Driving your business with your Dashboard

You know how important your business dashboard is to operate your business, that is if you have one, and if you don’t, I recommend you consider it. A dashboard in a small business is like having a map, compass and light on a dark bush trail. But I must say, not knowing what the dashboard data means is like driving a car with no road sense. We are a big fan of business dashboards and whilst we recommend specific applications suited to a particular industry such as ServiceM8 (for field service industries), we believe others such as Wrike, Grow, Zoho Analytics, Microsoft Dynamics 365 are all great tools to give you an overview on how your business is performing. But the question is do you know what you are looking for in the data and more to the point how to utilise it in the business.

 

Some say that business coaches are becoming extinct due to the growth in video training. But the real truth is, if you are operating a business dashboard and you don’t have a coach or advisor then you are not maximising the potential of the dashboard and your business is missing out on valuable information that will project your business competitively into the future. Because data is key to any business’ success irrespective of size or industry. Numbers are everything and they don’t lie, trust me I have seen numbers transform a business by understanding market shifts with extraordinary results.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy – who owns your business Tip: accountability and responsibility

Who do you think owns your business? have you ever stopped to think about this, probably not, simply because it is not a normal concept. The real truth is a very real concept and is a way of building your business sustainably and profitably.

Have you seen the Movie Guardians Of The Galaxy, a great watch and I do recommend it? Whilst there are some similarities in the movie, what I am stating here is this;

The government has given you approval to trade as a business, you have set up the business and it is going well, but if you think you own it think again.

Yes, you have ultimate control and ultimate responsibility, and this can’t be forgotten, but if you think of your role as a Guardian of the business you start to think like you are only looking after it and developing it ready for the next generation of guardians (and this is normally your part of your succession plan).

What’s your story

Life has a funny way of proving to you how it all works. Have you ever thought, “that was a weird conversation” after striking up a discussion with a complete stranger? Well, if you think about it a bit deeper then you will analyse the most prevalent parts of the discussion and find that you both had some similarities. That is because everyone has a story, every brand / logo has a story (even though they can be obvious), everything on the planet has a story. How did it come to exist, where has it travelled, why does it look the way it does, and when we look at things and meet people, we don’t take the time to stop and think how does this moment fit into my journey of life.

So, here is a something for you to think about.

“How much do you know about your customers?”

Think of your best customers, how much do you know about them, have they ever shared something with you about them that just simply blew you away. Probably not, and let’s make it clear I am not about to recommend you pry or stalk your customers, but what I do suggest is next time you are with a customer spend a few extra minutes (and that is all it takes) to ask some interesting questions about them, they may just blow you away.

Let me tell you about my “blown away moment”. I was attending as a VIP guest a major sporting event in one of the most beautiful villages I have visited, in southern Norway right in the middle of a European summer. I had not long landed after a long and enduring flight from Sydney, which I guess was something like 26 hours of flight time, when I wandered down to the event area to meet some of the teams and managers. After a short meet and greet I decided to take in the sights and sounds of this beautiful fjord village and stalled though the main centre to find a quaint and unique cafe. It was more like a whole in the wall that served coffee roadside, an experience within itself. I ordered and then took a seat on an old iron chair by the cobblestone laneway. Not long after my Cappuccino arrived, I voice from me proudly asked, Hi Paul, enjoying Norway”, much to my surprise, (as I didn’t know anyone in this village accept some guys I had just met at the pit paddock), turned around rapidly to see one of the Team guys I had met not more than 30 minutes prior. I asked him to join me (I was by myself anyway) and shouted him a coffee. He then went onto tell me about his passion motorsport and racing along with some brief snippets of his experiences around the world during the sport, a very interesting and enlightening discussion, something I had never thought I would have known except for me nagging in his presence and listening intently. He later left me and went on his way back to the hotel. The next morning, I met him again in the breakfast room of the hotel, and much to my surprise he was one of the team owners of a multimillion-dollar racing team and significant member of a royal middle eastern family. Now that blew me away. BTW he was a great guy.

