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

My client did one simple thing and it made him a ton of money

One of my clients, let’s call him Chris, had two parts to his business.

There was his online retail stuff. Where he sold items to the general public. It was good, high quality kit and he had a nice unique selling point to get the general public’s attention. It worked, and he competed against firms that were much bigger than him, who had much larger advertising budgets. He had a good niche for himself.

Then he also had a commercial arm. Where he sold his kit to specific businesses. This worked very differently. Online, a sale could be completed in minutes, at worst, in hours. But the commercial sales were different. The clients would ask for samples, they would need to know safety information and technical details to ensure that the kit met with their exacting requirements. A short sale could take days to complete. All too often, they took months.

Chris knew he needed some help as he wanted to grow the commercial arm. He expected that the help he needed would be expensive and complicated. He asked me.

The fix he was looking for was so simple, he could have kicked himself.

Every time he received a request for samples, he noted it down in his software system. Three days later, the software reminded him to call them back. He called them back. They either said “yes”, “no” or “maybe”. If they said “yes” everyone was happy. If they said “no”, Chris knew not to waste his time. And if they said “maybe” he answered their questions and then stuck another reminder in to call them again in a few days or weeks.

Such a simple system.

But it made a huge difference. 5 figures in extra sales in a couple of weeks. 6 figures of extra sales in a couple of months. Chris’s commercial side of the business was growing faster than he could have imagined.

All from one tiny little follow-up call.

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.

 

 

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.

When you’re looking for clients, sometimes the answer is right under your nose

One of my clients, let’s call him Kevin, had been doing OK.

But he was in a bit of a rut. There was growing competition in his industry and he knew that if he didn’t move forwards, he’d get left behind.

But he didn’t know where to begin.

The advantage of having ten years of business experience behind you is you have a whole raft of previous clients. In Kevin’s case, lots of previous clients that he’d done one bit of work for and never spoken to again.

But Kevin’s industry was one of those where the regulations meant you needed to get certification every two years. That was a lot of repeat business he was missing out on.

So we took all his previous customer data – which was scattered all over the place.

Some was in various folders on his (creaking) server in the office.

Some was stored as emails in his mailbox.

Some was in paper reprints of his certificates that were in a filing cabinet.

We got all that data together, compiled it into one big spreadsheet. And imported that into the system.

Now he knew, at a glance, which of his previous customers he still had contact details for. He knew, at a glance, in which month their recertification was due (remember, it was every two years, so it was likely in the same month each time).

And then we added in an automated “to-call” list.

The system just looked at previous customers who had a recertification due in three months and flagged them up. If we didn’t have contact details, someone would look them up and fill it in on the database. And once we did have contact details, we would ring them, asking if they needed recertification.

This was easy.

The system picked out the prime candidates automatically.

The call was easy – your certification is probably up for renewal anyway and we’ve worked for you before.

And the call had one of three outcomes.

  • “No” or “Not Found”. In which case, we flagged them up as “do not contact”.
  • “Maybe”. Perhaps it was the right month but the wrong year. In which case, we scheduled a follow up call at a time that suited.
  • And “Yes”. In which case, Kevin had won some repeat business from someone he hadn’t spoken to in years.

Kevin was pleased. It was working. The “Yes”es were piling up.

It was an incredibly simple system.

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.

Feel like you’re only just keeping your head above the water?

You’re in the car park. It’s 1:55 in the afternoon. Your phone buzzes again. You sigh, picking it up, the dread weighing on your shoulders.

What a surprise! Yet another problem.

That seems to be the story every day at the moment. Every hour. You’re constantly firefighting, always dealing with issues, never switching off.

And now it’s 1:56.

Your kid’s school play starts in four minutes.

If you can just make this phone call, tell Claire in the office to call the client and say you’ll get back to them later this afternoon … then you can get out of the car, run into school and you might only miss the first couple of minutes. You just need to make this call…

It’s overwhelming isn’t it?

And, because it’s your business, you have to carry it on your shoulders.

It weighs you down. Almost like you’re drowning.

