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:

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  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

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

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

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

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