This morning I’m flying to Majorca for The Brand Stylist retreat. 4 days away to focus on nothing but how I take my business to the next level. I feel so lucky to have this opportunity. 4 days away feels like a huge indulgence but when the prep notes ask you to bring literally every piece of written or digital content you have about your business you know it's going to be worthwhile.
I tend to forget this, or not let myself remember it, but taking time away from your business is absolutely essential to keep it growing. It seems counter intuitive but there are three reasons why it's hugely valuable.
Time away allows you to:
Real creativity comes from the subconscious mind. Being ‘on’ all the time means we’re working in our conscious minds, constantly thinking and developing decision fatigue. It’s absolutely essential to give yourself the space to switch off and let the ideas flow.
Physically taking a step back to look at where your business is, creating physical distance between you and the day to day gives you a different, more abundant perspective. Taking the time to look at what’s working, what’s not working, what you could do more of, or less of and so on is an incredibly powerful way to create the breakthroughs you need.
Running a business is HARD WORK! Physical time away gives you time to recharge and renew. So when those ideas flow you have the energy you need to put them into action.
Do you ever stop to think about the phrase ‘working for yourself’?
As exciting as it is to be your own boss, we rarely stop to think about the implications.
As your ‘own boss’, how good a boss are you?
Do you motivate yourself every day?
Do you make yourself feel good about the work that you do?
Do you make sure you know exactly what you should be doing every day?
Or do actually make it all quite hard work for yourself?
A lot of the clients I work with come to me feeling frustrated and unsure. They lack the confidence they need to take those big next steps and they end up trying to draw on all sorts of different sources for answers and motivation.
A lot of the things they actually need to make them feel better would normally be done by a great boss. Things like support, advice, a sounding board, direction, course correction, feedback and help making decisions.
When you’re running your own business, by its very nature, you need to play those roles for yourself. No matter how strong your network of business besties, you still need to become incredibly self-reliant.
So let me ask you the question I always ask my clients when they’re in this space…
Are you a good boss?
Working for yourself involves a huge amount of self leadership – whether you run a team or not, you still need to be the best leader you can be to make your business sing.
Here’s some things you should be doing:
Be clear on the bigger picture
I’m sure I’m not alone in having worked for people in the past who were no good at sharing either the long-term vision or what it meant for me. It was frustrating, demotivating and disempowering. Not having clarity on where our work was taking us made it difficult to stay motivated when things got tough.
Be a good boss - Set out a clear longer-term vision so that you know where you’re heading and why. You’ll quickly find that a great many things become easier. You’ll be able to make decisions more quickly and easily with an eye for the long-term. Challenges and set-backs will be easier to deal with as you look at them through the bigger picture lens. And priority setting will become more focussed.
A good leader sets direction within the context of the bigger picture. It’s important that they are able to be clear on ‘how’ you are going to reach that bigger picture and ‘what’ needs to be done to get there.
I see far too many clients bobbling around doing busy work not really having set themselves the clear direction on where their focus should be. For example, if the bigger picture vision is to triple revenue for the year, and the goal within that is to generate a set number of leads for the month, there is no point doing any activity that doesn’t feed into this.
Be a good boss – set yourself clear directions each month. What is your broad focus? What are the things you need to achieve this month? How are you going to achieve those things? How are you going to stay on track and keep focussed even when you face challenges and difficulties.
Giving yourself space to grow
A lot of my clients come to me frustrated out of sheer impatience at not knowing all the answers. A good boss will always give you space to grow as the business changes around you. They will feedback any areas for improvement and should help you create a plan to fill any gaps you have in relation to the role you’re doing.
Be a good boss – Take an objective look at your skill set and experience in relation to what you’re trying to achieve. Do you have all of the skills and knowledge that you need? Are there things you’d like to learn or need to learn? How can you create the time to learn those things and not beat yourself up for not knowing all the answers straight away?
What kind of boss would you be if you never stopped to celebrate the great things your team did? The kind of boss most of my clients are to themselves! Honestly, most of them, myself included simply tick the box, tuck that new client or achievement under their belt and rush off to the next thing on their list.
