Never trust a GPS

You need to figure out your “X”. What is it that, when you look back on your life, will make you think “I’m so glad I did that”. It might be family stuff, it might be travel, it might be work. It’s up to you. And it can be hard to find. But you’ll know it when you find it.

Then you need to ask yourself – if you genuinely really want X, how long would it take you to achieve it?

Can you do it in 10 years? Can you do it in 5 years? What would it look like to achieve X? Would you need to change your lifestyle? Move to another country? Can you do it as a side-hustle? Or on weekends? What will your family think as you make this your focus?

Because now, you’ve got a destination and a time-frame. Next step is to figure out a roadmap.

Let’s say you think you can do it in 5 years. 5 years is a long time.

Remember it. Write it down and stick it on your wall, so you can see it every day.

(I’m writing this in January 2019 – other months and years are available)

  • “In 2024, I will have achieved X”.
  • Now what is the ONE THING you would need to have achieved by January 2022 to have made real progress towards X?
  • And then, what is the ONE THING you would need to have achieved by January 2020 to have made real progress towards your 3 year target?
  • And what is the ONE THING you can achieve by April 2019 to have made real progress towards January’s target?

Write all of these down on that same bit of paper.

You now have a roadmap for the next 5 years.

But that’s useless without action.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Never trust a hippy

If you don’t like “life coaching” stuff, today’s post isn’t really for you. It’s a bit much for me too. But it’s proven itself to be (for me at least) a really valuable way of thinking about things.

Before you can make any kind of plan, you need to figure out what you really want to do. Because running a business on your own is really tough at times. So you have to make sure it aligns with who you are as a person.

My way of doing this, taught to me by someone who is incredibly successful, is as follows.

Imagine you’re 110 years old. You know your best days are behind you. But you’re sat on your chair, in the sunshine, just outside your house. Your eyes are closed and you’re smiling as you think back on your life. “I’m so glad that I dedicated so much of my life to X”

What is X?

It’s a really tough question. But, as all the documentaries on death say, no-one ever says “I’m so glad that I spent years in the office”. If you’re going to spend years in the office, there has to be a reason behind it – something that drives you. It might not even be business related – it could be “I’m so proud that I stood on the moon”, or “I’m so glad that my kids are healthy”. But you need to know what it is and then you can figure out how to get there.

Once you know where you want to go, you can think about how to get there…

Image from “Never Trust a Hippy” by Adrian Sherwood

The importance of time off

Photo by Khachik Simonian on Unsplash

I’ve been writing this week about my friend Bill and his dad Bob.

I’ve not seen Bill in many years. I’ve not seen Bob in even longer. But as you can probably tell, they’ve both left a big impression on me.

One of the things that struck me about Bob was he only ever took two weeks off work. Every year, he would spend that two weeks in Whitby (an absolutely beautiful part of the world). Then after his refreshing break, he would get back to it.

As I said yesterday, I think this is a problem.

People like us, who work for ourselves, we work incredibly hard. We take on more risks than employees. We suffer anxiety and depression and mood swings because we’ve chosen to take control of our lives, yet so much of what we do remains just out of our grasp.

And because of that, we deserve our breaks. We need our holidays. Not one a year. But several. A weekend away, a week with friends.

It feels like we can’t afford to, because the business won’t work without us. But we have to, because if we don’t there won’t be an us for the business to work for.

Take action: Make sure you take a break. And take it before you need it.

Cheers

Baz

PS: I used to worry about taking time off because I wouldn’t be earning. Some people worry about it as they don’t trust their staff. Everyone’s got a reason. None of those reasons is truly valid. If you’d like to talk about it, I’m sure I can point you in the right direction. Let’s have a chat.

Why Bob was wrong – or time management for small business owners

Photo by Tevin Trinh on Unsplash

As you can probably tell, I really liked Bob. He was a good man.

But, he taught me completely the wrong lesson.

On one of our nights out, we got back home in the early hours. We piled into the living room and started chatting away. I don’t remember exactly, but Bill probably put on the sex scene from the beginning of Betty Blue (he had a tendency to do that – it was quite embarrassing the first time he showed it to me as his mum was in the room, saying “not that again William”).

Bob comes charging into the front room, yelling at us, because we were making too much noise. Fair enough; it was either very late, or far too early.

But the thing is, Bob was working.

I don’t know if he’d not been to bed. Or if he’d just got up early.

