'If you don't know where you’re going, you'll end up someplace else.' -Yogi Berra
My parents as they got older, often got into their car without knowing where they were going exactly. Okay, they knew roughly they were heading for - the Lakes or North Yorkshire or Northumberland but their precise destination or their route? Not really. ‘I wonder where that road goes?’ ‘Do you know, I don’t think we’ve ever gone that way, shall we see what’s it like?’ It was often a magical mystery tour and the start of many an adventure!
But can you imagine trying to run a business like that? You’ve got an idea and you just set off and see where the wind takes you. This might sound far-fetched but you would be surprised how may business owners don’t have a true vision for their business or a plan for how to get there. There are also those who plan their business but don’t factor in their life.
Just stop and think for a minute of the planning you do for a long drive:
You do all this planning for a pretty straightforward car journey. Why would you not put the same effort into planning your business journey?
‘If you want to scale, grow or sell your business, you need to plan.’
It all has to start with you, and what you want for your life!
Whilst working my way through my career in the world of big business, we talked about personal development, and how we could become better at our role within the business or progress to the next level. But what we wanted out of life or what we saw as our ideal future never really came up. Maybe we were all too young, too focused on progression, to recognise that you only get one crack at life, or that, if you plan for it, you can have both - a happy, successful life and a successful business.
I do understand why people say they don’t want to plan their life though. As with any plan, you have to recognise that things happen, things change. We change as we grow and develop. It goes without saying that every successful plan needs to be adjusted and tweaked when the opportunities, or the challenges come.
It’s been a real eye-opener with clients at times when we explore their ‘Vision and Values.’ It’s that light-bulb moment when someone realises that life and business plans are inexorably linked. When they look ahead and say ‘I want great relationships with my kids in the future,’ but realise that leaving the house when their children are asleep and returning when they’ve gone to bed isn’t going to build that bond.
We get to asking: ‘If this is what I want in life, how will my business support and enrich this? Can I find better ways of working so I’m at home for bedtime stories three nights a week, that Sundays always a day off for family?’ For example.
Without that Vision, that wider focus, you’ll start planning for a future you may not want. So put the time in and really drill down to what that is. There’s no right answer, it’s down to you. So I recommend:
3 essentials for Personal Planning
Do one thing: Take some time to answer these crucial questions:
Have a great week and thanks for reading.
Our Systems4Scale Bootcamp on 10&11th October 2018 starts with your Vision and Values. So if this blog resonates with you why not sign up? Here’s a link to our brochure
I know it’s the onset of Autumn and downtime for nature but for me September is my business springboard. It’s a great month for planning.
It always just feels so right, and just this morning I was reminding myself why.
For some, January may seem like the obvious choice, the beginning of a new calendar year with new year’s resolutions, and a full twelve months stretching out ahead of you.
The downside is that you’re coming out of the Christmas holiday period, possibly still feeling bloated and hungover, certainly feeling that little bit poorer, and maybe you still have the kids off school – you’re probably already half way through January before you can even think about fresh plans.
It’s a foggy time of year too – the weather’s awful, usually dank and dull, and business-wise January and February may be slow, so there’s really not much to get you energised and excited enough to start planning.
April is the next obvious choice with spring in the air and new beginnings.
But April is all about tax and getting your finances sorted – personal tax, business tax. It’s all very numbers oriented, which is great, if you’re building your plans entirely around numbers, but not if you’re looking at the other crucial areas of your business, like people, products, promotions. It’s a busy time for a lot of businesses, so you’re not necessarily in the right head space to plan.
June, you’re then going into the holidays. You’ve got July and August round the corner, and the challenges of the long school break, your team taking their holidays, maintaining a healthy cash flow etc.
September on the other hand, is the perfect time to plan.
With September comes excitement!
Think about it.
It’s the start of a new school year, the start of a new term, stepping up to the next year group – I don’t have children but I do still remember going to school and looking forward to what the next year would bring.
You’re often just back from your own holiday away from the business, you’ve had quality time with family and friends, you’re feeling refreshed and re-energised – you’ve had time to think, to take stock. Maybe you’ve just finished reading, ‘Simple Logical Repeatable’ on the beach and you’re bursting with ideas that you’re dying to put into practice :)
You’ve got three meaty months ahead of you – September, October, November. Even if you only finish your plans mid September, you’ve still got three full months to mid December before the whole ‘I haven’t started my Christmas shopping’ panic kicks in.
For me it is the perfect month to plan.
So here we are heading into September – time to get preparing. Have you jotted down all those ideas you had whirring while you were on holiday? Have you gone from beer-mat to mind-map, expanding on those initial thoughts? So you’ll be ready to turn them into goals with deadlines? Are you going to make them happen?
Or have you been sucked back into the day to day, reacting to your mobile phone, slave to your inbox?
Are you going to be looking back in another twelve months wondering where the year went, and what happened to everything you were going to achieve?
Do one thing: Take back control of your life!
