Hi, I'm Terry Peers, the Business Whisperer, and Cuthbert is my wise old owl. I'm usually too busy to write my own blogs, so I get Cuthbert to do them for me... Please do read them, he can be quite insightful when he's not focused on catching a vole!
Last month I went to a talk my coach was giving on the subject of annual goals, "New Year Resolutions" and his favourite, DAREs. Paraphrasing slightly, a DARE is Daunting, Audacious, Ridiculous and an Expression of your 'why'. The follow up to this talk was a masterclass for a limited number of participants at the very start of February, where we could discuss what the 'E' meant for each of us and structure an appropriate goal.
As someone who has never felt the need for a 'why' beyond "it's what I do and I'm darn good at it!", it was quite a revelation to sit there and hear all these people clearly articulate why they do what they do and how that contribution could change the world as they view it. I felt very much a minnow swimming with the big fish. Still, we all persevered and goals were discussed.
Now there is a curious thing about goals. Most of us will have set a goal at some point, it's quite a nice feeling to have one and sometimes we even mean them! But, unless you tell someone and become accountable for the goal you have set, it has no life. There is nothing to keep you to your word, you can change your mind. Hum, you say to yourself, I hate a messy kitchen! I'll clean it and never let it get that bad again! And you mean that when you say it and the clean kitchen is beautiful. But you're busy and so is your partner, the kids are in and out like scavenging fox cubs and the dog will shake off the rain and mud! So despite a quick whizz around each evening, after a week or two it looks like Armageddon! You quietly forget what you promised yourself as too hard, too time-consuming and resign yourself to a 'lived-in' look, just for now, until the summer when it won't be so hard to keep it clean. Another goal dead. Another dream left in the corner.
I don't want to give up on my dreams. My dreams are to help people like you. To be there when you can't see how to put all your ideas in the right order to get the business you believed you could make. When you know what you want and need to do and you can taste the dream at the end of the rainbow but the path isn't clear, that's when I want to be there, shining a light, giving you direction and reigniting the passion that started you on the path. It's a big dream, there are a lot of you out there and I can't do it alone, I need you to let me help you!
So because I know what it feels like to be a minnow, because shining a light in the dark is so important, I will share my goal, my DARE, with you.
My DARE is a massive 250% growth in my business by Christmas this year.
It's Daunting - ten new, regular clients.
It's Audacious - it turns what I do from a 'kitchen table' size business to something with real clout!
It's Ridiculous - to even imagine that in less than a year,
and it is
an Expression of me and my 'why', and if you want to know more, call me 😀!
And now, because I have told you, I am accountable to you. I need you to contact me and let me know that you have read this, a 'like' is enough, but if it would interest you, I also want to know your goals and how you are going to be accountable to me in return. I want to know when you succeed and I want to help if you are struggling. I want to start conversations with all of you and see where we can help each other to greater successes and even bigger dreams.
A single straw will blow away in the lightest wind but a thatched roof is only made of straw and can last for a century or more. Come with me on this journey; together we can be so much more than we are alone.
I've been busy over the last month or so, clocking up the hours, taking on or declining clients as they roll in, maintaining the existing contracts, going to conference, chasing invoices, all the usual run of the mill things that most businesses do. Everything very ordinary, very normal. I have a calendar on my iPad which lists when and where I should be somewhere, or what jobs I hope to accomplish on any given day. One of the things on there, generally near the end of the month when I do my invoicing, is "Take Stock". What do I mean by that?
If you look the phrase up in a dictionary it will tell you that "To Take Stock" means to think carefully about a situation or event and form an opinion about it, so that you can decide what to do. Ok, fine! Loads of people do that about their businesses, so what?
The 'so what' is that I rather had it drummed into me this week that it's not just business you need to Take Stock of. For your business to work smoothly and in the way you want it's everything in your life as well that needs to be looked at, not just business. That is a concept that has taken me years to get my head around, literally, years! My private life is just that, surely, private. It has nothing to do with how I run my business, after all a quote from You've Got Mail, where Jo Fox (Tom Hanks) is chatting online to Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) makes it very clear "it's not personal, it's business. It's not personal, it's business" while telling Kathleen she needs to fight to keep her bookstore. So what does one's personal life have to do with one's business?
