Dealing with financial pressure

Dealing with financial pressure…

Financial pressure seems to be all around us at the moment from government to business to private individuals, nobody has been left untouched. If you are in the fortunate situation of having plenty, do one thing teach one other person what you have obviously learned somehow already.

Dealing with money has always been a great taboo in many companies but also in many households. In many families most children don’t find out what it takes to pay bills until they are well into their teens and when they very likely have already picked up the handout mentality of mum & dad will pay for it. If you were one of the lucky few that was taught to save a few euro’s everytime you received some, you possibly learned the best habit and if you kept it up throughout your working life you possibly are one of the few happy and unworried people in this crisis.

Most companies (and if we may say so governments too) spent everything they had and saved very little or invested very little. Very few companies did a lot of cost control in the good times and in fact that is possibly the best time to do it. In a harsh climate all of a sudden the excess will get stripped back and if you are wondering whether you should, just go ahead and work costs down to the bare essentials. It is amazing if you ask each and everyone of your staff members to come up with cost saving ideas, what will actually be saved, from trivia such as stationery to more expensive outgoings such as rent, etc.

Cutting costs has to work in tandem with increased sales efforts in order to ride out the storm. It may mean that what you are offering will need to be revised in order to suit a demand that is currently in the market and to suit a target audience that still has access to cash. In other words put the creative hats on and do some brainstorming around target markets and reworked services or products to suit a recession.

When it comes to dealing with money shortage, face up to reality as soon as you can. Talk to the people you owe money to, the banks, your staff, your family, etc. You very likely are not the only one in the market with this issue and in the end of the day honesty will stand for you in the long run. When you have no money to pay for something, come clean and say so. With the uncertainty that is around, making promises that you can’t keep isn’t helpful nor good for your reputation and whilst you may feel your pride get’s hurt when explaining that you have no money, it is worse when you have to face the stressful place of court cases and other orders against your name.

In order to function as a human being, you do have to compartmentalise your financial stress to one side. If it starts to consume each and every hour and every minute, you are in a downward stress spiral and unlikely to make good decisions for your business or yourself and that is if you are actually still making decisions. Compartmentalising financial pressure can be a challenge, but set aside an hour every day to deal with what you cand deal with in terms of money, whether that is credit chasing, invoicing or renegotiating bills payment or payment terms, just make it a finite amount of time. Then after that park the financials until the next day and focus on creating new business or looking after the business you still have. The clients you have now and that are consistently paying are the ones to keep for the long haul, so make sure you look after them.

If you find your mind wandering back to money worries consistently then it’s time to retrain it in parking the item for the hour that you have set aside. Pick a point in the office, preferably a walk away from your desk and any time your mind starts to worry about money again, write tthe worry out on a piece of paper and go put in it’s dedicated place. After a number of times your mind will catch on to continue on with the other business your were supposed to be doing instead. It is a matter of playing mind games as well as tackling the problems head on.

When you have staff or a partner if the financial stress is palying out at home, then explain your system and agree that only once a day will you discuss the money issues and look at potential solutions. Harping on about them consistently has never made them go away. If you really do not see the light at the end of the tunnel, go look for advice as soon as you can. Whatever you do don’t ignore it.

If the worst comes to the worst and we hope it doesn’t happen to any of you, but if you were stripped of all your posessions, your assets, etc. what is still left is you. It may be a dented and less proud version of the previous you, but your core, your mind, your values and what you stand for cannot be taken from you. Possessions can be but your inner self you have to keep and nobody outside of you can touch that. If this is your reality, then have a good look and maybe now is the time to re-decide and re-think what you want to do with the remainder of your life. If for a short time you need to lie low or take it easier in order to get back on your feet, then be gentle on you and go with it.

Whatever happens, know that bad times are always followed by good times, it is the law of economics.

We wish all of you struggling out there a bit of a boost both mentally as well as financially and we hope that you have the courage and calmness of mind to keep on working towards your goals even if they may take a little longer or a new route.

Have a prosperous final quarter of 2011.

Fine line between entrepreneurial vision and illusion or even delusion

Fine line between entrepreneurial vision and illusion or even delusion

In dealing with entrepreneurs we often find the enthusiasm to live their vision absolutely infectuous and even in times of adversity some entrepreneurs manage to live their vision and believe in it’s positive outcome no matter what, some at the risk of being delusional and living an illusion.