Download our How To Mind-map for some great advice on getting those initial thoughts down onto paper - see below.
Take one day away from your business this September – yes you can if it’s important enough to you – and plan out the next twelve months.
Or, if you feel that you’ve just been repeating the same year after year in the same Groundhog day fashion, join us for a two day bootcamp and learn how to evolve from startup mode.
“The Systems4Scale Bootcamp was invaluable to our business in being able to take key team members out of the office for 2 whole days to work on the business instead of in it. I've been working on this for a while (not always successfully), but taking team members along too made this shift a lot easier for all of us.
Marianne makes everything clear and simple. She encouraged and supported us to think differently and help us to implement the systems she was teaching. I felt like she was on my team with us.
We gained so much from the two days - a vision of where we are going, excitement over it, ability to implement systems that will help us get there and make everyone's life easier.
We've implemented several areas which have had great benefit and are already ahead of our 1 year goals! Thanks Marianne!”
Jennifer Page (no relation!) - Business Owner, Affinity Gymnastics
Thanks for reading. Have a great week
It’s that time of year again, my car is due its MOT. I sit there waiting for the phone to ring. All those moving parts, they can’t all be in perfect working order, can they? So it’s always great when I get the ‘all clear’. Not that it’s always that straightforward, because you’re then faced with the dreaded traffic light system: green for fine, amber for ‘will need attention soon’ and red obviously, for a fail. I hate getting an amber on a tyre. Is it a green-amber, or an amber-red? What if something happens on the motorway and I haven’t changed it? So I invariably get a new one.
I can understand why MOTs are mandatory, the roads are bad enough without a load of faulty cars on them. It does make you think though, how many other areas of our lives would benefit from a top to toe, annual health check? It would certainly be great for a business, and for a business owner – but where do you go to find a leadership MOT, to have the traffic light system run over your behaviours, to tell you what you’re doing well, what needs attention and what has to stop!
Where do you start?
Well I start with an overview of how well the business is doing because all the leadership that you’re giving is ultimately to that end. Your business dashboard will keep you on track with the headline business figures your leadership is ultimately achieving. How your key performance indicators are doing, things like sales, turnover, profit, customers, speed of service, etc those things by which you’ll judge success.
Then there are other facts that can inform you, for example, how many people resigned, did you let go, failed probation this year? How many people have you promoted? How many are borderline needing help?
A bit of self analysis doesn’t hurt either – getting off the hamster wheel once a month or once a quarter, taking the time to re-visit your vision and values, using the traffic light system and a healthy dose of honesty, to assess how you’re measuring up.
But a great way of checking out your effectiveness but also finding out what people need/want from you as a leader is to ask them. A simple 360 degree feedback system can be really effective. I’m not talking about bells and whistles and expense but a simple question. When you conduct performance reviews ask: ’What’s the most important thing you want from me as a leader?’
Make a note of the answer and at the next review ask how you did. It can be that simple. If you are that busy business owner or manager how great would it be to know the main thing that each of your team want from you and how much easier to focus on delivering it.
You can step that up to a second question: ‘What can I do to make your job better/easier?’
Add caveats if needs be, so if a pay rise is not on the cards let them know so they don’t waste their question. Then follow up at their next performance review - ‘How did I do?’
And then if you’re brave and you can encourage a climate of trust introduce a third question: ‘What do I do that stops you doing a better job or perhaps from enjoying your job more?’
And then follow up again at their performance review.
I have found this so useful over the years and some great ideas have come from it. It’s often little things as well that can be put right but which make a big difference to the individual. You know how sometimes a small niggly thing gets in your head and you can’t think straight?
It’s also great if you have team members who aren’t as vocal in team meetings; by getting them to voice their opinions one to one it starts to build their confidence to speak up in groups.
And as a leader, the follow up at review time really concentrates your mind to make time to do what you said!
The upshot is that people feel they’re being proactively listened to and their ideas acted on which is great for two-way communication, your relationships, team morale and ultimately productivity.
You may want to ask your customers too, ‘What are we doing well?’ and ‘What could we do better?’
I know this works if you stick with it and build trust. It may take time for people to realise that you’re not just ticking a box but that you’re serious about learning and improving. You need to also rein in your reactions and not go on the defensive which I know can sometimes be easier said than done.
You above all need to take action and then follow up at review time just as you would with tasks you’ve set your team members.
In my experience it’s definitely worth it.
Another way to get a really good feel for what your team are thinking and feeling about working with you is to get someone independent in to talk to them confidentially & one to one. We have done this a number of times for clients, and it’s amazing the really honest feedback and ideas for improvement you get from team members who open up to an outsider in a way that they might not feel comfortable doing with you. You get a real feel for what’s having an impact on them personally, or on the performance of the team, whether it’s a small niggle or a massive block. We then feedback the key themes & ideas anonymously to you as the business owner and help you to develop a plan for action.
Do one thing: Give yourself a leadership MOT, and build what you find into your personal improvement plan. Find out more about what we do here
Thanks for reading.
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)