For any micro business the 'brand' and the owner are synonymous: you can't have one without the other; no owner, no business, no brand. Yet I would put money on the fact that most business owners do not wake up in the morning thinking "What can I do today that will enhance my brand?" We don't, as a rule, automatically think "How can I help my business grow/improve today?" as we stumble out of bed, roust the kids from theirs and try not to trip over the cat as we head for that first coffee! As we race around the supermarket in scruffy jeans and a sweatshirt, we aren't thinking about how we are representing our businesses, we are thinking about stuffing things in at superhuman speeds because there are so many other things to cram into the one morning off we have allowed ourselves!
And that is foolish.
Quite apart from the likelihood that racing around like the proverbial insect tends to mean jobs half done and lists incomplete, we aren't doing our businesses any favours either.
If we want to make a success of our businesses we need some joined up thinking. We are our own businesses brand and its ambassador. Everything we do will reflect on our businesses in some way. So when you are tempted to tumble out of the house in sweats to do the shopping or you are 'too busy' to chat at the school gate, maybe you need to give that some thought. It could be that the conversation you dodged would have led to more business, that the friends you bumped into at the garden centre won't now refer you because you no longer 'look the part' they were expecting. And this works in reverse too! If your business doesn't follow how you are in the 'outside' world, if you are a precise person, neat, always on time etc… make sure your business is too. Missing deadlines and delaying work damages brand, damages you. The row at home over who should have cleaned the kitchen spoils your mood for the morning and the meetings you needed to be sharp for. Screaming at the traffic won't get you there any quicker and being snippy with the staff in consequence (if you have any) won't help their performance. And trying to bury it all and carry on as if nothing is wrong is a recipe for deadly levels of stress. I should know. I tried that route.
Now I'm not advocating a 'let it all hang out' approach; that, I think, could be a tad too much for most 😀 - but I do recommend taking a step back. Thinking it through. Taking Stock. Be aware of any mismatch between personal and business life. Think about what the style of your living is saying about you and your business and the style of your business is saying about you and your life! There are patterns in everything we do, say and think. There are patterns in everything we do, say and think about our businesses too. If we really want our business life to blend to our private life, if we want to 'live the dream', those elements need to work together, the patterns need to align. Sometimes those patterns are very hard to see, the phrase "can't see the wood for the trees!" comes to mind, and then you might want to consider outside help. The Business Whisperer is brilliant at identifying all those patterns, both business and personal, in finding where the mismatch between personal and business stops you from moving forward in creating the business you dreamed about. The Business Whisperer is also first class at guiding you in shifting your business to match your goals rather than being trapped in a business that seems to have changed purpose on its own.
If you would like to talk about that, or know more about how that can work for you, give me a call! I won't bite and a one hour call is free. I promise I'll tell you if I can't help, but equally I'll tell you, and show you, the areas where I can. I can help you build your dream, let's start a conversation and see where it goes.
I went and saw my coach yesterday. It was quite a long session; life has been a bit of a muddle recently, and we covered quite a lot of ground in the three and a half hours I was there.
I work with and know quite a number of coaches, healers and alternative medicine people - nice bunch as a rule - but they will go and ask awkward questions like 'why?' and even worse 'why not?' It was a 'why not?' that caught my attention this time and I want to share that with you.
Now for anyone who has met me you probably know I'm quite a nosy person (comes with the job really, bookkeepers tend to be quite nosy as we dig out all the details of what you've spent where and why), and I really like to know how things work and the 'why' behind the processes people use in their business. On this occasion the subject was something called Access Bars, energy healing and 'having your bars run'. It turns out this is nothing to do with a swift half at the pub after work (shame!) but is to do with dropping your mental barriers and 'receiving' on an energetic level the gift/help of the universe for whatever you need it for. Well, something like that anyway. Being of a sceptical nature I could as easily call it letting someone I trust pussyfoot with my brain, it's about as accurate! Yes, I probably will get glared at for that, hey ho.