Now if you are the employee or the private partner, you may be thinking ‘I always said that’ and ‘see I am right, didn’t I tell you’. Before you start your gloating conclusion, we would have seen a lot of very successful entrepreneurs over the years and they all talk of having to hold onto their vision despite the naysayers and despite challenging economic or business times. So to be clear we don’t want to promote for any entrepreneur to give up on their vision, but we do want them to check whether they are creating it or just living on the edge of delusion without a practical plan.

A delusional person equally has total belief their ideas will become reality, the only problem being they have no backbone or basis to back up these ideas. The visionaries of the entrepreneurial world do have a map even if at times it may be a rough map and the route may change, they have done their research and have valid information to indicate that they are on track. It would be considered irresponsible for an architect to build a house without plans, but entrepreneurs with delusional natures think it’s perfectly fine to build a business without a plan.

In tough economic times it is even more important to believe in your vision, because now the negative people will be out in force telling you that you will not survive and we are sure from talkign to our clients that even the most succesful at times contemplate whether they should keep going. In order to keep your vision real, the key is to establish some ground rules and basics you work towards. It includes having an end game plan or cut-off point where you decide it has been enough or time to sell up or close. We believe some minimum basics to ensure business viability need to be covered, so that your company can still pay bills and then an active sales plan on how you will be growing and what the targets are, after that a case of focusing on selling as much as possible with minimal resources.

Expenditure of great companies is minimal and well managed. Their key resource is always it’s people and they make the turnaround effort to keep the entrepreneurial vision alive. Great companies invest in people and have a strong culture all geared towards the vision and the key role of the entrepreneur is to keep the dream alive and motivate those around him to feel the same. This may mean stepping out and leading from the frontline when those on the front line are losing faith, or spending time in the back office to make sure all runs smoothly there.

In stormy times, the boats that make it through have usually put reefs in the sails, tighten the ropes and sailed a conservative course only to pick up the pace once safety has been found again, their focus is on the telltales and the compass to help the skipper stay on course.

The question is: are you living the entrepreneurial vision or delusion? No matter what the answer is right now, make a plan and then implement it as if your life depended on it.

We wish you a profitable vision

Do you network or netvulture?

Do you network or netvulture?

Networking is key to building a business in the professional services industry whether you enjoy that part or not, it is an essential part of progression within companies as well as inside industries as business owners. If you have attended any networking events you can nearly recognise the various characters: those working the room eager to be seen rather than have any meaningful interest or conversation in anyone apart from themselves, those genuinely looking to help other people present and invariably you have the wallflowers who only speak when spoken to and in some groups you even have the insider cliques as well.

Over the years I have attended all kinds of networking events from the social setting variety to the formal dinner dance to a focused business exchange meeting and I even organised a speednetworking event before this became all popular and the rage. Living in a small city in Ireland networking is the only way to place yourself and your professional service on the map. I used to tell my clients if there aren’t 3 or 4 random business people in this city that have heard about you and your business then you just haven’t hit the map. In Ireland business is still largely done through who you know and hence the connection factor is extremely important. Connect well and it can make you, the other side of the coin being it can also break you, so be aware.

For a number of years I assisted people new to networking on how to get to most out of their experience and especially with fellow coaches I often had to teach them to have non-coaching conversations. Just because somebody asks you what you do and shows an interest, that doesn’t give you license to coach or consult or pitch for that matter. The last one pitching is relevant for all service professionals not just coaches. The purpose of networking in my view has always been to meet new people and walk away with a number of potentially good and useful contacts, not necessarily closed business, but rather the start to what could be a meaningful and mutually beneficial business relationship. Pitching should only enter the frame when you are specifically invited to do so or quote for actual work, any time before then you are having meaningful business conversation that may or may not be mutually beneficial and will help build up a business relationship. So becoming a good conversationalist will be helpful.

Recently I saw quite a different approach, which I can only call net-vulturing… If you have seen any of the Harry Potter movies, the whole experience felt like one of the vultures just grabbing hold of you and nearly strangling you to the point of total discomfort and unease whilst trying to get to your contact base. One of these experiences I observed and the other I was on the receiving end of. At first I though it might have been a stand alone freak incident, but when it happened again I felt compelled to write about it and I have to say 4 different unrelated businesses and individuals were involved, so there was no cross-over.

What made the experience so uncomfortable is that the person interested in my contact base, really wasn’t interested in me, my well-being, but they were just out to self-profit and self-promote, which in my view was missing the whole point. I actually felt like saying ‘What makes you think I actually want to introduce you, when you don’t even have the respect for me?’, I obviously didn’t ask this question, but I sure as hell thought it and made a mental note to be seriously cautious on who I would introduce this individual to. If you want to be introduced to people I know, the first things I want to do is build a relationship with you to find out whether I can get to know more about you and your business, whether I like you and whether I can trust you and only then when all those boxes are ticked I may ask is there something mutually beneficial for you and the person you want the introduction to.

The other vulture type situation where I was an observer, was slightly different to the one I experienced, but it made watching people rather interesting. Here the netvulture was so intent on getting the contact, he nearly killed everything in it’s path to get the name and number, a little bit like what happens to creatures in ‘The Lord of the Ring’ when they get hypnotised by the ring. The individual on the receiving end reacted with stunned shock at the aggression of the pitch and because they were the lesser experienced they just handed over all relevant information, but you could see this didn’t sit well with them. An agreement was made for this vulture to meet the contact at another event a few weeks later and I have to say the whole thing came full circle. The unsuspecting contact was immediately whisked away to speak to the pitching party of the vulture team and I have never ever seen anyone leave a networking meeting with such urgency as the unsuspected individual did that time. I felt if time had been taken to nurture the introducer as well as the actual contact, an actual very profitable situation could have grown from it for all involved, but as it stands the introducer will not come near the vulture again and the contact I think will probably stay well clear also.

When you are eager to find business and new contacts, do it with respect for the introducer but also for yourself, sometimes it is worth building and nurturing a relationship over time that is based on real trust as opposed to going in with the hard sell, hungry for business type of tactic. Whether the economy is doing well or not is actually irrelevant in building a network of contacts, but only those that you have truly nurtured will stand the test in bad times, those fair weather hungry creatures will always let you down in the long run or when the favour needs to be returned.

Always remember in professional services people buy from people they know, like and trust and have something to offer that is beneficial to them. In networking you need to make the last part mutually beneficial and nurture the relationship over time…or at least that’s how I feel about it.

The key observation in both situations was that the damaging parties obviously had no idea they were having this effect, which is what fascinated me and has me writing about it. I wonder am I the only one observing this behaviour? Is is a sign of the times? Or am I missing something completely?

What can a business coach do for you in a recession and some figures to back it up?

What can a business coach do for you in a recession and some figures to back it up?

Before I start this blog post I have to admit that I dislike blowing my own trumpet, hence it is only because I found some very interesting statistical data that I have decided to post this information all the same. As a business coach in practice for close to 10 years, I have seen ups and downs in both my business as well as that of my clients and most pertinent of all the change in the economy here in Ireland as well as globally. What I find fascinating that in a time of economic downturn, services like training, coaching, marketing, advertising etc, become some of the first to be cut, usually I hate to say it on advice from the accountants in this world. Now I don’t for one minute want to tell you that you shouldn’t look at your cost base, because when I coach small businesses it is also on the agenda, but often it involves looking at production processes, staff productivity and similar internal issues first before touching lead generating and business development related functions.

One thing a recession does is force businesses to look at themselves critically and they have to become more successful and competitive from the inside out. I remember an interesting conversation I had with a fellow entrepreneur in the boom times in Ireland and he maintained that anybody could run a business in a booming economy, but only competitive and well-structured businesses would survive a recession. I have to say at the rate that small and medium sized businesses are closing down, this statement came up in my mind and I tend to agree that survival of the fittest will once again prevail all the way from the animal world into business.

Research suggests that by using a business coach you can on average increase your profit margin by 46%, but close to 50% of businesses will never look for that external sounding board for their business. Often the business coach will assist the owner in looking at alternative courses of action for increasing the business and navigating through the pitfalls of a falling economy.

The international coach federation (ICF) surveyed 210 coaching clients about the values and use of coaching, below are some of the key findings of the study, which fascinated me and just compelled me to share them. Participants found
62.4% better goal-setting
60.5% more work/life balance
57.1% decrease in stress levels
52.4% increase in self-confidence
43.3% improvement in general quality of life
25.7% more income
33.8% better health and fitness
33.3% improved family relationships
25.7% stopped a bad habit
My clients tell me about their success stories all of the time and we do have a great track record in our business with clients, but when it is confirmed by an independent study I just wonder what will the business owners amongst you have to say the next time your accountant questions business coaching expenditure. I have employed a number of coaches over the course of my business life and continue to do so and I can happily concur with some of these findings from personal experience.

So the real question is, what are you doing to navigate through this recession?
Where is your support team?
What benchmarks and yardsticks do you use to stop the panic decisions?

If someone gave you between a 25% and 46% chance of increasing your income, by having a business coach, would it actually persuade you to have one or would you just muddle on regardless?