He used to say that it was the only way he could get all his paperwork done.

You always hear of the never ending struggle of the small business owner. How you have to do the 70-80 hour weeks. It’s hard work that will see you through.

Well, it’s not true. I learnt entirely the wrong lesson from Bob that day/morning.

Take action: Get the right systems in place, make sure your people know what they are doing, because frankly, you shouldn’t be working in the small hours.

Cheers

Baz

PS: I’ve really struggled with this over the years. I still do. It’s not easy. I’ve got a really simple method to retrain my brain and make me take the time off. If you’d like to know more, mail me at hello@clientrobot.com

The importance of staying focussed

Photo by Hannah Gibbs on Unsplash

Yesterday I told you about Bill’s dad Bob.

Bob loved rugby union. So did Bill.

One unfortunate side-effect of Bob’s love of rugby is that he had lost an eye. So he had a glass eye. Most of the time you never noticed but …

Bob used to love to take the piss out of people. He expected you to stand up for yourself and argue back.

One time, I came into the house as Bill, myself and a few others were getting ready for a big night out. I had my hair all spiked up (it was the 90s). Bob immediately burst out laughing, almost crying, when he saw me. “What is it?” I asked, slightly annoyed. He carried on laughing. Eventually, when he finally got his breath back, he started to gasp “you … you … you … look like a pinhead!” he exclaimed. At this point, knowing Bob, I stared straight into his face – you have to stand up to him. And his eye started wandering off around the room. This totally threw me, I failed to come up with any decent answer, and I got known as Pinhead for months to come.

Take action: If you are ever in a tight spot, make sure you’ve got a glass eye you can use to distract your adversary. And if you’re on the other side, try to keep your head.

Cheers

Baz

PS: I’m following a 12 week plan – the idea is to achieve a year’s worth of work in 3 months. And the key to it is staying focussed. If you’d like help with this, mail me at hello@clientrobot.com.

It doesn’t matter who you are

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

When I was a teenager, I had a friend called Billy. He lived in the grounds of Newstead Abbey, which is where Lord Byron frolicked. It was a big house with a load of land in a very very nice area. They even had woods out back, which we used for the filming of our home-made Vietnam War epic “Wham bam thank you ‘Nam”.

Bill’s dad was called Bob. Bob was a plumber. Looking back, Bob taught me some very valuable lessons about running a business.

The single most important thing was it doesn’t really matter who you are or where you come from, you can do it.

Like most people in that area, his family, and his wife’s family, grew up without much. Lots of coal miners in the area, including in their family. Generally people round there didn’t expect much beyond a wage for their hard work. Certainly not running a successful business.

Bob was taught to work hard. He worked very hard. He made sure he had the right skills and more importantly he applied them well. And he reaped the results.

He lived in this amazing house. He had nice cars. His kids went to a posh school (the one I went to). He worked hard, but played hard (rugby union was his thing). And Bill was one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet.

Often, I think I’m not good enough for what I’m doing. I think I don’t belong here, that I’m just winging it, that I don’t deserve what I’ve got. But I think of Bob (and his wonky eye – more on that later) and I realise that I work hard, I’ve got real skills and I love helping people. Of course I deserve it.

Take action: Sometimes you need to remember the Bob’s in your life and realise that you do deserve that better life.

Cheers

Baz

PS: If you’re working hard but not getting the results you deserve, reply to this email (hello@clientrobot.com) and let’s have a quick chat. I’m sure I can help you out, it’s all free and there’s no obligation to buy anything or anything like that. Just message me – hello@clientrobot.com

ClientRobot

New year – new branding.

EchoDek Limited has been the company name for the past few years (and before that it was called 3hv because of a bin). But as I shift my focus away from pure software development into things that are much more business and sales-focussed, I’m going to push the ClientRobot brand forwards much more.

So the company’s still called EchoDek, but everything you see will be all about ClientRobot. And I’ve got a whole load of exciting products and services to share with you.

For now, just remember this – if you know someone with a really small business, who is looking to take it to the next level, ask them if they’d have a friendly, no obligation, chat with me. I know a few tricks that can help you get more done in 3 months than most people achieve in a year.

So here’s to ClientRobot. And your success.

I have no idea what I’m doing

If you’ve never had a formal business education (like an MBA or whatever) but you still run your own business … join the club.