Anyway, my coach wanted to know if I understood how this concept worked and was somewhat stunned at my 'No, I don't need to', and we had a few brief moments on the difference between want and need. I don't need to know how all his 'Woo Woo' stuff works, I just accept it, and it really does seem to work. He had expected me to want to know more. That was fine for that meeting, no more discussion was required, but I want to talk about need and want a little more, especially how it might apply to you and your business.
Looking at the dictionary, the noun want implies a lack or deficiency in the named item (as in "for want of trying"), while need implies a more critical requirement - it's a stronger word. We need air to breathe, we want nice shoes… The same thing is true when you look at the verb. To want help and to need help are at different levels, the first would be nice the second is a statement saying we can't cope alone with the task at hand. How often do we muddle these two words? How frequently have we said "I need…" when what we mean is "I want…"
So next time you look at your business and the goals you have listed, give them some thought; are they burning needs or merely wants? If the goals you have are only wants you will be very unlikely to achieve them - they don't have the energy, the drive, which a need has, they are negotiable, dismissible. How often in business do you ignore working on the business, doing the books, writing an action plan because it's 'just for you', thinking the need to complete client work has greater importance. Think about that - you've just said you are not important. That other people should be given preference over you. Most of us are guilty of doing this, me included! So give some thought to what you have done over the last few weeks and ask yourself why. Then set yourself a few goals that really are needs and understand the difference.
When I first started my business I set a goal of having a garden office within 5 years. I built it by the end of the first year. I needed it, I needed to have my workspace away from the children and my husband. A space I could be quiet in: I'm sitting in there now, typing this. The rest of the goal list was wants and wishful thinking, so that has faded into obscurity. It's about time I wrote another, proper, set of targets and goals, real needs. Then I suppose I had better ask the universe for a little help; apparently she listens quite well!
If you want someone who can help you with the goal setting or all that Woo Woo stuff, go and speak to Andrew Horder; his FaceBook link is below.
I've got something to crow about! Crocus Bookkeeping has won an award!
Best Bookkeeping Firm - South London 2017 from Acquisition International http://www.acq-intl.com/2017-crocus-bookkeeping
I had an email a few months ago saying that my Crocus Bookkeeping business had been nominated for an unspecified award, and today the notification arrived that the list is public. I have no idea who nominated me, and, truth be known, I don't want to know, but to all my clients out there, old and new, thank you!
Now some might say that this is a vanity award, but they generally cost something; you have to pay to have your name in lights. No payments have been made by me, so what cost vanity? I didn't look for this and beyond accepting the nomination, no action has been required by me.
What does this say about Crocus Bookkeeping, and by extension, Business Whisperer? Well, I think it says that someone, presumably a client, likes what I do enough to tell people about me and either directly or indirectly this has reached the ears of an awards body. That they chose to follow it up and check me out, that they found proof that I do what I say, when I say it and do it well! And because of all that, today I won an award. I'm ridiculously happy!
How will this affect the businesses? It won't. It's business as usual around here, though I might just have a couple of biscuits with my tea this afternoon to celebrate. But if you are thinking about using a bookkeeper, you now know that my clients like me enough to talk about me, and that they say nice things (Well, I hope so! I don't think the award is for being bad 😱) Does that help you when you decide who to talk to?
No, that doesn't mean I live on garlic butter - no matter what my family say!
To Swallow the Frog is a phrase used by time management people which originated with something said by Mark Twain, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning, and if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first."
The point here being that we all procrastinate to some level and the job you find hardest to settle down to is your 'frog', so by putting it first in your day, the pain is over quickly (or not) and you can then go and do something more to your liking.
Sounds simple, but like most simple things it can be amazingly hard to do!
So why do I say I am a professional frog swallower? Well, one of the most common 'frogs' for any small, owner run business is the bookkeeping, paperwork and compliance work. 'Doing the books' can give people nightmares, so it gets put off and put off until the job becomes so big and so daunting, and the deadline for getting the job done is so close and so overwhelming that swallowing a real frog might just be easier!
But why put yourself in that position?
If you come out in a cold sweat at the thought of compiling all the paperwork into something that can help you rather than drag you down, don't do it.
If 'doing the books' means a weekend of swearing at your nearest and dearest - don't do it!
If every Christmas and New Year is clouded by a mad panic to get the paperwork in order so you can do a tax return - just don't do it!
Get a bookkeeper instead!
Bookkeepers love numbers; what is stressful for you is fun for us - yes, ok, we are weird. But hey… it takes all sorts ☺
Where is the business logic in you being so stressed you can't sleep? What is the rationale behind you spending a weekend, when you should be relaxing and having fun with the kids, cursing the world and wasting your valuable time? Why are you spoiling the season of good will feeling anything but happy?
Doesn't it make more sense to get professional, qualified help? Bookkeeping is a skilled job, understanding what can and cannot be claimed, and why. The complexity of VAT, how and when it applies, what the exceptions and exemptions are. How to identify fixed and variable costs, why that matters and how it should reflect in your prices so that you do show a profit without having to pluck numbers out of the air. A good bookkeeper can help with all of those and much more.
If you want to be able to relax, if you want the freedom to do the thing you started your business to do, if you want the fun back.
bookkeeper professional frog swallower!
What is the one thing I just won't give way on, where is the 'thus far and no further!' point for me? Well, I think I would have to say, trust. I cannot work for or with people who I do not trust or who do not trust me. Trust takes time to build, and in my working realm as a Bookkeeper and Business Whisperer, you have to be very careful where you place your trust as it can have quite catastrophic results should you get it wrong.
Knowledge is power and power should be used with care; any bookkeeper can put themselves in a position where they have immense power. It's a specialist job, very intimate in a way, you step inside someone else's business, you see things that no-one else sees. You are granted a glimpse into the way another person thinks and feels and you see how they spend, not just in a business sense but often a personal one! I have, over the years, been asked to advise on gifts for a spouse, heard tales of family problems, hugged clients when they come to me in tears, been there at ungodly hours as the only person they can trust to talk to.
When I have asked my clients why they have stayed with me I generally get two types of answer: firstly, that I make what is essentially a very dry subject fun and easy to understand, I explain things well and take the time to make sure they are happy. But secondly, and to me far more important, that I am the only person they trust enough to have that level of access to them and their work. To me, that is gold dust, knowing that I am trusted, that they have faith in my skills. That what I do is helping them and removing a worry from them. That's the point at which it's no longer just a job.
It can be a lonely role. But it's one I love. Bringing order out of chaos, calm from the storm. A safe haven from whatever life throws at people. My clients are never just clients, they are friends, with everything that true friendship brings.
It always amazes me just how seldom people try new things.
I am as guilty as the rest I see around me! I've said for ages "I can't blog!" Well, clearly I can - what's this if not a blog? What I find hard is sitting down at a desk to 'do an essay'; I never really liked English at school and formal writing is still something of a problem, so I've made it informal. I'm typing this on a train! Cuthbert will look it over later and hoot with disapproval as I misplace commas and ignore all the finer points of punctuation and after he huffs and puffs he generally sets to and corrects all my mistakes to give you a polished piece of prose. ☺
Nice old owl, Cuthbert!
My coach has set me a challenge to make video logs - vlogs - and this is also part of a visibility challenge I accepted recently. Now in theory, this should be fairly simple. Get my phone or a camera, set it up somewhere stable, push go and talk. I can talk for England on what I do and why I do it, so it can't be hard! Can it? Well, apparently, yes, it can. Knowing it's a skill I need to learn, that it will help me, my business and my clients' businesses if I can get my head around it, still I can't settle to it. Having voluntarily set a deadline to do this has not, so far, managed to wind me to the sticking point and just go for it!
And this, I suppose, is why people don't do new things. Fear of the unknown, fear of the effect of something new. The really daft bit - it can't hurt me! At worst it brings me a new audience, a new way of telling people what I do, ultimately, new business - and I want that, surely?
I will do this, I will push through the self-imposed barrier and get something 'on film' or whatever medium this is. Because I need to - and if I can do this, so can you. If I can learn how to change how I present my business, expand my audience, so can you! And ultimately that is what this is about: taking the hard, simple steps that mean I can help you more, improve your audience, present what you do better. Build your business.
Because that's what I do, as the Business Whisperer; I help you grow, so fear of the unknown must not stop me. Embracing change will help me to help you; markets and the routes to those markets are always changing so as business owners we must change with them.
I still wish these simple steps weren't so hard!
When people keep saying "work on your business, not just in your business", what does that mean?
Apart from the rather obvious 'different things to different people' there are a few common themes. So for anyone struggling with Owning my Own Business 101, here's a bit of a rundown for you.
Working in your business is all about what you do that generates money, so that could be painting widgets or designing a business card or planting a flower bed. It is not 'sales' as in generating sales, that's different. It's the thing you do, that you bill for. For quite a high percentage of sole traders it may not be what you spend the most time on, and for many that can be a problem; after all, it's what you do that made you start your business in the first place. Not to do that thing that was your primary vision can be extremely frustrating.
Oh, and you sales and marketing readers, yes you sell your skill at marketing, but marketing for a client is working in, your own marketing is working on, more below.
Working on your business is pretty much everything else, but it comes in types and flavours; some are more important than others, so pay attention - HMRC set the exam! I'm going to cover the two key ones here: paperwork and marketing.
Paperwork. More repetitive than housework and ironing, more boring than watching paint dry, this is the area that everyone knows about and the majority wilfully ignore! Sending invoices out once the work is done or month end reached. Recording expenses and mileage and deciding what sort of expense it is, can you claim it, can you even be bothered! Chasing that late payment is another horror story! Most of us have been there, and most of us have just given up, taking a loss rather than continue to nag and push and prod.
This is also, unfortunately, the area you have to keep under control because it also includes such delights as VAT returns, statutory declarations and Self Assessment Tax, plus, if you employ, PAYE, RTI and AE, monsters from under the bed to haunt your dreams. Should you have the misfortune to be inspected, please remember HMRC do not need a warrant. They can turn up and walk in whenever they like, demand to see your books and expect you to have them up to date, reasonably organised and all associated documentation filed where they can see it. Normally you'll get a day or three of warning and in all likelihood, unless you are in a cash-rich industry or you have had problems with VAT or income tax before, it's no worse than a 1 in 20 chance for any given year.
Marketing. This is supposed to be the exciting stuff! (Tolstoy is a gripping author!) It's what you do to get the clients you work for, one way of looking at it is to make this your 'work' for which the reward is doing that thing you set up your business for. This is not about perfection, unless you are a precision engineer or an absolute perfectionist graphic designer, perfection DOES NOT MATTER! If you go to the doctor for a cure, it doesn't matter if the aspidistra is not centred on the windowsill, or the desk is slightly cluttered, what matters is that they understand the problem and can fix it. Same here, it does not matter if the colours on the website are a shade or two out from the colours on your card, most people won't even notice. What matters is that you show you understand the potential client's problem and can fix it!
So marketing is about positioning yourself as the solution to a problem and then hooking the client by showing them they have that problem and offering an answer that reduces/removes it. There are any number of ways to market: websites, Facebook pages, LinkedIn, classic newspaper ads, radio, posters… the list goes on and on. Some are more suitable and some less for each type of business. A global poster campaign for a small local vet would probably be a waste of money, but a stand at the local fair, with a few freebies and a vet on hand with free advice would probably pick up a few new clients.
So you need to think about what it is your type of client does and market into that space in order to find them. Describing what sort of type your preferred client is, is frequently called creating an avatar. Yes, I know, 'but I can help anyone!' Well, yes, probably, but who is 'anyone' and where do they live? Are they some super rich Eton and Oxbridge educated type who goes to work on a yacht? Well, if you repair boats for a living, quite possibly, but for the rest of us, we are probably aiming a little lower, at least to start with.
I could go on here for hours, but it's probably enough to say there are specialists out there for all aspects of both paperwork and marketing. What I bring is that rare thing, understanding of both.
Business Whisperer brings the patterns in your expenses and the patterns in your marketing together, combining them with that unique thing, which is your outlook on the work you do, to help create the most effective growth pattern for you. If that sounds interesting, give me a call. A half hour chat costs nothing but your time, and who knows. You might be one of the yacht owners after we work together.
I was talking to my Coach earlier this week and for various convoluted reasons the subject of our household annual Christmas Lego display came up - yes, I know, it doesn't sound very 'business' and it's only early September, the 'C' word may be a bit much for some but I like it so I'm not going to apologise!
Anyway… I said that I might take part of the display out and talk about it at the networking meetings I go to and he wanted to know how on earth that had anything to do with business. Well I thought the links were obvious but clearly they aren't to everyone, so I thought, if I explained it all here you might like to come and see the display and hear a little more. Drop me a line, I'll let you know which meetings I'll be at, when and where. If enough people are interested in seeing the whole display I might arrange an open afternoon for charity (British Heart Foundation, of course) but you will all have to both ask and be prepared to donate!
First off then, what exactly is our Lego display? Every year my family and I build a range of 'Winter Village' Lego kits and display them, lit with dolls house fairy lights, on a 6ft table in our lounge. We build the display differently each year, each year there is usually a new model and it is not unknown for us to play with the display, moving the reindeer and children around, setting tableaux and generally having fun! It's a fantastic bit of family time complete with minor arguments, lost pieces and artistic temperament - a perfect family opener to the Christmas Season?
"But how does this relate to business?" I hear you ask. Simple, it's all in the patterns.
As the Business Whisperer, my entire working sphere is patterns: number patterns, personality patterns, patterns in the way people approach a job, reply to a message or query, the way they present themselves and talk about their pet subject - or any subject! The way in which they interact with their business and their clients, the decision-making process they go through. I normally allow an intense day to learn this sort of stuff about my clients and occasionally it will take longer, but I have known people who are on my wavelength, as it were, where the entire process can take less than 5 minutes. We just click! Once, someone I was speaking to made a passing comment about another person. The exchange took less than 30 seconds. What they said gave me such an insight into that other person that I could then see exactly how they would react to a given situation. That is a bonus, because if I can see those patterns so clearly, so quickly, I can use them to help those clients understand themselves better. When you understand why you do something it is much easier to control the processes involved!
Going back to the Lego building, I watch how the various members of my family approach the job:
All of these types of Lego builder are mirrored by types of business owner. Some jump in with their big idea, not a clue where they want to take it, riding the storm and leaving a wake of lost and mislaid paperwork swirling behind them. Then there is the ultra-organised type, with full business plans and a script for the rest of their natural lives, completely floored if anything goes wrong that they hadn't planned for. And my favourites, the semi-organised! They know what they have, they know where they want to go, and they appreciate that it could take time and not all the steps will be pleasant but all they want is a bit of help with the path. Changes in route, setbacks and forward leaps are all taken in their stride. The adventure is the path to get to their goal and sometimes their aim can be staggeringly high!
So when you next build some Lego (which I thoroughly recommend you do!), or watch your kids/nieces/nephews/etc. building, try to be a bit organised: it makes the building quicker (and more fun). The instructions are there for a reason, but not a strait jacket! Be prepared to make changes if the result will look better to you. But mostly, enjoy the journey!
And remember, if you do want to hear more or see the display for this year, please do drop me an email to email@example.com and either Cuthbert or I will get back to you as soon as we have all the details sorted!
What is it about owning a pet that makes it so attractive a proposition for so many of us? And how can understanding that help our businesses?
Owning a pet is something that a lot of us have in common, be it cats, dogs or horses, rabbits, birds or reptiles - the UK is known as a nation of animal lovers who will pamper their pets and crusade about cruelty while side-lining their family and friends who do not agree. There are more posts about pets on FaceBook than on any other single subject! Any yet, owning a pet is not a simple thing - it involves willingly taking on a commitment to care for a creature that is no longer suited to life in the wild, and if that pet is a tortoise that could be for 70 years! We accept that we will have to nurture these animals, provide exercise, entertainment and any specialist care, there are vet fees and pet sitters/kennel costs, appropriate food and shelter, specialist heating and/or caging. We can't just disappear off on a jolly - planning is needed for something as slight as an overnight stay to be sure these creatures are happy and content and above all will survive our not being there.
So what do we get in return that is so very valuable to us? What is it that makes raising a pet almost more attractive than raising a child to some people?
I would suggest that it is an attractive prospect for several reasons. Firstly acceptance; with no limitations, no preconceived ideas. An acceptance of us at our own valuation. The second reason is an interesting one, Control. We accept control of a creature's life and living standards and we choose to treat them well or treat them poorly - we have control. The third thing we get is love. Over and above acceptance, we believe our pets love us and we lavish love on them. Little is too expensive, no effort too extreme for these furry, feathered or scaled family members.
If you think about it, owning a business is a bit like owning a pet. It needs constant attention, 'feeding' and nurturing, it needs love and acceptance and most of all your time. Businesses where time and attention are concentrated in a focused, controlled manner tend to thrive better than those which are run as hobbies or with a more cavalier approach to planning and organisation.
So when you think about your business, think about whether you are fully engaged with that business. Do you consider the time needed to work on the business and plan for that as well as the time needed in your business? Have you accepted the needs of your business in terms of 'care and feeding'? Sufficient capital and cash flow, careful record keeping, compliance and insurance issues? What about exercise? Do you go out and talk about your business - is your website/FaceBook page/LinkedIn attractive and active? Or could these things do with some TLC? Plenty of people out there who can help you if you don't know how and it doesn't always cost!
Over 60% of new start-up businesses fail in the first few years principally due to a lack of commitment, care and attention to detail. The owner is away chasing a new dream or the next sale and ignores the 'pet' starving for attention at their feet. If you only want your business to have the life expectancy of a gerbil then that may be fine but if you want something that could last longer than a tortoise try treating it more like a pet and who knows, if you love your business, it may just start loving you back!
On Friday I will be going to London.
I took that trip this time last year, on that occasion it was to go to London Bridge Hospital. I will go there again this year, but for very different reasons.
Last year it was to undergo a triple heart bypass.
This year it's to say thank you to a fantastic team of people who got me through all the bad news - and it felt endless - who looked after me when I reacted poorly to the necessary drug cocktails, who saved me again when I got septicaemia, without whom I would not be here today to post this.
To my surgeon, the anaesthetist and all the ward nurses who were there, who took the time to talk, who listened when I was scared and panicking, who sat there when I couldn't sleep for fear of never waking. Who took the tears and the temper and offered only tea and common sense in return.
This time last year I expected to die. Thank you for proving me wrong.
Because of you my daughters still have a mother. Because of you my husband still has a wife. Because you felt a calling and trained to be nurses and doctors and work long, often anti-social hours for shit pay (even the private sector stuff ain't that good!), I have a future and it is priceless!
Because of you and everything you did I have a new business, one that gives back, one which helps others to take what they do to the next level. The Business Whisperer takes everything I have learnt over the last five decades, the success and the failures, from the rapid climbs of business growth to the collapse of same from circumstances outside my control to building a sustainable career that survives even close brushes with death. Whisperer takes all that and helps others build the sustainable business they have dreamed about.
And it's all because of the fantastic staff at London Bridge Hospital.
So on Friday I will go back there, with thank you cards and chocolates and say goodbye to my personal year of hell.
I have a future!
And sitting here in my front row seat, it looks bloody good!
There are loads of acronyms and industry 'verbal shorthand' out there in the world of business finance. Do you know what they mean and how they might affect you? Let's start with some you might know...
Statement of Income and Expenditure: the new name for the Profit and Loss or P&L account
Statement of Financial Position: the new name for the Balance Sheet or BS (and yes, some really are BS!)
RTI or Real Time Information: the payroll weapon of choice! This is a requirement that every time you pay a staff member (including Directors) you inform HMRC of the exact details of the amount, tax deducted, National Insurance, student loan deductions, the whole shebang... A very good reason for having a payroll specialist deal with things - you are allowed a maximum of one mistake in any year and penalties can get expensive!
AE or Auto Enrolment: this is the new pensions legislation. Generally sorted through the payroll but can be a separate thing. The law requires that all staff are opted in and only after the set-up is complete can they choose to opt out. Saying that everyone will opt out and doing nothing is not a good idea, even if the statement is true!
And here's one you might not know...
GDPR or General Data Protection Regulations: the new 'big brother' to the current DPA, Data Protection Act and ICO, Information Commissioners Office, registration. Yes, it is an EU directive, but don't think you can ignore it on that account - it is already planned for adoption into UK law! GDPR comes into force in May 2018; it covers paper records as well as computer records and may mean you need to totally rebuild your contact database! Why? The key stipulation is that you need evidence that each person has opted in to having their data stored by you - if you can't show that, then you need to permanently delete that record.
What is fairly clear is that if you are in business you had better check your ICO registration. If you hold any data on clients on a computer, for invoicing, emailing or just reference, you probably need to be registered with them. There is no new registration required by GPDR. The ICO have a nice little quiz they take you through to see if you need to register, it's at ICO.org.uk - follow the link to register and on the page you go to there is a link for the self-assessment test.
Oh, and if you have CCTV, at home or the office - you must register!
There are all sorts of things that can affect the type and quality of leads for a business; sometimes it can be as simple as poor weather putting a potential client in a bad mood!
So how do you get past that? Well if they are coming to you, how about creating a space that looks appealing and functional - one which gives a good impression. Untidy piles of poorly stored paperwork makes you look too busy and rushed to be able to give the client the time and attention they expect.
If you are going to a neutral venue or the client's workplace, remember to plan to arrive a few minutes early: racing breathlessly up the stairs as the client taps a toe is not a good look!
Networking is one of the simplest and most effective methods of marketing your business - but strangely, it is often the most neglected as well.
There are different forms of networking: simply mentioning what you do at a party or family gathering can be highly effective, just because they are your friends: they have your interests at heart, and are much more likely to remember your trade and to refer you when someone they know is looking for that service.
More formal business networking meetings will of course ensure you are talking business-to-business, with people who are used to finding outsourcing opportunities and to referring others - but they can cost money. The most effective of these, in my view, are the more social ones that encourage friendship and trust ahead of referrals.
So why is networking neglected? Often, people say they have enough business at the moment, and are too busy to spend time or money on paid networking. Generally, such people then start networking when the order book takes a dive, but because it takes time for others to know, like and trust them before making a referral, they experience a slump in sales. Stomping off in a huff because "Networking doesn't work!" in such cases is a very poor reaction, and is fundamentally wrong.
So however busy you are, do remember to invest some time in networking, to make sure you are building the vital relationships you need to gain referral business, even (or especially!) if you don't need that business right now.
You might think that the commercial patterns that signal improved business performance would be the same every time, or at least the same for each business in the same sector. In fact, that is not the case at all.
There is a huge variation, even among similar companies; and the biggest variable is the personalities of the major players in each business. Some will be cautious, slow to act but determined when they do so; others may take decisions quickly, but then chop and change if they feel things aren't working. Some will be extroverts, and hence happy to expand their business by taking on staff, while the introverted business owner would be much more reluctant to do so. There are countless other personality traits that affect how a business is run.
This is why there is no single formula for commerical success, and why the Business Whisperer needs to spend time getting to know you and your business before making any recommendations.
Different people measure success in different ways. For some it's having a sports car and the trappings of the high life, and for others the (not so) quiet satisfaction of rescuing a few ex-battery hens. No matter where you see yourself on that spectrum, one thing will be true: in order to reach your personal success goals, you will need money! For food, clothes, trips out with the kids or a magical holiday to Bali, it all comes down to "Can I afford it?".
The Business Whisperer works with owner-led businesses to help you to realise those goals. A Horse Whisperer is able to get wild or unruly horses to behave when traditional methods have failed - not by whispering at all, but by studying the body language of the horse, and altering his/her own body language accordingly to affect the horse's mood and demeanour. Similarly, the Business Whisperer studies the "body language" of your business, learns the commercial patterns involved, and spots key action areas to improve business performance.
Terry's skill is that she can read both the books of a business and the people who run that business, identifying their strengths and weaknesses. Using this information, she can see where money is being wasted on expenditure that does not lead to profit, and where money is not being spent when it should, as significant business growth would result. She devises an action plan for your business to follow, with a high degree of confidence that commercial success will result.
So what do all those fine-sounding words mean for you? More clients, found more easily, with work completed more effectively, giving you more time and money to enjoy whichever things are the rewards for success as you see it.