clients who interrupt your plans and fill your days with unscheduled work.
Projects that never seem to finish.
Instead of trying to squeeze more work into each hour, why not try to get more money from each piece of work?
Because if you do that, you take on fewer projects and you free up your time.
Because if you do that, you can afford to outsource the stuff you don’t want to do and free up your time.
Because if you do that, you stop selling time for money and instead start delivering results.
Selling expertise frees up your time.
Making these types of changes are not a quick fix. You can’t expect tomorrow to be wildly different to today. But my PDF Action Plan can get you breathing space in half a day and deliver tangible results in just four weeks.
There’s a quick answer to the question “do I need a business coach?”
No-one needs a coach of any kind.
A coach doesn’t actually do anything.
So why are there so many coaches out there?
Well, the whole idea of coaching came from sport … in fact, it’s accepted that it’s impossible to be a successful sports person without a good coach. Because that coach makes sure you turn up, tells you what to do during training, watches how you prepare for things, makes sure you are making the best use of your time and encourages you to beat your personal bests.
Business coaching is slightly different to sport coaching – but essentially a business coach does a similar thing.
There are some differences.
Coaching isn’t the same as training – training is where you follow a pre-defined programme of learning, that’s laid out in front of you.
Coaching isn’t the same as mentoring – a mentor speaks and advises you from their experience.
Coaching isn’t the same as consultancy – a consultant will work with you and advise you on a particular aspect of your business, and then will do at least part of the work needed to move you forwards.
Coaching is about finding out what you want and helping you come to your own answers on how to get there. And, most importantly, holding you accountable to make sure you stick to those decisions.
So a better question is “is it worth having a business coach?”
The simplest answer there is I have three. Sort of.
The first is my Profit First coach. He leads me through the Profit First system, helping me pick out and adapt the parts that work well for me. So this is as much a training programme as it is a coaching programme.
The second is my marketing coach. We discuss how I want things to be, what’s going well, what’s going badly, how it makes me feel. Then she comes up with a list of tasks, some of which are for me, some of which are for her.
And third is my business coach. This is a pure coaching relationship. We talk about where I am now, where I want to be, what is stopping me from getting there and making sure that I approach my business in the right way to get me there.
Personally, I love coaching. Unlike mentoring or training, it’s all about the client. I have to discover what they want, I have to help them discover their own answers and figure out what’s holding them back. And then I have to keep them accountable, so they actually make the changes that they have decided that they need.
And because of this, I’ve designed my own coaching programme. 12 weeks to move your business towards financial security.
So if you know anyone who runs their own small business but feels that the road is too precarious, who feels that the business isn’t giving them the life they want, who is always short on time – ask them to give me a shout. There are probably some really simple things we can do that will make a huge difference.
The phrase is thrown around often, but it’s only once you work for yourself that you truly appreciate what a rollercoaster it can be.
One minute, work is coming in faster than you can keep up with it. You’re working day in, day out, evenings, weekends and even through the night. Taking a day off seems impossible and the thought of a holiday is unimaginable.
Suddenly, things ease off.
You can breathe again. And you start thinking you might have finally got this business malarkey sussed after all…
Then you realise there’s barely anything in your pipeline, your biggest client has gone off the radar, and the project you had scheduled in next week has fallen through.
The good news is you’re not alone. And the even better news is that there are some things you can do to make the fluctuations less severe.
Understand the magic numbers
Most problems occur because business owners don’t understand their magic numbers.
How many clients do you need to win each month in order to cover your overheads and pay yourself the amount you want? What is your conversion rate and the average length of time from enquiry to invoice? How many enquiries need to be generated each month to hit your target?
If you know these figures, you can forecast for the months ahead, predict when a quiet period is coming up, and feel confident enough to turn away the projects you don’t want.
Pay yourself a set amount each month
When the work is flooding in, it’s tempting to spend a little more than we should. It’s great while it lasts, but when the work quietens down, it can leave us wondering if we’ll be able to cover the mortgage next month.
I’m a big fan of the ‘profit first’ way of working. Rather than paying yourself whatever is left at the end of the month, you take out the profit you want first and then invest what is left into your business.
Of course, if you want this to work, you need to have figured out your magic numbers.
Manage your marketing
When you’re busy, it’s easy to neglect your marketing. When you’re busy, you focus on the work you already have, not on winning more.
The problem is, once you’ve completed all your current projects, you’re left with nothing in your pipeline except tumbleweed.
So what happens now? Well, you go back to everything that worked last time of course.
You have a real push on marketing and advertising and networking. Your follow-ups are awesome, you spend hours putting together detailed proposals, and you take time to go and schmooze potential new clients.
All your hard work pays off at once, and you get an influx of work. Brilliant!
And now you’re back to being too busy to manage your enquiries properly, and you’re working on a load of projects you don’t really enjoy.
And so the cycle continues.
Up, down, up, down, round and round you go.
Take control of your pipeline; don’t let it control you.
To ensure consistent sales, you need consistent marketing.
Even when you are crazy busy, take time to nurture future clients. And when business is a little scarce, don’t fall into the trap of taking the projects nobody else wants.
It’s time to get off the rollercoaster
If you’re struggling to break the feast and famine cycle, I can help.
Every business needs a system.
A system for making sure you’ve got enough cash. A system for generating enough sales. A system for making sure you’ve got enough time to live your life. I work with you to create that system.
Every now and then, I have a brand new tube of toothpaste. On the same day that my electric toothbrush is fully charged. And has a brand new head on it.
When those three things happen together, it’s like a toothpaste party.
But, have you noticed that when you’re starting a fresh tube, it’s not just a toothpaste party – it’s a free toothpaste party. You’re slapping that paste all over your brush … some slipped off and fell down the sink … no worries, I’ve got tons of the stuff, let’s just fire another colossal ball of it onto my brush. No pea-sized amounts for me my friend.
And then, a few weeks later, as the tube is almost exhausted, you pick up your toothbrush and eke out the final few scrapes of paste. You fold the tube back, rolling it in on itself. A pea-sized amount would be a luxury. I’m going to make do with a third of a pea. I can handle it.
And you know what?
Your teeth stay clean. A third of a pea is all it needs.
But when you’ve got a full tube of toothpaste in front of you, you don’t think like that. Because it feels like it will last forever. Even though you know it won’t.
This wasn’t my analogy – it was Mike Michalowicz’s. He uses it to describe how actually, when you’re spending money in your business, you can be mislead by your bank balances.
If you’ve got £10000 in your bank account, it’s going to look like that full tube of toothpaste.
You know you’ve got to keep some aside for your tax. You know you need to pay yourself at the end of the month.
But that little voice at the back of your mind is saying “no pea-sized amounts for me – I’ve got ten grand!”.
And you spend it.
And it’s gone.
And when it comes to paying yourself, once more, you have to make do with scraps.
If you put some money aside before you begin, you might only have £5000 in your bank. It still seems like a lot. You still feel like spending it.
But this time, you’re safe to do so.
Because the other £5000 is safely locked away in a different account. Ready for when you need it.
It’s just human nature.
Play to your strengths, don’t fight your instincts.
Take your Profit First and then you’re free to spend whatever you want.
That’s how it goes for a good few years, while you get yourself established.
And then, some magical lever gets pulled, and then you’ve made it.
Out the other side.
But how do you get to that magical point? What makes the magic happen?
There are actually two things that make it happen.
Two Magic Numbers.
These two numbers, once you know them, give you a level of certainty and confidence in your business.
They mean you can plan ahead.
They mean you can predict the future.
They give you the space to concentrate on the things that matter.
And they allow you to safely turn down the bad clients, the ones who always hammer you down on price, the ones who take up all of your time, the ones who are always complaining.
The first Magic Number is your Conversion Rate.
Suppose you go out and get 100 business cards from a load of networking events. You go through those business cards, calling each person up on the phone, and you end up with 30 people who are willing to have a meeting. You go to those 30 meetings and you end up with 15 people who would like you to give a presentation to the board. You give the presentations and you end up with 10 people who would like to buy your services.
10 out of 100 leads turn into business. Your conversion rate is 10%
Your second Magic Number is your Sales Cycle Length.