The thing is, you’re not alone. I know. I’ve been in that car. For me, the Christmas Concert is the one that springs to mind.

Many of us, who started our own businesses, have been through exactly the same thing. We started out confident in our abilities. We knew we were great at what we did. We knew we could undercut the competition on price. And things went really well at first. In fact, we had so much work, we even took a few people on to help us out.

But that’s when the problems started.

Because, even with the extra bodies, the business still took up loads of our time.

Think about it… when things are going well, you’re out there looking for new clients. But when things go wrong, it’s on you to sort it out.

Sometimes it even feels like you’re spending as much time baby-sitting the staff as you are doing the job. Every decision comes through you. Every complaint comes through you. Everything needed to be double-checked and triple-checked.

It’s exhausting.

So now you’re spending so much of your time dealing with all this stuff and you’ve totally forgotten about why you started the business in the first place.

What happened to loving the work?

The flexible hours?

The extra cash?

The freedom?

An answer in under 3 minutes

The really tricky bit is that, once you get to a certain stage in your business, you need to switch things around. The tactics that got you this far won’t get you any further. In fact, they’re positively slowing your business down.

And driving you up the wall.

It’s time to make changes.

But you can’t do it wholesale though, that’s too much to take in one go. Instead, you just need to take it one step at a time.

Pick off the area that you can have the most impact in, concentrate on getting that working right, then take a moment to relax. As now you’ve got a bit of breathing space.

But where do you begin? How do you know which area will actually give you that space?

An answer in under 3 minutes

Every growing business has at least one of these five main areas that could be improved:

  • Finance – the business needs a degree of profit to survive. We 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. We need to make sure we consistently deliver a great service to our clients, or they won’t come back.
  • Sales – no business can survive without clients, so we have to make sure we’ve got new ones coming in at the right times.
  • Leads – if we want new clients, we have to get the word out there, make sure we’re attracting people and letting them know what we do.
  • Time – at the end of the day, we need to be able to switch off, safe in the knowledge that the business can look after itself. We’ve taken a huge risk in getting this far, we deserve some time to ourselves to enjoy our lives.

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. You can do it on your phone, sat on the sofa.  It only takes a few minutes and can point you in the right direction for making a positive change to your business.

An answer in under 3 minutes

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

I don’t want the sale

Earlier this week, we talked about attracting potential clients, by understanding what they want, why they want it and where they hang out.

Then we looked at making sure that they are interested in what you offer, by explaining your offer, showing that it works for other people, taking away their risk and then adding some urgency.

Yesterday we looked at dealing with price objections by adding more to your story; by giving a compelling reason for them to ignore the price.

But there’s one more thing that we need to talk about.

When my business was primarily all about software development, I made one change in how I did things and suddenly the invoices I was sending to clients increased in value by a factor of 10. And the clients were happy to pay it.

It was incredibly simple.

It was also really, really, really difficult.

I just said “no”.

I had been meeting with potential clients, going in to meetings with the expectation that I would be trying to persuade them that what I offer is really good, that the software I could build for them would solve their problems, that the price I wanted for it was something that they could afford.

But I realised that I had it all wrong.

My best clients were ones that I had a long-term relationship with. Because we trusted each other. We knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we dealt with them. We worked well together.

So I brought this to my sales process.

Every meeting, I started looking for reasons to say “no”. I started giving them reasons to go with someone else. Have you considered outsourcing the job to India? I know a really good app guy in Aberdeen who could do this for you. This isn’t really my strength, so I should turn it down. Actually, looking at it, the cost is going to be at least three times your budget. There’s no way I can get this finished before next March.

This worked. Some people went away. But the ones that stayed really stayed. I had put all their objections up in front of them, before they had even thought of them. They looked at the objection, came up with their own answer to it and moved on to the next stage. So when it finally came to the deal, I could name my price and set my own payment terms – they were so invested in the project that they didn’t want to go with anyone else.

Take action: Make sure you “qualify” everyone who comes in to your sales funnel. Do you really want their business?

Photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash