Ever feel like you’re stuck in a loop?

When you started your business, did you have big dreams and ambitions? Or even moderate dreams and ambitions?

Maybe you just wanted the free time and ability to take time off and pick your kids up from school?

Or you fancied a big house in the country, and a slightly smaller town house that you could gift to your mum?

Whether you wanted your business to give you a lavish lifestyle or just give you a bit more of what you were lacking – it’s often easy to lose track of those dreams.

When I was looking back through my notes from three years ago, I was shocked to see that I’ve not really moved forwards in all that time. The goals I had set for myself were substantially the same as this years. The progress I had made was, in many cases, non-existent.

Are you stuck in a loop? I am (was?)

There’s a saying “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got”.

If you want to move towards those dreams, you need to change how you do things. It’s not enough to write out a plan. You’ve got to decide to implement it. And make sure you actually do.

Too often, I’ve come up with the plan then got distracted when implementing it. And the reason for that is because of a number of issues I’ve got in my own brain.

I consistently underestimate how long a particular project will take. I always undercharge for the work I do. I’m always too nice when it comes to accepting change requests.

So I decided, earlier this year, that it was time to change.

I no longer take on those bespoke, open-ended projects. So there’s no estimating to be done; instead I have a series of defined, thought-out products that give you what you need but give me certainty in how long they will take to deliver.

I have a fixed price list. No more writing proposals and estimating how much it’s going to cost. Instead, I can say “here are the prices; I hope you’ll see they’re extremely good value for what you get”.

And I have a process for handling requests. When we’re at points X and Y in the process, that’s when we make those amendments. That way we stay on schedule, we all know where we stand but the end result still fits your needs precisely.

For me, the change I needed was all about money. Where do you need to make the change?

Find out how.

Sometimes, the smallest changes can make the biggest difference

How does your business look to you at the moment?

Are you struggling for time?

Have you had an evening off recently?

Have you had a weekend off recently?

When we started out, all the gurus and fancy pants consultants were swanning around, promising us that running our own business would be fun.

  • It would give us more money.
  • No more idiot bosses.
  • Take time out to spend with the kids.
  • Work in your underwear.
  • On the beach.

What happened to that lifestyle?

The problem is, many of us were never taught how to run a business.

I certainly wasn’t.

This means that the stuff that we already knew how to do, were within us. But the extra stuff that we needed to know … we didn’t even know we needed it.

Because that first year or two … it’s all about the stuff you know how to do. The things you did for your day job, you just find a few clients and do it for them.

But as time goes on, as your clients’ expectations change, as your expectations change, you need to change.

Learn new skills.

Approach things in a different way.

And when we’re in the thick of it, it feels like we can’t afford to do that.

Because there’s no money to spend on training. There’s no way we can hire someone to do the tedious admin stuff. We just don’t have the time to invest in what we know needs to be done.

It’s overwhelming.

There is a solution though.

Recently, I went to the physio. I have had problems in my calf muscles and shins for years. I thought it was finally time to do something about it.

She prescribed me a series of exercises.

Each exercise was tiny.

Calf raises. Heel drops. Lunges.

Do one – didn’t even notice.

Do ten – barely notice.

Do thirty – woah that really hurts.

Each set of exercises took about ten minutes.

And on day one, I could barely do fifteen of each.

By day seven, I could do twenty.

By day fourteen, I could do thirty.

Even though each individual exercise was tiny, even though the time I spent was short, just the simple repetition of really small steps was going a long long way to making a huge difference.

And it’s the same with your business.

The simple things can make a massive difference.

Baby steps.

Fix one problem at a time.

Find out how.

How to get fewer sales

Do you remember Duck Tales?


If you do, I bet you’ve got the theme tune in your brain right now. And it will stay there for a significant amount of time. Sorry.

But the most important thing about Duck Tales was Scrooge McDuck.

When he dived into that bath of gold coins.

Because that’s what life is like for you right now.

You’re giving it the full Scrooge McDuck, bathing in gold, because business is so amazing and you’ve got clients coming out of your ears.

It’s getting to the point that these pesky clients are impinging on your lifestyle. What you really need is to put a stop to your sales process.

Well, don’t worry … I know just how to do it.

(If you prefer, you can listen to this as a podcast – I talk a bit more about ways to do this and don’t talk quite as much about ducks – but you can’t have everything)


Let’s say you go to a networking event. Everyone stands up, does a quick piece to introduce themselves and you all pair off, for your one-to-ones.

Here’s what you do.

Listen intently.

Look them in the eye.

Mirror their body language.

Wait till they expose their weakness … something like “and that doesn’t work right”, or “we are looking for a better way”.

As soon as there’s a chink in their armour, as soon as they’ve revealed that they aren’t living that Scrooge McDuck lifestyle, you need to dive in (just imagine it’s a vault of pure gold).

Tell them how you can help.

Explain to them how great your service is.

Make sure that they are aware of every feature, every tiny option.

Pound them over the head with it.

Remember, they’ve said that they need help … who better than you to help them?

And then, as soon as you see them break, as soon as you notice that the life is creeping out of their eyes, hit them with “…so can I sign you up for the standard plan or the premium one?”

If you move really fast like this, you’re guaranteed to piss your prospect off. You might get some sales from it, but you’re more likely to get people waiting till you’re out of the room and badmouthing you to anyone who’ll listen.

And that’s what you want right?

Fewer sales

However, if you’re not Scrooge McDuck quite yet; if you’re feeling like you really can’t afford to piss people off and lose those potential sales … why not take my quick quiz and see if it’s really sales that you need help with? It might be that actually you could do with generating some more leads, streamlining your operations or just increasing your profitability.

Sometimes the smallest changes can make a massive difference – but only if you start from the right place.

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

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