For those who know me, I have plenty of the types of stories from my time consulting across the world. Each one of these stories has not enlightened me but have created great relationships right across the world. But more than anything else, it has allowed me to understand people more and realise that everyone has a story however strange, interesting or ordinary, every story is worth listening to. So, all I can say is, “What’s your story” a question you should ask more.

 

You must be lucky!

So, you have gone into business, the first 12 months seems like it’s an awesome gig, you start to get some traction, finally! Your friends and family are looking at and think WOW YOU ARE SO LUCKY! And you think REALLY is that what it looks like from the outside.

Sound familiar. Well, don’t worry you are not alone. In fact, this is the most common comment made to small business owners, and funny enough they are normally made by those who have never been in business themselves. So, it is not surprising, because they only see what lies on the surface, and because you want to give the outside world a good impression to attract business, you don’t tell anyone about how hard it really is. But that is fine, you are not supposed to air your dirty laundry to your potential customers anyway.

Maybe, this comment of “being lucky” is something of a throwaway line anyway. I believe it is and has always been that way. We just have never taken the time to analyse why people say it, maybe it is surprise, jealously or possibly embarrassment, but one thing is for sure it is not targeted at you, you are just in the line of fire when it happens.

Roman Philosopher Seneca states, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”.

So, let’s make your acceptance of this comment that can so frustrate you, somewhat easier or in fact more enjoyable to respond, and it simply goes like this.

Next time someone says to you “Jeez, you’re lucky being in your own business”, all you need to reply with is “Yes it is great, it’s not easy but I prepared myself and the business for the journey ahead for all the opportunities that may arise”. See how your friends reply then, it would make for an interesting discussion.

So, if you operate your own business and you aren’t feeling lucky, then start preparing yourself, get planned and improve your processes, because opportunities are everywhere, you just need to be ready for them. And that my friends is LUCK.

Numbers in business

As Richard Branson explains in his book, The Virgin Way – Listen, Laugh, Lead (I highly recommend every business owner/entrepreneur read) –

“One positive lesson I took away from the whole public company experience, was that there are quite a few public company-like disciplines that start-ups should adopt from day one. The reporting requirements leaves no room for the levels of creative ‘we’ll worry about that later’ accounting that a lot of start-ups practise for years. While the disciplines are mostly on the financial side, better tracking of your forward progress in all kinds ways gives your people a better metric by which to measure their own contributions and development.”

So, to summarise this even more, if you don’t start your business with some idea of the numbers around what makes it breathe, then guess what, it will inevitably die.

What I mean by numbers, you need to firstly establish soon after you understand your product or service offering, what your capacity to deliver is. In other words know how many times you can sell in a month or how many plumbing jobs you can attend in a month, then when you have done that put some costs around how much it will cost to sell that product or deliver that service. Our hourly rate calculator is a great tool to use to establish your costs and charge out rates. Don’t get too worried about these numbers they will all make a lot of sense pretty quickly and will either surprise or shock you, I’ve never seen anyone I have done this exercise with be in the middle.

We are not talking massive accounting feats, nor do you need to have a degree in accounting, there are great software programs around that can help you with this. Accounting packages like Xero, MYOB and QuickBooks all have these functions in them to help you better understand your costs.

I was exposed to how powerful numbers are in business many years ago when I was marketing manager for a Malaysian Car Company, and we had a Feng Shei and numerology expert come to Australia to help fix our sales issues with the brands in our company owned dealerships. I was the biggest sceptic, in fact I thought it was just a junket for these guys to come to Australia for a few games of Golf. Which they did anyway. But truth be known the changes they implemented put dollars on the bottom line and very quickly for the fledgling manufacturer. Pretty amazing.

It wasn’t till much later that I had a meeting with one of these guys.

Know enough to be dangerous

You would have heard this saying many times before, I use it a lot with clients, because I believe it sums up the level of knowledge all business owners should have to build a successful and sustainable business.

What does it really mean?

G.R.E.A.T

Get Real, Educate and Thrive.

Simply put, it is about knowing every part of your business processes, systems, marketing, top 20 clients etc, so if you lose critical players you are not left to fly the plane with no pilot. And crashing the plane is no option. When you know enough to control the plane and caretake a role, your business won’t suffer, or at least not as much.

I recently saw an example of this where, a dedicated manager grew the business and it operated so effectively that the owner decided to take time out to escape from the real issues of the business, not focus on growth and go away for days on end, etc and when the manager decided to move on, the business fell in a heap because the business owner had no systems or processes in place to engage with the customers and the customer couldn’t see value in the company as they had no relationship with the owner and went elsewhere. A sad story but true, and it can happen in an instant.

Invest in your business emotional and mental strength.

One of the most important messages I could ever express to clients on the importance is this idea!

Like most beings, and a business is no different if you don’t give it love and attention it soon enough drops you. So, think of your business as a living organism, step away, jump on the helicopter and look down on it from afar. What do you see?

IS IT GOOD, BAD or INDIFFERENT!

HOW DOES IT FEEL? Does it feel surreal, guess what this is the best exercise you can do to see where the issues in the business really lie. See if you can identify them and take notes and share those notes with a trusted source, get some feedback.

Now, go to work, learn about the issues, identify them, discuss them and then solve them.

So now is the time to invest and learn enough to make sure you are not getting blind-sided by staff or external agencies. This time and learning investment will put digits on your nett profit, trust me.

Employ with your knowledge

Now you have invested in the blood flow of the business you will, by default be able to recruit with confidence and have vested conversations with the right applicants and your decisions on selecting the right applicant will be a simple process. Unless you get all A graders, but that is a great problem to have.

Fly the helicopter regularly

Take a ride in the chopper once is not enough, first time will WOW you and doing it regularly you will zoom in to more things in greater detail and be refreshed by what you see. Focus on what is working well and tweak and repeat, look at what is not working and tune, trim or trash and be ruthless, no time for emotional baggage on the helicopter it slows you down.

So now you should understand knowing enough to be dangerous and using it to your benefit will serve you well.

Good luck have fun and stay true to your values.

Do I need a coach or an advisor?

A question asked regularly and in short, everyone needs a leader but not every business owner needs a coach or advisor. So, let’s explore this statement. The world is a tough place to live, running a business on this planet is even tougher, going it alone is almost suicide. That’s where “No one can be an Island”, we created this tag line to help get the message through that you can only so much by yourself, yet you can change the world with many.

When you run a business, you are faced with challenges every single day and these challenges don’t go home at 5pm nor they start at 9am, they start anytime they like, and they only finish when you tell them too. This is my point; challenges pop up at any time and they only stop when you deal with them and dealing with them by yourself may not always get you the right result. A leader, mentor, coach or trusted advisor, it doesn’t matter what you wish to call them can be the bet sounding board you will ever have in your business.

All successful entrepreneurs and businesses have a coach or mentor. Why, so they can get a perspective on how to drive a strong business forward into the future.

Mentor V Coach

Mentor is someone that can listen and support you emotionally when needed and a coach will dive into your business and establish your goals and vision and then work with you to guide to achieving them. Most importantly the role of a coach is to bring perspective to your business and more often than not we find we are slowing the business down so we can take a snapshot and put a stake in the ground so we can move forward. This is not the role of a mentor.

A good coach will also;

⁃ Provide a clearer focus
⁃ Help them function as a team
⁃ Look at all aspects of the business
⁃ Ask the right questions at the right time and can shine a light on the business

Why do professional sports people need a coach?

The answer is simple, so they can have someone critique and guide them to gaining that extra edge, even if it is by 1% that shift can be the difference between winning and coming last. As famous F1 Driver Mikka Hakkinen once said no one remembers who comes second! That extra 1% can be the difference.

When should you get a coach?

Not everyone is ready for a coach, but from our survey of our clients over the past few years has shown that more than 85% started coaching because of a life changing event, both mentally, emotionally or financially. Why is this the case, because at some point you question yourself, why am I doing this, and this is brought on by realising that both time and money is related and you are about to experience a change that will require either more time or more money or both. That said you will know deep down when you need to have someone in your corner. Trust me I see it a lot.