I have to say I have had some very interesting conversations with potential clients in the last number of months and the willingness to invest money in development of the owner and their team is often left to the last minute and I will admit I very subjectively with a vested interest question this! Business coahcing is not a quick fix or a panic solution and really works best when implemented sooner rather than later. Ironically all our clients that have continued coaching despite the economic climate change are hitting fantastic results accross the spectrum, but then I would say that I am their coach.

For good health the doctor recommends a minimum of 5-portions a day of fruit and vegetables, well I challenge you to a 5 a day business development actions for your business every single working day and if you work in sales this will work for you too. What 5 things are you doing every day to generate new income, new leads, new clients? What have you done today?

I also very strongly suggest whether you are a business owner, manager or employee in need of more income, better goals, less stress and increased quality of life and work/life balance, to bite the bullet and hire a coach. Oh, and don’t just take my biaised word for it, the ICF found these statistics. In any case, we are open for business and ready to take on more clients, are you?

Spaghetti and Focus: What on earth do they have to do with each other?

Spaghetti and Focus: What on earth do they have to do with each other?

A lot of entrepreneurs in the professional service world are looking for their unique mission and purpose for their business and we deal with them when they face cross roads or changes of directions. In this economy it even is a case of crisis management or changing old ways because they no longer work or deliver the results from the past. Yesterday I heard a very apt saying in your quest for your mission in life don’t get run over or sidetracked by others in search of theirs. Hence I decided to write this post about staying focused and how I work with clients around this topic.

Obviously the starting point is finding out what is you want to stand and be counted for. The very headline statement level, which if you were to have the misfortune of leaving the planet people will remember you for and they would say: ‘Remember him…. he was totally focused on achieving….. or she was exactly this kind of person…’. So I guess if you don’t know what you want to be remembered for, then this is the starting point and this goes for entrepreneurs as well as employees.

Once you have chosen your one headline that you want to be remembered for and for some of my clients that means becoming the best in their chosen field, some want to be recognised for expert knowledge others want to win coveted awards. Whatever it is for you, make the bold statement to someone you trust and write it down in your private goal book and then work backwards what actions are necessary to make sure you are recognised as that person. What in your words do you need to achieve in order to have 100% proof that you have hit your mission. So you can actually rest in peace or move on to the next challenge.

If this all sounds a little bit morbid, it’s only intended to make you think. In my view we all arrived on this planet to share some of our talents and achieve something, what that is we have the liberty to decide on which is a great opportunity or some people’s biggest fear.

Let’s now assume that you have worked out your mission and ambition in your business life and now staying focussed on doing the tasks that will get you to your ultimate goal becomes your next mission, should you choose to accept it. In my business coaching work I often get asked how entrepreneurs can really remain more focused on their core goals as opposed to getting distracted and pulled away into other interesting projects. Most of the time my answer would be different depending on the person, because ultimately we all create focus in our own unique ways.

I did wonder all the same if I could come up with a visualisation or metaphor to help people get rid of distractions and remain completely laserlike in their mission to achieve. This is were my old favourite spaghetti comes in and if you can create this image just by reading this blogpost then I would say use it to your own advantage and let me know if it works for you as well.

Imagine yourself surrounded by all your distractions as if they are all planets floating around you in a magical solar system. Distractions can be people, annoying habits you have or others have, e-mails, phone calls, unhealthy habits, etc, etc. Just make sure the distraction can actually take a visual shape or form even if it is only a feeling, just have it represented in the physical imagery.

Now, imagine all those floating distractions attached to you as the centre of your universe with little strings of spaghetti, the more attached or annoyed you are the more spaghetti you have attached to that distraction. Then when you can see the attached spaghetti straps consciously cut the spaghetti straps with razor sharp, industrial sized kitchen knives and see all teh distractions disappearing like fireworks in the sky as if you were tying them down and now they have been released to splash their colour one last time and then they are gone. If you need to repeat the cutting of spaghetti ties to get rid of all of them, then do the same again.

You are left with a bowl of neat spaghetti ties which you fully own and control and this becomes your bowl of focus, you and only can decide what shape, what form or what time this bowl needs in order to develop into your goals. The bowl represents your business mission, your reason for existing and again your core focus that will ultimately get you were you want to be.

See yourself bringing the bowl to all the successful meetings you will have, all the conversations that need to happen in order to hit your target, all the e-mails, the contracts, the presentations, etc, etc that ultimately make your bowl the success gift from you to you. In order to be successful most of us need other people and that’s why the bowl travels with you to share but only on our terms, in your time and with the people you consider to be of help.

I sure hope you enjoy spaghetti…. do let me know the results of your bowls of focus. Failing any better headlines, maybe people might just remember you for the person that enjoyed spaghetti analogies.