Let’s say you spend all of January getting those 100 business cards. Throughout January, you’re on the phone to people, but some are busy, others are away – so your 30 meetings end up being booked across January and February. Your first new client from this round of networking signs at the beginning of February – barely four weeks after you started. But after meetings and presentations, delays and postponements, the tenth new client, signs up in April – almost 16 weeks after you got their card.
On average, the 10 new clients you got signed up 8 weeks after you received their business card. Your Sales Cycle Length is 8 weeks
Now you know those Two Magic Numbers, you can start making predictions about the future.
Suppose in April, you did another round of networking, but this time you only got 50 business cards. Based on your Two Magic Numbers, that suggests you’ll get 5 new clients at some time in June.
The real power of this comes when you decide to use it to your advantage, however. Let’s say you want to raise an extra load of money to go on holiday. If you know your Two Magic Numbers, you can use them to calculate how many leads you need to generate – and when – so that you’ve got the new clients, and the money in your pocket, at just the right time.
I’m one of those people who loves stationery shops.
There’s not much better than a really heavy sketch pad and a 4B pencil.
Or a fountain pen, freshly filled with ink.
I love sketching in biro too – there’s nothing else like it.
Notepads, pens, card. It’s fantastic stuff.
It’s also really simple and understandable.
No surprise that the most used internet application is email – because it mimics the way a paper letter works – and it’s still the best way to get in touch with someone today, despite the myriad of alternatives.
When getting your business organised, using something physical is often the very best first step.
Go to any office – how many people have their computer monitor covered in post it notes.
How many people have a whiteboard on the wall with the plan for the next few months – or their sales figures.
This is great.
It’s better to have a plan than have none.
Starting out you need to get organised as quickly and cheaply as possible.
But there comes a point when you need to move on.
While I love paper, I love fountain pens, I love notebooks, I also have a real fear around them.
What happens when I lose it?
So much important information. My to do lists, my detailed notes on how a particular project needs to work out. My diary for the next few weeks.
It would be so easy to leave it on a train. Or spill tea all over it. Or have it fall out of my bag.
And then I’d be screwed.
At one place I used to work, we had a giant whiteboard, listing out all the tasks we had for our variety of projects. Each one was placed exactly where it needed to be, so the right team knew what they had to do next. So we knew when it was due for completion. Our entire work schedule for the next few months.
At the time, we were working in a Portakabin, as we had outgrown our main office. The door for the cabin was annoying and hard to open. So you sort of had to kick it to get it open.
One day, someone came in, kicked it open, just as a gust of wind blew outside. The wind caught inside the cabin and blew half the post-its off the board and on to the floor.
In a fraction of a second, our plans for the next month were just ruined.
It was only a small issue. We guessed at where everything belonged and were back to normal in quarter of an hour.
But it’s a reminder that there comes a point where paper won’t do the job you need it to. Even worse if we were spread across multiple offices.
One advantage of “cloud” systems (which basically means that it’s someone else’s responsibility to look after it) is the data is backed up, it’s replicated and it’s accessible wherever you are.
We decided that we weren’t going to put up with working for an idiot or being told what to do.
We were sick of working incredibly hard, only for the rewards to go to some high-up who has no idea what we actually do each day.
We’ve chosen flexibility.
We’ve chosen responsibility.
We’ve chosen working from home, so we can look after the kids.
We’ve chosen doing things the right way.
We’ve chosen being fair with the money we earn.
But it’s difficult.
Most businesses fail within the first year.
If you’ve made it that far, congratulations. You’re doing an amazing job.
Even worse, almost all small businesses die within four years.
So if you’ve hit that milestone and made it to five years or beyond, you’re in an elite club.
The reason for this is simple.
The things that you have to do when you start a business are different (year one) to the things you have to do to keep that business running (up to year four), which in turn are different from the things you have to do make the business work without your constant attention (year five and beyond).
There are five areas where you need to make those changes – profits, operations, sales, marketing and time. Taken together, it’s a big set of changes, a lot of learning to do all at once. But break it down, attack one piece at a time, and it becomes manageable and a natural part of building a business that gives you the life you want.
If you’d like to know what could make a difference for you, check out my quick and simple quiz.
