Join our club

Not many people are brave enough to start their own business.

People like us, we took a risk.

We made a stand.

(by the way, if you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, click these links – Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher or Spotify)

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.

Photo by Miroslava on Unsplash

A confession

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.

Several times.

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.

If you want to subscribe to the audio so you never ever miss my beautiful voice, just choose your podcast app and click below:

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

  1. I have no idea what that means
  2. if such a thing even exists
  3. they literally wrestled alligators
  4. Of course, they also adopt and save a whole village of brown children at the same time
  5. I was right
  6. Low wages in exchange for lots of training
  7. Don’t get me wrong – all fantastic people and good at what they did – but I was crap at looking after them
  8. and weekdays grovelling to clients
  9. basically a giant address book mixed in with a sales process

How my clients got her evenings back

One of my clients, let’s call her Sarah, had the type of business where you’re out on site all the time. She got paid to go out on site, use her expertise to evaluate the situation, lay down some remedial work, then return a few weeks or months later to assess whether it had worked. It was health and safety based and important stuff – other businesses depended on her.

As her reputation grew, as she got more and more well-known, she was spending more and more time out on the road, in the van. Of course, to manage a business, she also needed to keep up with the admin work – book-keeping, invoicing and, most importantly, job sheets. Because this stuff was safety related, if the job sheets weren’t right, there were legal implications for both her and her clients.

So she hired in some staff. This was a big step. The business could now cover a bigger region and she was spending less time in the van. But her days were spent with even more administration. Book-keeping, invoicing, collecting and filing job sheets. On top of that, she was constantly on the phone, scheduling appointments, telling the others where to be, chasing things up if anything went wrong. Which it often did.

This meant dealing with clients during the day and paperwork and administration at night. Sometimes on weekends too.

It was all getting too much.

So we put in a simple system.

As clients needed work doing, it got entered into the system. The team got notifications of where they needed to be, and when. They filed their job sheets electronically. Follow-up work was scheduled automatically. Sarah got to spend more time in the office. Instead of constant fire-fighting, she could look to growing the business. Expanding geographically.

Now she works across the whole country, proudly boasting many national chains as her clients.

And none of this was complicated. The team liked the system as it was so simple and easy to use. Sarah liked the system as it made her life so much easier.

And most importantly, she got her evenings back.

If your business is struggling, there are five areas where you can make similar, incredibly simple changes. These are:

  • Finance – the business needs a degree of profit to survive. You need to make sure the bills are paid, the team get their wages and you get something as a reward for all your hard work.
  • Operations – the business needs to run like clockwork. You need to make sure you consistently deliver a great service to your clients, or they won’t come back.
  • Sales – no business can survive without clients, so you have to make sure you’ve got new ones coming in at the right times.
  • Leads – if you want new clients, you have to get the word out there, make sure you’re attracting people and letting them know what you do.
  • Time – at the end of the day, you need to be able to switch off, safe in the knowledge that the business can look after itself. You’ve taken a huge risk in getting this far, you deserve some time to ourselves to enjoy your life.

Once you identify the area of greatest impact for YOUR business, there are simple changes that can make a massive difference.

So instead of trying to tackle them all at once, you can focus on the area that will free up the most time and money, giving you the most freedom to live your life the way you should be.

If you’d like to know which area you should concentrate on – and get a few ideas about improvements that can be made in that area – take my quick quiz. It only takes a few minutes and can point you in the right direction for making a positive change to your business.

Never trust someone who has time to do it all

So, you’ve figured out your “X”.

You’ve figured out your five year roadmap to get there.

You’ve figured out your twelve week plan to get you started.

You’ve got one thing to do this week.

Will you do it?

Life gets in the way.

It’s inevitable.

Because “X” is important. That other stuff is urgent. The urgent stuff nearly always takes priority. Normally because someone is shouting at you, you feel stressed and you want that feeling to go away.

So, at the start of each week, choose a time. Maybe it’s one morning or afternoon this week. Maybe it’s one hour per day for five days. It depends on the task you’ve set yourself, on the nature of your week.

But set aside that time. Switch off your notifications and divert your calls.

Set a timer for half an hour and say to yourself “I’m just going to work on this for till the timer rings”. Then get started.

The half hour timer works, because you know you’re not going to spend to long on it. But once you get started, you’ll probably find it easy to continue through your allotted time – the first step is always the hardest.

And, you’ll probably notice that the sky didn’t fall in while your phone was off. Plus you’ve got the satisfaction of knowing you are one twelfth of the way towards your target.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Never trust a long term plan

You’ve figured out your “X”. That’s amazing. Very few people actually manage to do that.

You’ve figured out a general roadmap for getting there. Here’s where you want to be in five years. So to reach there, here’s where you need to be in three. Here’s where you need to be in one. Here’s where you need to be in three months.

Three months is important.

It’s far enough away that you can make some significant progress. It’s close enough that you feel the urgency; if you want to get there, you can’t afford to slack off.

So look at your three month target.

  • What are 12 things you can actually physically do to make sure that you achieve your April target?
  • Schedule one of those 12 things each week between now and April.
  • Say to yourself out loud “I commit to doing Y this week as it will help me reach my goal of X”.
  • And then make sure you do those 12 things over the next 12 weeks.

When you get to April, repeat the process.

Look at your January 2020 goal and figure out what the ONE THING you need to achieve by August 2019 is. Then write out 12 tasks from April to August and do one each week.

And then do the same again each quarter – look at your next big milestone, figure out ONE THING you can do in the next quarter to move in that direction then break it into 12 weekly tasks.

This gives you the time to deal with all the day-to-day stuff that gets in the way, whilst still remaining focussed on your life’s purpose. It gives you a chance to reevaluate and change your plans as life throws stuff at you, but makes sure you keep heading in the same direction.

Photo by Julentto Photography on Unsplash

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.

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?