If you don’t celebrate the successes your subconscious won’t learn to enjoy them and your underlying decision making processes – which are where decisions are made about whether to feel motivated by something – won’t pull you in the direction of success.
Be a good boss – Take the time to celebrate your successes and learn from them. Embed them in your mind. Build up a picture of you as a successful and accomplished business woman.
Next time you're struggling with motivation or feeling overwhelmed and uncertain, ask yourself if you're being the boss you need? Are you giving yourself enough space to lead? Do you need to make it easier to do a good job? Is there anything you're asking yourself to do that you'd question if you were working for someone else?
Before you go - I'm exhibiting at The Business Show on 16th and 17th May at Excel London. It's a fab two day event with literally hundreds of free masterclasses and networking opportunities, speaker events and business advice. Tickets are free and if you visit me on the day (stand 160), you'll be in with the chance of winning a free business strategy planning day worth £1250. If you're still unsure, why not read last week's blog to find out why I think this is an unmissable opportunity.
For me, creating a version of you as the ideal leader of your business is as important as being clear about your ideal client. And scarily, I see most of my clients put a lot more work into who their client needs to be than who they need to be. Often that’s because we assume we are ‘fixed’ as we are.
Creating a persona that is all the things you need to be as a leader - confident, self assured and decisive, even when you’re having a bad day – allows you to step out of yourself and still get the job done.
Making an impact on the world is largely to do with knowing where best to put your energy. So when I get the opportunity to do something that has a potential impact on not just my business but those of my clients and peers I grab it with both hands. Last week I was thrilled to be invited to an event run by The Entrepreneurs Network, a think tank set up to give entrepreneurs, small businesses and the self-employed a greater collective voice. It was called ‘A Parliament Fit for Entrepreneurs?’ and aimed to understand what the government needs to do to support entrepreneurs better.
I was excited to go, and at the time the discussion was absorbing and inspiring. The overwhelming message from the panel, made up of Baroness Susan Kramer, Andrew Dixon and Gilian Keegan MP was that the way to change government policy was to ‘get involved’. Lobby, speak to your MP, play your part in discussion groups and forums. ‘Great’ I thought, I’m here at this event, getting involved, changing things – that’s a start.
A week today I attended an event called Be More Gazelle - How to grow your business at speed...
I’ll start with a confession… before this event I had no idea what a Gazelle was. Obviously I know it's a kind of deer like mammal but in business terms, not a clue! It turns out I probably should have done because it’s exactly the kind of companies I work with. According to The FT it's an extremely fast growing company (20% + YOY) that maintains consistent momentum.
Are you a secret Gazelle? I can’t be the only person that doesn’t know what one is?!
The event was run by Upstream – a fab initiative that's aiming to redress the silicon roundabout East-West imbalance and make Hammersmith and Fulham the best place to do business in Europe. What an exciting vision! Are you in the West of London? Look it up and get involved. There were far too many business advisors there and not enough actual businesses and I'd love to feel as though I was part of a growing and thriving community of great businesses.
OK so this is the second time I’ve written about this but the more clients I work with and the more I learn, the more I think this message bears repeating. For all the advice there is out there about how to run a business, there are really only 5 very basic things that every business needs to do well. And yet, I find very few businesses that have all of these nailed.
I’ve worked in, and with, businesses of all sizes. From multi billion pound blue chips that exist in hundreds of countries to kitchen table enterprises that are just getting off the ground and literally everything in between. And only a handful have all 5 of these things down pat. They all do some of these things, and some of them do all of them to some extent but none do all of them, all of the time.
I thought when I started working with small businesses and start ups that they would be hugely different to the big corporates. And they are, massively different –
How are you feeling today? Let me guess... It's the second week back after the New Year, the Christmas tree has come down and the routine you thought you craved post Christmas is starting to feel a bit, well, routine. Already. The resolutions or intentions you set are starting to feel a bit too hard.
