Your 3 a-day

No I’m not talking about your fruit or vegetable intake or, in fact, your health. However, I am talking about the health of your business.

We hear a great deal about setting goals. Your five-year plan, your three-year plan, one-year, and I myself really promote the one-month plan. Of course you need a long -term plan, something big in the future, but the reason that most long-term plans fail is because there are no one-month plans made in order to reach the bigger plan.

But even if you have your one-month plans in place, they won’t work unless you take some action; actions that will make your plan possible.

Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you want to double your turnover in the next two years. Not a bad plan – just imagine what that would do to your business.

Now at a very simple level, you would know how much business you would need in order to double your turnover. But, assuming you didn’t get any extra business from your existing customers, do you know how many new customers you would need?

Assuming you know that number, how would you go about getting that number of new customers?

How many new customers per month would you need?

Depending on your conversion rate how many customer meetings would you need?

And how many leads do you need to get to a customer meeting?

So far we haven’t even thought about extra staff, resources, cash-flow and a whole host of other things.

But even when you have done all of this work, at the moment it’s still all just theory. And this is when the action comes in. What actions will you need to take in order to make your plan, your goal, a reality? Because without any actions you will never achieve your goal.

So, work out what actions you need to take for your goal to succeed. There will be many of them; and then take three of those actions each and every day. As they say, actions speak louder than words, and in goal achievement this has never been truer.

Keep the Cash Flowing

Lack of cash will eventually kill any business, large or small, and it makes no difference whether the business is making good profits. I’m sure that you have heard the saying ‘cash is king’ and this is important in business because it means that you can always cover your costs.

A business owner contacted me because he had serious cash-flow problems. In truth, there was no flow of cash at all. His profitability was good and the company’s turnover more than adequate. So why was there no flow of cash? Simply that no invoices had been sent out for over six weeks. Six weeks and he was wondering why the cash had dried up!

Now before you say ‘well, that’s surely a one-off’ let me tell you that lack of invoicing is pretty common in business. And I’m not just talking about being slow at getting invoices out; I know many companies that don’t send all of their invoices out. It’s totally astonishing!

So here are eight tips on how to make your invoicing process not only effective but that will ensure that the cash keeps flowing. This is one area where having a good system in place will, literally, pay rich dividends.

1)    Invoice every day, week or month, whichever is the most appropriate. The most important thing is to be consistent.

2)    Confirm the amount to be invoiced is correct with your client before invoicing. This solves a lot of problems later on.

3)    Ensure that all order numbers, etc., that are required are included on the invoice. Again this solves problems later on.

4)    Ensure that any credit terms are clear and agreed.

5)    Check that your invoice has been received. Again this reduces future problems, like invoices having never been received and then delaying payment.

6)    If, for example you do a lot of one-off jobs, consider getting a mobile credit card terminal. Don’t be put off by the cost of this service as it is far out-weighed by the advantage of time saved not having to chase up payments later. Plus it’s instant cash.

7)    If you provide credit, call your customer five days before the money becomes due to check that all is okay and that the payment is scheduled.

8)    If payment should fall overdue, call immediately and ask when the payment will be made. Get the name of the person you speak to and the date for when the payment is promised. Don’t be put off from doing this; remember it is your money. It will also demonstrate that you operate a well-run business.

How are your ten best customers doing?

Do you ever wonder how your ten best customers are doing?  In fact, do you know, right now, who your ten best customers are?  If not, I really urge you to find out without delay.

Depending on your type of business, knowing who your best customers are today, six months ago, a year ago, can give you a valuable insight into your business.  Is the order changing.  Have some customers disappeared and others taken their place?  Is their spending going up or falling?  Armed with this information you can not only thank those spending well, but, more importantly, if sales are falling, find out why, and hopefully, be able to do something about those customers before it is too late.

However, back to my original question.  Do you know how well your ten best customers are doing?  Why should you care?

Well, if you know how your best customers are doing it is a good predictor of how your business will be doing in the future.  If your best customers are doing well the odds are that you will be as well.  If, on the other hand, your best customers are finding trading difficult then again it is likely that you will be too.

If, as is more likely, some are doing well and others are not doing so well, do they come from a particular market sector?  If the answer is yes, perhaps it would be worth looking for more business from a successful market sector.

Can you offer this successful market sector something extra?  Something that will get you recognised as a leading supplier in the market place?

Then again, if a client is finding trading difficult, how can you best help them?  Or maybe you should be careful as to what level of business you do with them.

Knowing who your best clients are and how they are doing can be a real key to your own success.  So, please take some time this week to find out who they are and how well they are doing and you could have a great idea as to how well your business will be doing over the coming months.

Does your business card leave people in the dark?

You’ve been out networking, had a productive time and given out lots of your business cards.

But have you ever stopped to wonder what happens to your card?  Is it, and more importantly, are you remembered, or does it just end up in the rubbish bin?

Is, in fact, your business card worth keeping?

I ask this because all too often I am handed a card that just has a name and a mobile phone number on it.  Sometimes it will have a company name, but often the company name gives me no clue as to what the person does.  And likewise, the email address doesn’t either, as often it is just a name with a number added to @.

If your card is anything like this the chances are that it will end up in the rubbish bin.  After all, I can hardly ring you up and say, “I’ve no idea what you do, or where you are based, but let’s do some business.”  It’s just not going to happen!

Now you might be thinking I’m not very good at networking, as having met someone I can make notes on their card (not always possible on some cards), which of course I do, but, and it’s a big but, why take the chance on someone else making notes about you, when you have the perfect opportunity to tell them exactly what you want them to know?  Why risk your business card ending up in a bin somewhere?  Wasting your very valuable time spent networking.

In any market place you need an edge over your competition: that something extra.  So, why not increase the odds of your business card being kept, improving the chance of future business, by simply improving the information on your card?

Could you be losing business too?

I had a computer problem last month and contacted two of my contacts about it.  I spoke to one but he was away and would be home in a couple of days. The other gave me a price but confused me as to how he would solve the problem; but at least I had a price for fixing the problem.

To this day I have not heard another word from either of them, and I’ve actually seen one of them three times.

This is just BONKERS!

They know I have a problem, it has to be fixed, and yet they haven’t bothered to follow up and ask when I would like my computer fixed.  Notice I say when, not if.  I have certain business to give to someone and yet it seems that neither of these two businesses want it.  Now they might be thinking, well I want the work done, so I’ll get back to them, and maybe I will.  But how much better would it be to ask, and make certain, that they are the one who gets my business and not a competitor?

It’s such a simple thing to do but so many businesses don’t.  So, please make sure that your business is not missing out on work, and, more importantly, profit, just because you are too busy or don’t have a system in place to follow up.

The book you don’t read won’t help you!

I was asked recently why I was always reading a business book and my answer was very simple: development. After all, you can always learn.  Plus, the more you know, the easier things become.

One of the benefits I find is that by reading more than one book on any given subject is that I learn more.  The reason is that one author will explain a subject slightly differently to another and this difference, plus the repetition, helps me to fix things in my head.  Even then, I can always learn more about the subject.

What is most important as a business Start-Up, SME, is that you learn, continue to learn and develop.  If you come from the corporate world things are very different in the world of small business, and if you are an expert in your chosen field that doesn’t make you an expert in business.  So, you must learn if you are going to achieve real business success.

The more you learn and understand about business, not only will you be increasing the odds of you staying in business, but it is likely that you will have more fun and make more money along the way.

Every book you don’t read won’t help you, and, what is more, every book you don’t read can’t help your business.  So, please buy or borrow a business book today and just see what a difference it makes to the way you think about business.  Almost any business book will be of benefit, but think about one of three areas: what you are good at, what you are not so good at, and motivation.  Then choose something that covers one of those areas.

And, don’t just think you have to read. Audio books and CDs are ideal for the car, train, plane, etc.

Here are a few books that I can highly recommend: The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo, Playing with Fire by Gordon Ramsay and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off by Michael Caine.  Each could make an amazing difference to your business and will completely change the way you run your company.

Introduce Yourself

Often you will not have the luxury of someone else introducing you at a networking event, so it is important that you are practised in doing it yourself.

What makes this even more imperative is the fact that most of us make assumptions about the people we meet within the very first few seconds of meeting them.  What’s more, that first impression is hard to shake or to change.

So, what can we do to ensure that the first impression we give is the one that we want those that we meet to form?

Well, the answer, as with most things in life, is to prepare: to practise.

You need to define your message.  However you introduce yourself is what will be accepted by the other person.  Will it be with confidence and energy, or just dull?  What will make you interesting?  Please don’t say’ “I’m a – whatever you are”.  It’s just so boring!  Make yourself stand out from the crowd: be different from the masses and you will be remembered.  Another very important thing is to ask great questions.  Once you have passed the opening small-talk (but interesting) stage ask great questions.  People love to talk about themselves, so be interested in them; don’t just talk about you.

Then what about your appearance?  Do you look as you want to be thought of?  Do you look like people in your profession should look?  You may not think it is important, but remember those first few seconds.  It’s their judgement that counts, not yours, and that will gain you more business. Do you look successful; someone they would want to do business with?

Also remember that a great deal of communication is non-verbal: your mood can be picked up.  So imagine that you are on stage.  Before you enter any room, be it networking, a sales meeting, whatever, stop and calm yourself, put everything other than what is about to happen from your mind, imagine what you want to be, and then enter the room.

Make your introduction interesting and you will have better conversations. And, better conversations will lead to more opportunities.

Has your business already closed for Christmas?

I was at a networking event last week when one of the people I was chatting with said that they wouldn’t be doing much work the week before Christmas.   I asked why and I have to say that their answer astounded me!

Well, the person explained, I won’t want to be out working, the people I work for will be winding down for Christmas; no one will be interested in doing any business… His reasons seemed endless.

I pointed out that I would be working right up until Christmas Eve, certainly until the lunchtime.  Also, that I wanted new business right up until then and I certainly wanted work early in January.  Not working Christmas week could mean that it would be the second week, maybe even the third week, of January before things really got moving again.  It happens every year.  Think about all of that lost business; the sales momentum lost.

So, my question is a serious one.  Has your mind-set already closed your business for Christmas?  Are you thinking, no point looking for new business? No point contacting existing clients? No one will be interested in doing business?  If you are, you have already closed for Christmas.

Really successful people don’t follow the herd, they do something different.  So, instead of closing early for Christmas, why not make sure your business is well and truly open and ensure that not only do you have a better December than most but also a far better start to 2019?

Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?

I have to say that I love this book and if you haven’t read it I highly recommend that you do.

The book was introduced to me some years ago at an Entrepreneurs Circle event where Ben Hunt-Davis was the main speaker. Ben was part of the GB Men’s Rowing Eight that won gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. It is the story of how after years of winning little they changed the way they worked and the result it had; a gold medal.

David and Ben BW
Me with Ben Hunt-Davis

I remember one of my fellow attendees saying that listening to some bloke talking about winning a gold medal in rowing (for an hour) had nothing to do with their business and it was a complete waste of their time. They couldn’t have been further from the true value of his story. But no amount of trying could convince them otherwise.

You need to read the book but this, in a few words, is the basis of the story. After yet another defeat the crew sat down to discuss what they could do about it; how they could change things. And that is where, ‘Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?’ was born.

The premise was that they would measure everything they tried by – Did it make their boat go faster?

Fighting amongst the crew – did it make their boat go faster? Not surprisingly – No.

Lack of sleep – did it make their boat go faster?

A certain training method – did it make their boat go faster?

Everything they did was given the same test. Did it make their boat go faster?

If the answer was ’Yes’, they did it again and if the answer was ‘No’, they didn’t. It was that simple.

So, if you haven’t got it already, what’s that got to do with your business?

Well, you can run exactly the same test on your business; whatever your goals are. More sales, more profit, better training of staff, it really doesn’t matter what it is. Just run the test.

For example: you produce a new sales advert. Did it make the boat go faster? In your case did it generate more sales? If ‘Yes’ you run the advert again, if ‘No’ you change the advert. You run a workshop. Did it make the boat go faster? In your case did it have the result you were hoping for? If ‘Yes’ the workshop was a success, if ‘No’ it needs to be changed or dropped.

Many things in your business will be done the way they are, just because that’s how they are done. Most without any real thought as to if it’s the most effective way of doing whatever it is.

I was at a large office block recently where at the beginning of the day, when most people are arriving for work, the lifts don’t stop at the first two floors. Why? Because it gets people into the building faster.

So, why not try ‘Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?’ on your business and see what results you get? You might even win a ‘Gold medal’!