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Working alone: how to combat the isolation

There are a lot of benefits to working alone. 

Nobody telling you what to do. 

Nobody holding you up with their incompetence.

And nobody distracting you with office gossip or personal dramas. 

Working alone is great. 

Or is it? 

Running a business can be a lonely place, and it helps to have someone to bounce an idea off, discuss a problem with or get advice from when we need to make an important decision. Even the most anti-social of us can find ourselves missing human company from time to time.

So, if your only conversations in the last week were with Alexa, your cat or the guy that called about mis-sold PPI, then it’s time to get out and mingle.

Attend networking events

Networking is a great way to meet people and build connections. There are loads of events on offer – each with different formats and different people. 

Referral based networking groups are good for building long term relationships and getting more business. 

Peer-to-peer boards tend to be smaller and are beneficial if you have specific obstacles you need help overcoming. 

Industry meet-ups are good if you want to stay up to date and share advice with people in your field.

And, if you really can’t bear the idea of formal networking, then attending an exhibition might be a less daunting option.

Attend a few different events to find the ones that work for you. Even if you’ve had a bad experience of networking, give it another go. Think of it like eating out – just because you’ve had a bad meal at one restaurant doesn’t mean you’ll never try another one.

Work in a public place

Co-working spaces are brilliant for business owners and freelancers who work alone. Not only are they far cheaper than an individual office space, you also get to network with the people you share the space with. 

If co-working feels like to much of a commitment, try working out of a coffee shop, bar, library or even the train station once or twice a week. You get the feeling of being around people all day, but interactions can be kept to a minimum. 

Get training or coaching

Personal development is essential if you want to succeed in business. Look for training courses in your area. Not only will you learn a new skill or build your expertise, it’s also a great opportunity to make some new connections. 

If you want someone to help you get your business to the next stage, a business mentor or coach is hugely beneficial. They will be there to bounce ideas off, hold you accountable and help you reach your potential. Different coaches and mentors have different personalities and styles, so find someone who feels like the right fit for you. 

Need some help?

When I first started out, networking was a scary prospect. Now I regularly attend networking events and training courses. I have also worked with various coaches at different stages of my career and have taken advantage of co-working spaces. 

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

Download your free planner now

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Do I need a business coach?

There’s a quick answer to the question “do I need a business coach?”

NO

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. 

Arrange a call back

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The trouble with Post-it notes

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.

Physical.

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.

Are you getting to the stage where it’s something you need to think about? If so, I’m happy to advise – click here to arrange a call-back at a time that suits you.

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash