Recently I’ve had a lot of paperwork and research to do. Now, of course, almost any job has some element of admin and small business owners can sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed by the admin side of their company. Admin relating to
keeping the business going, accounts, keeping up to date with things like policies, legal requirements,
staff, pay, training, development, welfare
personal development and personal welfare
work being carried out
payments, customer interaction
the other 101 jobs that are there.
No wonder we can get to the exhausted and overwhelmed stage!
After nearly 30 years of running my own business, and with the help of a business coach who worked with me for nearly two years and helped me get organised. To be completely honest I don’t like admin, it seems so boring, except issuing invoices, I love issuing invoices, when I spend some time wondering how I’m going to spend the profit!
One of the things I was taught was to spend quality time on admin. The great Mark Twain said “If you have to eat a live frog, do it first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.” ! Since admin is my “live frog”, every morning I set my timer for 30 minutes and do admin. If I need to set the timer again and again then that’s Ok but admin get’s done first before I really start the day. My live frog gets eaten. Then I focus on what I am doing, knowing that the admin for the day has been done. And, of course, occasionally something “urgent” pops up but often even these urgent things can wait till the frog eating session the next morning.
So, I wonder, what’s your “live frog”?
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Recently I was talking to a contact about people “picking his brain”. He, let’s call him Fred, worked in social media and said he was often asked for advice. Another contact was saying he was always wary about sharing his knowledge because he thought it would enable people to do things themselves rather than paying for his services. I told the story about the advice I got from a very successful business owner when I was first starting out. He said, “Some people will spend money and some people won’t and you can’t tell from looking at them which one they are”.
From that I realised that some people would keep trying to pick your brain, but they would never pay for your services. This can be for several reasons. They may think:
they can do it themselves, or
they can’t spend the money, or
why pay for something you can get for free.
I would say:
no-one can do and know everything.
This is a false economy because, while they are struggling with this, they could be getting and doing work.
This is disrespectful.
Anyway, back to Fred.
Fred and I agreed that we were happy to give advice and information, but there came a time when people crossed a line and they had to be charged. The challenge was twofold:
where was that line, and
was everyone clear what each side of that line look like?
It is important to get those issues sorted at the beginning, before it becomes a problem. We also agreed that with some contacts the line may be more flexible, because we know them and know they won’t take advantage, or there might be an element of barter.
Coincidentally, later that week I was talking to a contact who is a very talented hairdresser. Let’s call her Freda. She was venting, because she had recently been contacted by someone through social media and asked for advice. The person had had her hair coloured by someone else and didn’t like the result, but didn’t want to tell the hairdresser who had done it (!). She had decided to do it herself, so contacted someone she used for advice.
Freda needed to vent because:
The woman told her she had no intension of booking her.
She had told her at the beginning, and several times during the conversation, that she would not give advice on products she had not used and for hair she had not tested.
It was late Sunday night!
My suggestion was not to reply till she was in work, but she is young and seemed to be horrified by the idea of ignoring something she got via social media.
I realised that where the line was drawn was possibly different for different trades or professions. So, my question is where is your line? Mine is now quite fluid so here’s a start.
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Recently I have had some contact with a couple of new members. We have never met, but they liked the Group and the local businesses they met when they each visited a Group and asked to join. The necessary formalities with websites and paperwork were done and then they became the latest members of their Group. Very little of this process involved me, because my wonderful Group Directors organise and run the meetings. I stay out of their way and try not to clutter their lives up. However, the very last stage is done by me and I need a couple of questions answered and a Zoom 1-2-1 to arrange.
Obviously, I had warm feelings towards these two people because:
they saw the value of being part of one of my Groups (and one is already talking about joining a second Group),
they understood the ethos of the Groups (trust is built through strong relationships and referrals follow organically,
they have paid me some money which I will now spend unwisely!
However, I realised that I liked these people and I had never met them. I also realised I had begun to trust them and their business. Why? Because they replied to my emails in a timely manner. Why did that follow? Because when I email someone and they don’t reply I think that:
they are too busy to be able to talk to me and certainly wouldn’t be able to do any work I needed or, more importantly, the work of anyone I referred to them. (So, my reputation is being undermined).
They are disorganised and might be disorganised if I needed work done or if someone I referred to them needed work. (So my reputation…etc.).
They can’t be bothered.
Now, I don’t expect people to be sat waiting on the off chance I may decide to contact them, but as a business I do expect them to reply during normal working hours (theirs not mine). As one of my new members I obviously play it slightly differently, but I am still beginning to get a feel and make a judgement: of their service, their business and them as the owners. I am judging and I’m not sat around giving this thought, the judgements are happening subconsciously.
It might be that other people don’t care what people (potential customers) think of them, but I can’t imagine this to be the case. For me, I know I am beginning to trust my new members, which is lovely, and I’ve never even met them.
I would like to help you with your networking, so here’s a gift to you: my Top 20 networking tips. Just follow this link: ebn.uk.com and complete the form to receive your copy. I am waiting for you to make contact and I’ll definitely reply.
Recently I’ve been having some challenges at home because my beloved has been in hospital, it seems forever, following a heart attack. (As I type this, and after nine weeks, he is home now. Yay!) Now, you may be wondering “Why is she telling me this?” Well I think it is fair to say that my patience, which I have never had in abundance, has been even more lacking of late. I have a very familiar follow-up process when I network. I spend time afterwards getting in touch with the marvellous people I have met the previous week and adding their info to my database.
Most of the time this is a nice, relaxed process—a lovely cappuccino or two, maybe a familiar TV programme on in the background as I input to a spreadsheet. (Love a spreadsheet.) Anyway, in the last few weeks some cards have not made it onto the spreadsheet. (You might be thinking “Why does that matter?” Well I meet literally hundreds of people in any given month and not being on my spreadsheet means if someone says “Do you know a widget-maker in Scunthorpe”, or whatever, wherever) I won’t find the widget maker from Scunthorpe that I met ten years ago. It often happens that I have to look at a website to find out what someone I have met does, and, it has to be said, sometimes I still don’t know because their website is full of “management speak” but that is a whole other rant, so back to the current one.
Some of the reasons they do not make it to my spreadsheet?
In no particular order, (although if they are nearer the top than the bottom this is probably because they irritate me more). They have:
a sparkly card, usually with a sparkly, but different sparkly lettering. I like sparkly, but not when it makes the information illegible
very little information on the card (I refer you back to website comment)
cards which have no name and/or info/sales/enquiries@Idon’twantyoutogetintouchwithmepersonallyreally.com
tiny, tiny, tiny writing on the card.
My rule is if I have to get out a magnifying glass to try and read your card then it probably won’t make it onto the spreadsheet. OK, now all the above might just be me, however when we pay good money to have business cards designed and printed, we probably want people to keep in touch and for people we have met to be left with a good impression about my business. If the magnifying comes into use, then these goals have probably been missed.
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Recently I was talking to someone about IT. Now anyone who knows me knows I am a bit of a Luddite (OK perhaps more than a bit). Anyway this man knew his stuff, I mean really knew his stuff. He understood that I only want to know how to do something when I need to know how to do it. I accept that there are shortcuts, systems and apps that will make my life more efficient and exciting, but my life is as efficient and exciting as I can manage at the moment, thank you.
While we chatted another business owner joined our conversation.
It became apparent that this other person thought he knew a lot about IT, even though it was not what he did as a business. He talked about how many IT things he did himself. He talked about SEO, Cyber security, domain names, internet stuff and frankly he probably talked about other IT things but I had glazed over quite early on, partly because I didn’t understand most of what he was saying and mainly because I was really bored.
The IT expert was very polite, he listened and nodded. He nodded and smiled. I am sure that he would have said something, but the new contact didn’t seem to need air to breathe so there were few opportunities to add anything. Finally, there was a gap in the monologue and the expert said “It’s amazing how much you know. Have you ever thought about starting a business offering this as a service?” I smiled (I’m easily amused when I’m bored) At this point the back-pedalling began and it became obvious that he didn’t actuallydo all these IT things for his business, he had an IT supplier but thought he needed to know what was being done.
This is not how I work. Yes, I want to know why I need whatever it is, and why I need to spend this money. What I do not want is to understand the mechanics of whatever is being suggested. If I have a supplier, I use them because I trust them, I’m confident that they know their stuff and aren’t trying to rip me off. I was therefore happy when my IT expert said “Everything I offer can be done by the business person. But why would they want to? They would have to take time out of their business to deal with their IT needs, keep up to date with all new current IT issues, and there are a lot, and of course, if it goes wrong they could end with no IT and what would that do to their business? As he said that, I had a sudden picture of me taking care of my IT needs and wondered how long before I found myself dangling over the abyss of IT failure. I’m not prepared to chance it, so I don’t do it myself!
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Recently I was discussing workload with a business contact. This was, in part, because we were talking about Christmas and the number of extra things that needed to be done. Neither of us had been twiddling our thumbs before Christmas loomed its head! (Full disclosure means I need to say that being on holiday a lot was both wonderful and brought with it challenges of time management. My contact’s business was also growing, bringing with it its own challenges.) We talked about how we were feeling, and we both agreed that we were feeling a bit of pressure.
We began to discuss what we could do to reduce the stress and we both had different ways of dealing with this. For me exercise is my stress reliever. When I exercise, I feel better about myself, more able to deal with stress and tasks. I also do some of my best thinking as a I work out. Often I will do some exercise interspersed with admin tasks, phone calls, invoices etc. My contact had a completely differed way of dealing with his stress.
He said he “Mentally pulled into the sidings”. It was a phrase and a practise that he had learned from his dad and whilst never really analysing what it actually referred to, for him it meant stopping what he was doing and going and just sitting, usually in his garden. He would make a nice hot drink, sometimes some music or an article he wanted to read “when he had a minute” or a chapter of a book he was reading. He had learnt to use this as a way of switching off for a short time.
Although our methods were completely different, we both agreed that allowing that time for ourselves left us feeling better able to deal with the things needing doing. So what is your way of dealing with pressure? Exercise? Pulling into the sidings? Something else?
If one of your pressure is networking let me help with a gift to you: my Top 20 networking tips. Just follow this link: ebn.uk.com and complete the form to receive your copy.
Recently I was in Oslo and, as often happens when I’m in one country I want the cuisine of another country, so I was yearning for pasta. We found what looked like a nice place. Looking at the menu outside it also seemed, whilst expensive, that we wouldn’t need to sell a kidney when the bill came. The tables outside were packed and since I always feel like I’m the animal in the zoo who people are watching being fed, we went inside, which was virtually empty. The smiley waiter put us near the bar and I said, “That’s good we’ll get served quickly”. I need to keep my thoughts to myself sometimes. Anyway, we ordered—nothing that wasn’t on the menu and straight into main courses.
Eventually our mains arrived, well not all of the mains, because my side salad only arrived when I reminded them. This was followed by a basket of bread which skidded towards us as the not-so-smiley waiter practised his spin bowling. Now I knew what was happening, because they were not busy, they were having a lovely time and we were interrupting their fun. Beloved and I began to chat about a proposed holiday to the Artic Ocean so I wasn’t really paying attention to the staff, but slowly they became more raucous. It seems that they were all of different nationalities and so they spoke English, which, unfortunately I could therefore understand. They (all men of about 25) discussed women’s rights, gender inequality, and when they started to discuss their sex lives, I’d heard enough and explained to them how inappropriate their conversations were. Their answer? “We were just having fun”. Which is lovely, but not the aim of my evening out. I’m sort of wanting to have fun spending time with beloved and just chatting, rather than getting bad service and indigestion.
I am all for having fun at work, in fact it is my rule number 1. But not when the customers are therefore forgotten, seen as an inconvenience, or badly served. Of course, the service charge was not paid, and, as someone who has worked in hospitality, I really try to give good tips. But there has to be at least an average level of service, so perhaps getting no money might make them think. Unfortunately, I doubt it. Customer service? You either get it or you don’t.
Thank you for reading, here is my gift to you: my Top 20 networking tips just follow this link: ebn.uk.com and complete the form to receive your copy.
Recently I was on a Zoom meeting with people I’d never met before. We had a lovely conversation about business and life and we laughed a lot. I said that I was spending some time that day reviewing my business strategy and immediately one of the people told me what my strategy should be. Not might include or, in their opinion, might be, but this is what my strategy should be.
I was surprised because:
they were very certain how I should grow my business, and
they seemed to think I would just do what I had been told
This got me thinking.
I think it is true to say that any strategy needs to include certain things: a goal, a plan of implementation (this can be fluid), a timescale and a review process. This is my opinion. My business strategy follows that scheme and in my case, the fluid part needs to be very fluid as opportunities come my way. The issue is that whilst business strategies may be similar, we as business owners are all different. What works for you may not work for me for various reasons, our business may be at different stages of development, we may have been in business for different times, our background, and our experiences will almost certainly be different. We may have difference in the amount of risk we find acceptable and our personal business needs, and our work/life balance may be different. Which brings me to my next point.
Doing what other people tell us to do.
When I became self-employed, I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I set myself three rules. The second was “I never do anything I don’t want to do, with anyone I don’t want to do it with” or to put it another way and to quote my beloved “You don’t do bosses well” I like that all my business decisions are mine, be they good, bad or indifferent I own them. So I listen to opinions and then I decide what I take from them, and, when I give my opinion, I expect others to do the same. If they want my further input they’ll ask, and sometimes they do.
So thank you for your opinion, I may consider it further. As a thank you, here is my gift to you: my Top 20 networking tips just follow this link: ebn.uk.com and complete the form to receive your copy.