Kick Started

Everyone I know received a bit, or a great deal, of a kick start when they first got their business going; and in fact still do today. It may have been their mum and dad, brother or sister, a friend, another business owner, someone famous on TV, someone in history, or at a live business event. The possibilities are endless but it can make a large difference to someone’s success.

The same is true when things get hard; finding a person that will give you a ‘kick’. The trouble with many business owners is that when their business is running they don’t like to ask others for help when things are tough as it seems weak. Many also think that they know more than most others so they can’t in fact be helped. Often that is a big mistake because often a ‘kick’ makes you think differently – it’s not an obvious answer.

Kickstarter exists to help bring creative projects to life and it can make an enormous difference to how you start a project; a new business.

During the lockdown my son has written a comic book. He has been planning it for years but being ‘locked down’ he was given the time to work on it and Kickstarter gave him the ‘kick’ and the knowledge to launch his comic. I have to say that it has been great and I’m really looking forward to getting my printed copy.

So, now maybe the time that you need a ‘kick’, from a friend, or a mentor, the important thing is to improve the way your business operates, adapt the current situation, and make sure that your business is successful going forward.

If you like adventure have a look at my son’s comic book; it might just give you a little kick (in more ways than one). You can see it here.

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?

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’!

Their phone went dead!

I rang a prospective new supplier today – at 9.37am. After ringing for ages the phone suddenly went dead. Maybe they weren’t open yet, I thought. I rang again, this time at 10.52am. Again the phone rang and rang and rang. Again it suddenly went dead. Did I try a third time? No!

That company lost what could have been a huge amount of business for them. Why? Well, for any number of reasons. Their phone is left unattended for hours. When it’s not answered it just goes dead; not even a boring answerphone message. At least with an answerphone message I would have known the business still existed. There’s lack of customer care. Lack of organisation. Lack of thought. I could go on. What’s certain is that nothing is saying we really value your business.

So do you know what happens when someone calls your business? Is the phone always answered? How many times does it ring before it’s answered? What is said when it is answered? A bored ‘Hello’ or a helpful ‘How can I help you?’

You could be spending a great deal of money on advertising only for it to be wasted by how your phone is being (or not being) answered.

Why not run a little test? Ring your office the moment it opens, then again half-way through the morning, again just before lunch, during lunch, just after lunch, half-way through the afternoon and lastly just as you are about to close (but not all on the same day). You might be surprised at the results.

I know of a company where the receptionist wore headphones; no one heard the phone ring and no one knew she often didn’t answer it when it did.

In my business the aim is to answer the phone within three rings (by the office staff). Should the phone ring more than three times then the person nearest a phone picks it up. It doesn’t matter who that member of staff is as they have all been trained on the best way to answer a call.

Off Piste!

I’m off skiing in Italy next week, with one of my sons, and it reminds me of the last time we went skiing together.  The snow was perfect, eight inches fell one night, the sun shone, and I was in good form.  Overall it was a fantastic week.

The off piste skiing was very good and lots of fun, although, at times, our play resulted in an unexpected tumble and a face full of snow.  I even have a video to remind me!  One of our ‘excursions’ reminded me of how easily the plans we have for our businesses can go astray when we lose sight of exactly what we are doing.

We were half way down a run and stopped for a breather.  Having calmed down our heart rate (well okay mine) we started off again and my son decided to take a different route; he would join up with me again further down the slope just around some trees that we could see. That was the last I saw of him for almost an hour!

It turned out that just around the trees, but out of sight of where we were, the slope turned in the opposite direction to that which we were going.  So he decided, like any boy would, to go off piste, through the trees, and make his way over to the slope I was on.  But that didn’t work, as the contours of the mountain forced him further away from both me and the slope he had left.  In the end a climb, a walk and a great deal of sweat got him to another lift and eventually we were able to meet up again.  I have to say it was pretty scary for a while; I didn’t know where he was or if he had injured himself.

But, what has this all got to do with your business?

Well, my son and I had a plan; to ski down a particular run to a particular lift.  It would take around five minutes.  But, because another route looked interesting, and knowing nothing about where the slope went (we didn’t look at our piste map), we ended up with a lot of hard work, a fair amount of worry (on both our parts) and almost an hour of lost time.  In truth my son did a fair amount of skiing but I just had to wait; but you get what I mean.  And often we do the same in business.  We get distracted from our goal, forget what our original plan was, and get bogged down in stuff that we should never have been doing in the first place.  Often this results in wasting a great deal of time and money along the way.  And, worse still, sometimes our goals are lost for ever!

So, my question for you.  When did you last review your goals?  How often do you review your goals? Weekly?  Monthly?  Ever?

For real success I believe that you should, on a daily basis, ensure that whatever it is that you are doing is moving you closer to your goal and not further away.  This isn’t to say that your goals can’t change, shouldn’t change, but you certainly shouldn’t just let your business run along not knowing where it is going.