Often when I talk to groups, I start with this question to get them warmed up. When is the best time to plant a tree? It’s actually not too tricky. The right answer is 20 years ago. Unless you are particularly skilled at time travel, you’ve missed that opportunity. The good news is that the second-best time to plant a tree is now!!

So why are trees relevant to your businesses? Well they are not. But after twenty years, you probably do want your business to have grown at a good pace and have a decent value that gives you options to reward your efforts.

When I talk to businesses, they usually do have a goal or a dream as to where they want to take their business.  When I ask them if they have a plan to get there the answers become a bit more evasive. The great thing about being a mentor is that you have the relationship with the business owner such that you can tell them the truth and call them out on excuses. The case for the defence, is that they usually work very hard solving today’s problems, and few know where to start in putting a plan together. The only lists people generally like writing are those addressed to Santa.

As a mentor, I can help. So, what does that dream look like? When do you want to achieve it? Three branches, known for quality products, profits of half a million a year, spending less time in the business managing day to day issues… and all that five years from now. Sounds reasonable? Well I don’t know let’s see. To achieve those goals in five years, where would each of those criteria need to be after four years, three years, two years and 12-months from now? So now we have a road-map and we can plan how we are going to get to that first 12month staging post.

Dust off your Excel skills and start on that 12-month plan. The most common mistake people make with action plans, is that they expect to get it done in an hour or two. Good plans are built on over time, keep coming back to it, add lines you forgot, change due dates. Start with the headings, break them down into tasks and then break down again into steps. Be realistic about timings and get buy-in from anyone else allocated tasks. Pull it out of the drawer at least weekly and see where you are.

As I sit here writing this, I look out onto my front garden. The view is of beautiful pink Hydrangeas and lots of lavender in full bloom. It is just how I foresaw it to be years ago when I planted them. I am just grateful I made the effort when I did, as now I am reaping the rewards. Most businesses are capable of growth, but that usually won’t happen without a vision and without a plan. If you want to enjoy the fruits of your labour in the future, I suggest you start today.

Tah Dah!!!

Hands up if you like to create something new in the kitchen keeping the family out and then presenting it at the diner table with a bit of a fanfare? Who likes to redecorate the dining room behind closed doors, then launch it to the world with a bit of a ‘Ta Dah’ once the dust sheets are up? There are lots of examples. No one just pulls that dress or jacket out of the bag when they get home from the big shop, we like to model it with a bit of a pout (I’m too old for that bit!).

So often we do the same thing at work. We want to do everything ourselves so that we don’t share the limelight and deserve all the praise. Well here’s the news, your husband or wife is always going to love what you cook, and they will always appreciate your DIY skills because they are cheaper than the alternative. But a business is a team.

We all know the expression ‘there’s no I in Team’ (although David Brent did point out that there is a ‘ME’ if you look close enough!). Its teams of people that give businesses strength, resilience and creativity. Investing in people has many benefits.

You create a wider sense of ownership. People feel aligned to business goals and protective of the organisation. They will also stay with the business longer avoiding disruption.

Conflict is an inevitable consequence when people work closely together. But ‘Teams’ tend to be better equipped to resolve issues themselves without involving management. Resolving conflicts early in this way can also prevent the negative ‘virus’ that can permeate the workplace.

When people collaborate, they tend to be more creative, brainstorm naturally with each other and share knowledge. Everyone has their strengths. As a business you want to harness the best from everyone. 

As a business owner, you need to be a ‘Leader’, shaping the culture, setting the long-term direction and providing inspiration. You also need to be a ‘Manager’ planning the detail, controlling and minimising risks. It is hard wearing both hats resolving issues and building cohesive units. As Mentors we will work with Business Owners on these skills.

As a final thought, if your business is run by a successful, happy team, you will have more time for the decorating and to whip up something fabulous in the kitchen!! Ta Dah!!

What strange and wonderful things are we all buying in Lockdown?

There have been so many great insightful posts during the lockdown and I wanted to make my contribution……via my Amazon account.

In the past 4 weeks, I have purchased the following…..

  1. Coal Shovel £2.80 – I am not sure how I was persuaded of the need for this…. A stick should be all you need with a firepit and far more fun.

  2. 50 Food containers £10.99 – slightly smaller at 400ml which enables better utilisation of freezer space. Only 5 have been used so far! What is interesting is that we have be having family meals twice a day….so no need for them. But I remain hopeful of the long-term benefits.

  3. 100 Disposable gloves £14.99 (rip-off!) – Obvious choice really…a peace of mind purchase.

  4. External mic for the laptop £15.99 – One gets very worried when hosting on Zoom with 20 others, and someone says ‘Simon you are very muffled’…. I threw dollars at the problem…

  5. Fusible iron-on interfacing £1.99 – This apparently is key component for making/sewing a bucket hat! (daughter project)

  6. Printer ink £13.98 (not to mention the depleted stocks!) – It is so easy for teachers to send out 30-page old exam papers as isolation schoolwork.

  7. New Peter Crouch Book £6.47 (birthday present son) highly recommend if you like football and have a sense of humour

  8. 6 blow up beach-balls £13.98 – If we are out of lockdown before the end of summer, I am determined to run my seminar in the park. The beach balls will be an essential ingredient. If you are as excited as I am let me know, and I will send you an invitation.

  9. X-Box controller thumb-grips £4.49 – This surely is THE lockdown essential purchase. Over-use can cause smoothening of the control sticks…apparently

If you think this is all a bit frivolous, you are probably right. But sometimes it is good to stop and think about what customers want or need in different times and as circumstances change, rather than just focus on what you have to sell. Thinking about strategy and the future is just one of the ways we help businesses.

Do you want to make your business more efficient? Try making yourself a cup of tea. When you make that cup of tea, think to yourself, how can I make it more efficiently? The chances are that you can’t. Over all the years that you have been drinking and making tea, you have slowly but surely located the teabags in the jar behind the kettle, moved the mugs to the cupboard above the kettle and the kettle itself will be a step away from the tap. The whole process will be executed with a few movements, and the total time taken will in all likelihood be within seconds, the same every time. 

Now when you get to work, take a moment and take a look around. Each series of actions taken to achieve something is a process. Your business will be made up of many processes from taking a customer order to requesting items from stock to ordering advertising space in the local paper. Everything is process. Now pick one. Pick any process more complicated than sharpening a pencil. Write down the process step by step, and make sure it is the process that is really happening and not the one that you think happens. Watch what people do and ask questions. Once you have captured the process review each and every step. Ask yourself why each step occurs, does it need to happen and what would happen if it didn’t happen? Think about your distances, think about the mugs kept above the kettle. You may well find that there are things that can be stopped, and no one will care! So, what will your staff think of your scrutinising their tasks? Well if you involve them and ask their opinion you might find some great suggestions that you hadn’t thought of.

Now write your new streamlined process down and share it. If you introduce it in the right way you will find that people will be happy to know what is expected of them. You may also find that documented processes that are followed require less management time.

Once you have reviewed and improved a process, I suggest that you just may have deserved a cup of tea!! There will surely be many more processes to be tackled. If you want to think about something while you are sipping your tea, think about the hour that you spent saving 5 minutes. Then think about how many times over you will save that 5minutes.

One final thing. If you think I forgot about the milk in the tea, I didn’t. It’s in the fridge on the other side of the room as a reminder that you should be giving it up and drinking your tea black!

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