I like to call this the 'doubt dip'. The initial wave of enthusiasm you surfed in on is starting to ebb away as the reality of your calendar and your inbox take over again. AND, you haven't yet got far enough into your plan to give you the momentum to keep going. Your energy levels start to dip and you begin to doubt whether you're ever going to get there. Another few half hearted attempts await you before you give up altogether along with everyone else on the 17th Jan. The same goes for business, getting it right in the first few weeks are key to feeling like you've had a fast start.
Want to know how to be a better leader? Know this - leadership is everything you do.
At a recent panel discussion I went to, the question was asked - how do I find time to lead my team? When do I lead in between all of the other priorities I have? And the answer? Leadership is everything you do. Your team will look to you for cues and clues on exactly how you want your business to run. Every conversation you have with them or someone else, you are showing them how people have conversations in your business. Every decision you make, you are showing them how decisions are made and what the priorities are in your business. The way you deal with customers and suppliers is the way that customers and suppliers are dealt with in your business.
As business owners, we're so used to working in the business, managing the next big thing, fixing issues, thinking of ways to drive sales, managing the admin and so on that often it feels incredibly indulgent to just sit and think for a while. Sit in front of a coach though, especially one you've paid to spend time with, and you've really very little choice.
If 'sitting and thinking' feels as though it lacks focus for you, my simple structure for doing your own review of things should work a treat. I've been using it recently to help small business owners review their year in business and the feedback has been incredible. It's disarmingly simple but incredibly effective.
"The bit no-one talks about is the emotional side of running your own business" - Steph Douglas, Don't Buy Her Flowers. A quote from a talk I attended at Stylist Live last Friday - three successful female business owners, on stage talking about how to start a business in an industry that ostensibly you know nothing about.
All three, very impressive women, all three, disarmingly, well, female. Maybe it was the audience (at least 99% women), maybe it was the event (a fashion and lifestyle event), it was probably the brief (make your story accessible) but they were unashamedly and wonderfully open about what it means to be a woman in business.
The one thing I hear time and time again from business owners both new and old, startup or established, big or small is a feeling of overwhelm. A feeling of doing too much, being in too many meetings, trying to succeed on too many fronts.
It's a common issue, and there's a common cause. Complexity is the downfall of many a business and business leader. In the pursuit of success we do as many things as we can to get the results we want. We launch as many products as possible through as many channels as we can, create as many connections as possible and try and be everywhere at once. It's a kind of commercial spread betting and in the start up stage, it kind of makes sense.
I’ve written about the sleep inducing powers of talking about systems and process before. It's something I've encountered the whole of my career - tell someone they need process in their business and their eyes glaze over. Ask them what they want to fix though, or what's holding them back, and they get a whole lot more animated. In 90% of those conversations, the answer to their problems or the thing that will get them unstuck is... you guessed it... a process.
There are three key processes that every business needs. The don’t need to take up huge amounts of time and if you implement and follow these three processes consistently, not only will you have a more profitable and sustainable business, you will also feel more sane and have more time for the good stuff like strategy and, well, the odd day off perhaps!
For a business to be sustainable it needs to make profit.
And so as your business starts to grow, the traditional start up model of 'sales at any cost' starts to become irrelevant.
Structure, process, systems. Three words that all have the tendency to make people’s eyes glaze over. But what if they’re exactly what you need to create the sustainable, profitable business you know you deserve? If you’ve done the start-up bit and you’re consistently making sales you will start to feel as though you’ve 'got a business’, but if you’re also still stuck in every bit of detail and you know it couldn’t survive without you then you've also got a millstone.
Whether I'm coaching business leaders or mums returning to work, I see one thing standing in people's way time and time again and that's FEAR.
It can very often be disguised as something else but it doesn't take much digging to find out what's at the root of it. Take indecision for example, what tends to be driving that is a need to ensure that we've chosen the right answer. Look at it the other way, and it's fear of choosing the wrong one. When you're running a small business (or a big one) your decisions matter exponentially, and it's quite likely that you'll have bitter experience of getting it wrong. As your business starts to grow the risks become greater and so does the fear.