Checkout this YouTube video to gain additional insights into why you need a coach:
⁃ Gazelles youtube article https://youtu.be/I-jn92nPvzY

How to choose the right digital agency for your business

One of the most asked questions when it comes to clients looking for marketing support, is “How do I find the right company to help me do online marketing?” – Yes, this is a big question, and having owned a full-service agency for more than 10 years, I understand how this is a troubling question, and trust me I have seen and heard some shocking stories. So, let me help make some sense out of this dilemma.

What is your goal?

One of the biggest mistakes people make in business is they reach out to other professionals expecting all the answers, but the critical mistake is when they meet with the professional, they don’t really understand what they want or more importantly what their goals are. Sound familiar, I have been consulting for more than 20 years and unfortunately this is more the norm than anything else. But let’s face it, we don’t spend much time on planning and understanding what the future looks like, so this will always be the issue.

So, to make sure you don’t waste your time and others, set out a basic set of goals that you want to achieve and the time frame in which to hit these goals. Use the SMART process to set these goals.

For example, if you are choosing a web developer to build a website, know what you want the site to do, i.e.: provide information, sell items or create calls, and then know what services and products you will display on the site. Pretty simple, don’t over think this, it’s not hard.

Marry the right person!

An interesting concept, but I have found it is true in every situation. When meeting someone for the first time using your instinct, ask yourself can I see a long-lasting relationship in business with this person. Look at the body language, listen to how they talk, do the offer you a kind gesture or a golden egg, the latter is the one to worry about!

Do you trust them with the keys to your house?

Believe me, if you trust your gut and your heart you will get it right, I have been burnt by the best in the game and I went with them because they talked it up. Oh, and by the way I have been successfully married for more than 26 years, and I met my wife at the pub when I didn’t want a girlfriend, interesting huh!

Do you know their team?

Who is really doing the work? This should be the most important question you ask the prospective partner. Why? Well, would you ask a surgeon to perform heart surgery, but then realise he gets the fish intern to do the work. NO, you wouldn’t, so why would you leave your business in the hands of those you don’t know.

I recently had an experience with a web developer who professes to be the go to guy in his chosen industry sector, but when it came to handing the site over he didn’t check it and was unaware (so he says) that the site had been a dupe of not one other site in the same sector but three other companies. How did we find this out, we copied some text from the site in bulk and put it in Google and the Google sleuthed him. Bingo. No more work going to that guy, in fact he is probably going for cover.

Are they qualified to service your Ferrari?

Interesting question you may ask! Let’s put it this way, you don’t take your Ferrari to the local garage to have a full service, unless your local garage has the credentials of being a qualified Ferrari mechanic. So do some background checks, don’t just let them show you a beautiful glossy and perfectly bound portfolio of their work. Contact some of their customers and ask them, verify their credentials, if they say they are a marketer or designer, see how long and not just someone that has decided on a career change and gone to Google University to learn their craft.

BTW, keep the economy going, make sure your agency does the work in your home country or better still home town, that way if you have issues you can get it resolved easily, if they are overseas, your chances of getting your agency to respond fast is low. Plus ask yourself this question, why would I get a company that is going to send all my company information and data to someone on the other side of the world where the laws a little bit different. All I can say is beware. Don’t get me wrong I love sites like, 99 designs, Fiverr etc but when it is your data at stake think before sending sensitive tasks to someone you don’t know.

It’s not a one-night stand!

In a digital relationship is not set and forgot or a one-night stand. I like to tell my clients that it is a marathon and both parties need to tirelessly work on the partnership, as I said earlier, know who you are marrying, because you need to get the best from the relationship which will bring the best results for your business.

Marketing and in particular digital marketing is a forever changing world so your Digital partner needs to keep you informed of changes such as Google Algorithms, which change weekly, or it seems that way. By understanding this you can make the necessary changes to your website, social campaigns etc hence improving your results and making sure you don’t get negatively affected. A very important part of managing your marketing as a business owner.

Own you turf

If there is one then thing from this blog, I hope it is this one point. Own you turf! I can’t be any more direct than that. So many times, over my 25-year career in marketing I have seen and heard many stories about companies finding out too late that their agency or contractor has registered the company domain name or built the website on a server or platform that belongs to them. This is fine until you want to move supplier / agency and the relationship sours, that’s when the nightmare starts. So, this is my one gifting post to you, own everything that has your company brand and details on it, be it a website, google Adwords account, social media account, domain name and even your logo. Your IP is the single most valuable thing in your possession, own it and protect it.

Understand marketing

No, I don’t mean you have to get a degree or 10 to understand marketing, all you need to do is gain some knowledge on the basics of ALL the areas you use in marketing, all good agencies will be only too happy to educate you, if they don’t simply don’t engage them. When you understand your marketing, you can do great things and have great conversations, in turn making great decisions to achieve great results. G.R.E.A.T = Get real, educate and thrive.

As business owners we start our journey in business with excitement and passion but over time we start to lose that energy and enthusiasm, and this soon can turn to other issues. The main reason for this is that business is hard and very challenging and when we first start out, we don’t envisage any issues because we are too excited about the journey. But we soon realise that we are faced with many challenges on a daily or weekly basis.

One of the key issues here is that we don’t have anyone to turn to that has the knowledge, experience or neutral views to share these issues with and shoot the breeze, and if you are fortunate, a mentor or coach is normally the best person for this.

Choosing a mentor or coach

Everyone is a professional when it comes to your business. Why is this? Well, it is easier to tell someone else how to run their business than it is to run your own, because they don’t have the responsibility, accountability and most of all, it is easier to see other issues than your own. So, pick a mentor or coach carefully and wisely, if you get it wrong it can cost you a lot of money and time and potentially your business. I have seen this happen and it was a lesson I learnt in my early teen years with my father’s business and it was very ugly in the end. I guess that is why after gathering business intelligence for more than 30 years I have found that coaching and mentoring is my Nirvana.

Who shouldn’t you choose for a mentor or coach?

There is a difference between a board, advisor, a family member or a mate and a mentor or coach. The gap is monumental, and it is worth taking the time to explore, discover and ask questions in your search for a mentor or coach. The difference I am talking about is “AGENDA”. Everybody has one and sometimes you can’t see it and sometimes they don’t even know it, it can be subliminal.

Always Get Everyone Nodding and Doing your Actions.

Be careful and take control of your business when searching for a mentor or coach. This will serve you well.

Don’t use a family member, mate or a person that is close to your business, because when it comes to the tough discussions (and you will have plenty) it will be hard for you and the other person to have a clear focus on what is right for the business. As Jim Collins says in his bestselling book, Good to Great, everyone must always make decisions for the greater good for the business.

What to look for when choosing a Mentor or Coach?

There are certainly qualities that make standout mentors and coaches, to get an idea on who’s got these qualities then look at sports coaches like Wayne Bennett (NRL) – Jose Marinho (EPL) – Sir Alex Ferguson (EPL) – Jean Todt (F1) all these coaches have a certain quality, they listen, are selfless, understand behaviours and communicate effectively.

The qualities you need to look for in a mentor or coach will be;

⁃ Honesty
⁃ Integrity
⁃ Compassion
⁃ Selflessness
⁃ Positive outlook
⁃ Life experiences
⁃ Credibility

As I like to remind my clients, if you live by your principles then your principles will provide you life.

You won’t find the perfect person, but if you have a balance of these qualities then you are on the right track to having a very successful relationship with someone who will be your business rock for years to come.

My rule of thumb for seeking out a mentor or coach is a balance of all the above, plus a couple of really important things and these are;

⁃ Over the age of 40
⁃ Have children that are in their late teens or older
⁃ Have been in business or a significant management role for more than 10 years
⁃ Have experienced struggles in business

These added qualities will bring a level of guidance and understanding to what the future will dial out, and that is invaluable.

The shared economy

One thing I have learnt from my years in the marine industry and more recently owning a holiday accommodation business, is that the shared economy is here to stay, but what is very cool is that this is the best way to learn, grow and prosper. I introduced “Best Practice Breakfasts” to a company I was contracting to, where the clients would get together once a quarter and share knowledge, experiences and friendship. What became obvious is that the guys all grew and learnt from each other by sharing. So, one piece of advice I can give is don’t be protective of your business patch, sharing will provide more benefits than you could possibly imagine. As the famous quote goes, givers give, and givers get.