Most of us end up here through circumstance – made redundant, tired of working for an idiot, pursuing a dream, falling into a nightmare.

And somehow, we all muddle through.

But sometimes, it feels like there’s extremely important things that we’re ignoring. Like financial reports. Or … something we don’t even know exists yet. We read various business forums and we see people asking about things we’ve never even heard of. And it makes us feel like the amateurs we are.

Rather than getting lost and confused, it’s time to get educated.

Here’s a list of things that I found incredibly useful over the years.

  • “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber. It’s a classic and for a reason – explaining how you can design a business that works for you, without driving yourself up the wall.
  • “Profit First” by Mike Michalowicz. How to make sure that you pay yourself and earn a profit (even if it’s just a small one) no matter how your business is doing.
  • “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. The hardest thing for me is staying focussed on the task at hand. The One Thing explains how.
  • “Growth Club” by ActionCoach. Every quarter, take a day out of your business to review where you’ve come from and decide where you want to go. The draw up a detailed plan to get there.
  • BNI. A lot of people hate it. But it teaches you a lot – from standing up and presenting in front of a room full of strangers (and amend your pitch so it has the most impact), how to get sales (as the techniques you use to get referrals and invite visitors are the same ones you can use yourself in your sales process) and how to structure your business so you can measure how well it’s doing (BNI is a franchise with an easy to follow system).
  • Sleep. Get a good mattress and make sure you sleep enough. Not just so you can get enough done tomorrow, but also to keep you fit and well into old age.
  • Get an advisor. A mentor. Or a coach. Because there will be times when you can’t be arsed and you need someone to hold you accountable.

Hope that helps – if you’d like to know more about any of these, let me know – hello@echodek.co.

Cheers

Baz

PS: Or you can shortcut the lot and check out my course “Business Essentials“. It’s pay as you feel, so if you’re struggling, you won’t be out of pocket.

How much do I charge to write lead generation emails?

So I saw this question being asked the other day and I thought it interesting.

“How much should I charge to write emails for a company – I’m writing emails to generate leads. It’s my first time doing this .. can you recommend any sites for guidance?”

The thing is, given the information there, I wouldn’t even touch the job.

What conversion rate are they expecting?

What’s the value of the sale?

How many emails are they sending, what’s the target audience and how closely does the list match that target audience?

If you don’t know those things you’re setting yourself up to fail. The campaign will fail, the client will blame you and you will feel terrible.

You need to remember that, deep down, the client doesn’t want an email from you, they want you to get them more sales.

And that information, requested at the top, will help you achieve that.

Then you can use that to calculate a price.

Don’t figure it out on an hourly rate, because that undervalues your expertise. Think of it this way – next month, you’re going to get a similar job and you’re going to be better at writing these emails. Six months on, you’ll get more jobs like this and you’ll be better yet. And each time you get better, you get faster at writing more effective emails. So if you charge by the hour, you’re getting paid less for doing better work.

Cheers,

Baz

PS: A quick favour – if you know any freelancers or small business owners, I’ve got a free planner. It helps you decide on the important figures for next few weeks, figure out how much you’ve got to spend and put a plan in place for the coming month. And it’s totally free. So ask your friend to download it here.

How minimum should a minimum viable product be?

The idea of a “Minimum Viable Product” is a fantastic one.

Instead of wasting a load of time and effort on something that might not work, you build the bare minimum to prove that your product is viable in the marketplace, and then, and only then, do you invest significant time and resources in growing the business.

It’s something that’s only really possible because of the way we can constantly ship updates to customers using digital technologies – so even if someone gets in right at the start, what they’ve purchased grows as the product grows.

But how minimum does your MVP have to be?

Is it enough to have a demo? Does it need to be ready for heavy duty use? Should you launch to a small section of the market, just to get feedback? Or aim for a general release?

Personally, I think the answer to this is simple.

It needs to be enough to solve an expensive problem. And no more.

It doesn’t have to look great. It doesn’t have to be slick.

As long as it solves the problem then people will pay for it, they will give you feedback and you will learn what works and doesn’t work. Even if it’s dead ugly.

Cheers,

Baz

PS: A quick favour – if you know any freelancers or small business owners, I’ve got a free planner. It helps you decide on the important figures for next few weeks, figure out how much you’ve got to spend and put a plan in place for the coming month. And it’s totally free. So ask your friend to download it here.