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 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 Two Dogs

Photo by Carlos Fernando Bendfeldt on Unsplash

So this week, I’ve been writing about my friend’s dad, Bob. He was an amazing guy, but this is my absolute favourite thing about him.

I’m a dog person, and Bob had a beautiful black labrador called Bruce. As you’d expect of a lab, he was incredibly friendly, very laid back, just happy to be involved as we all did our thing.

But Bruce was getting on a bit. You could see it in his muzzle, his movements were getting slower, there was a tiredness in his eyes.

Bob knew Bruce’s time was coming to an end. So he set out to look for a new dog for the family. He wanted another black lab. They were his favourite. He set out on the search for one.

One day, I turned up at Bill’s house, to be greeted by a brand new black labrador. Obviously not Bruce, as this one was a youngster. Full of energy, excited by everything.

“Wow – new dog. What’s his name?” I asked, very excited myself, as I love dogs.

“Bruce” came the reply from the kitchen.

“Bruce?”

“Yes, that was his name when we got him and I didn’t want to change it”.

So Bob ended up with two black labradors, both called Bruce. Anyone would think he was set in his ways.

Cheers

Baz

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

Is this the end?

I’ve been writing these daily letters for over a year now. To be honest, I’m surprised at how easy it’s been. I’ve rarely struggled for topics, they don’t take long to write, and although some are a bit light on content, I also think I’ve written some good stuff.

But, I’m now considering stopping the daily letters.

You might have noticed I’ve been thinking about making best use of my time for a while now. And I’m not sure the emails are the best thing for me at the moment. Instead, doing another podcast (something I really enjoy doing), or video (something I don’t enjoy doing, but practice always helps) are what I’m considering.

The issue with both of those is a one or two minute daily episode probably wouldn’t work, so I’d have to switch to weekly. And weekly has challenges when it comes to writing and publishing.

Every day I ask you to take action, hopefully to help you. Today, I’m asking you to take action on my behalf. I won’t write anything else this week, while I think about what to do next.

Take action: Please email hello@echodek.co with one word – PODCAST, VIDEO or EMAIL.

Making a difference

A lot of people say “I don’t really like my job, I feel like I should be making a difference”

A huge percentage of those people then do absolutely nothing about it.

Why not?

Probably because they don’t know what they mean when they say “making a difference”

For me, I’ve figured it out. It’s taken me forty-something years, but it’s become a driver for what I do. I know how I can make a difference and it now sits at the heart of how I plan my days. As you might have guessed from this week’s letters, it involves talking to people.

Take action: Do you want to make a difference? What does that actually mean to you? If you don’t know, I might be able to help you figure it out.

Talking to strangers on the street

The other day, we went to the pub, then went to the shop to get some supplies for the evening (booze1 and unhealthy snacks). Sat outside was a homeless guy. I had some change in my pocket so I gave him some and said “there you go”. He said “thank you, I just need to get some money for a bed tonight and you’re the first person today who hasn’t just given me abuse”. It was gone 7pm.

I sat down with him and we had a chat. A bit about how the various hostels worked (if you don’t get in on a Friday, you’re basically locked out till Monday), about the people he was talking to to try and get some help, about how he sometimes feels like he doesn’t exist as people look away.

I’m not saying this to be preachy or anything. It could be that he was totally taking me for a ride. But it’s more likely that he wasn’t lying about being ignored all day (face it, that’s not improbable), and for a couple of minutes I might just have made him feel a tiny bit better. For the cost of a few coins and some time.

Take action: Talk to strangers, wherever they are.

  1. Appletise for me