It’s designed to pinpoint the area of your business that you can make the most improvement on, for the least effort.
So you can actually get a bit of that flexibility, that extra cash, that free time and that freedom that we were all wanting when we started our businesses.
It only takes a couple of minutes to complete and could make a real difference to your business.
You probably subscribe and listen to a load of people who have job titles like “Consultant”, “Coach”, “Expert” and “Maven1“. These are people who are constantly posting in-car videos on LinkedIn, giving out advice, releasing podcasts and writing blogs. They’re obviously amazing at their jobs – why wouldn’t you want to hand over thousands of pounds in cash to them? Don’t you want that fantastic life too?
You can tell their lives are fantastic because they’ve sorted out their own work-life balance2.
You can tell their lives are fantastic because they then went on to save the lives of at least three of their clients3.
You can tell their lives are fantastic because their profits are going through the roof, and they’re recording that in-car video in a Lambo.
You can tell their lives are fantastic because they spend three months of the year hiking through the rainforest. For fun4!
You can tell their lives are fantastic because their team never makes a mistake and is always happy and smiling.
I’m not like that.
I’ve worked for myself since 2007, because I thought my boss was making a mistake and should have been listening to me. Eleven years later and the jury’s still out on whether I was right5.
I am very very good at what i do – especially when it comes to sorting out problems for my clients – but I’ve not really managed to sort myself out and have been winging it ever since.
I was really really lucky at the start, so I didn’t have to learn about how to run a business for years – no sales, no marketing and as for finance, well…
I then started a company with friends and we got a load of money from investors, which we spent very quickly. And that’s when things started to go really wrong.
I was sick of working alone, so I hired a team on the cheap6.
They didn’t do a great job as I didn’t know how to get them to do what I wanted7.
I spent all my money on these people working with me – they were cheap but took ages to get things done.
I was using up my evenings and weekends fixing mistakes8.
All of which meant I was ready to jack it all in.
So this is the bit where I turn in to one of those amazing perfect consultant types.
Because I sat myself down, gave myself a good talking to and …
spent a load of time and effort learning about sales
went out networking even though I found it really uncomfortable at first
I read that to do sales, you need a CRM system9. So I tried out 11 different ones and eventually found one that I liked
I suddenly realised that I had my sales process all wrong
The sales process that I had built for myself, that I implemented in my CRM, was based around the idea of promoting myself to people. This is what I do, I’m really good at it, it will save you time and money if you hire me. Please hire me.
Then I realised that actually, the clients I worked well with were the ones where we had a relationship. Where we trusted each other. So I switched my process around to look for people I thought I could work with. And it meant I was looking for excuses to say no at every opportunity.
That was when I had another revelation – the CRM isn’t going to help you. Your process has to be right first.
This inspired me to put together a process for my team – a seven stage software development system – and I used expensive project management software to track it all.
But I totally failed to heed the lesson from before. The process didn’t work for me. The software didn’t work for me.
It just meant that I did the work I didn’t like and the team did the work I did like.
The project management software was lovely. I could keep track of my overflowing to-do list and see how late every project was – and it updated in real-time so everything got later and later right in front of my eyes.
Again – my realisation was that the software doesn’t fix things for you. I needed to get the process right before even thinking about software.
So I reset.
Now I’ve got a really small team who work on the things I don’t really like doing and I’ve kept the things I like doing to myself.
I still pay for various bits of software but I’m very careful about how I use them.
And I don’t set myself a ton of deadlines, which make me unhappy as they whizz pass, unfulfilled.
I have to say that I still don’t make very much money – I have a problem with pricing my services which mean I give away a load of valuable work for cheap.
And I still don’t have that much time – I take on too many projects and then get caught up trying to deliver them all.
And, despite all these revelations, I’m still rubbish at saying no. Which is why I have too many projects on.
But this is my story about how I’m working my way out of these things. Unlike those other consultants, those bloggers and vloggers and podcasters, it’s not a picture of a perfect life.
It’s messy and annoying and nowhere near where I want it to be.
Because I’m very good at solving problems for my clients – not so good at it for myself.
So, I’m Baz and that’s what I’m going to be talking about over the next few weeks and months.
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