Contentment can sound like a dirty word in business. There’s a thought that we should all be striving and pursuing and achieving and other go-getting verbs! And I agree I’m all for continuous improvement, for making things better and easier for clients; for being as good as I can be. That is my business mantra, as I know it will be for many of you. But things can start to turn sour if the constant exposure to social media makes people start to feel unworthy and discontent by comparison with peers. I read recently that this is happening and starting to undermine people’s self-worth. So today I want to share with you a short story which I hope will shore up any flagging self-esteem and draw learning points to restore or protect your self-belief.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
Long, long, ago in a land far, far away there lived an old man. Each day he went to the stream with two earthen pots hung from either end of a pole. One was perfect, always full of water, the other was cracked and leaking, only half full when he got back to the house.
One day the cracked pot said (stick with me) to the man, ‘I’m so ashamed’.
‘Why on earth would that be?’ asked the old man.
‘I’m hopeless!’, said the pot, ‘water leaks out of my cracks all the way back to your house and you never get home with two full pots of water. I’m a failure.’
‘You couldn’t be more wrong’ laughed the old man, ‘you’re a wonderful pot. On the way back home look carefully at the side of the path and tell me what you see.’
All the way home the cracked pot paid attention, and at the end of their walk the old man asked him what he’d seen.
‘Flowers’ answered the miserable pot. ‘I know they’re beautiful, but it doesn’t help me. It was nice to look at the flowers but here I am only half full again. I’m still leaking. I’m still a failure. I’m so sorry old man.’
The old man smiled. ‘You daft old pot,’ he said, ‘there’s no need to be sorry. Did you not notice where the flowers were growing?’
‘Well, yes,’ said the puzzled pot. ’On my side of the path; why?’
‘All these years I’ve planted seed on your side of the path. And every day as we walked back from the stream, you’ve watered them, and the seeds have grown, and the flowers have bloomed for all the villagers to see. You are a wonderful pot. Because you are the way you are, the village path is full of beautiful flowers.’
The cracked pot glowed with pride and happily watered the path for ever after, content that he was after all, a wonderful pot.
Sweet story, but how does it relate to you and your business? There are a few key learning points:
Do one thing: Brainstorm all the good things you do and all the value you add in your life as a whole, and in your business specifically, as a person and as a business owner. Then take the time to celebrate your YOUness.
Thanks for reading.
20% of business owners interviewed didn’t have a single day off that year.
Ah, another bank holiday approaches and all over the UK those SME’s closing down for 3 days are scuttling round like blue-arsed flies. (Where does that expression come from? Anyone?)
There’s nothing like an approaching holiday to instil a sense of urgency. I know I seem to get tonnes more done in the week leading up to a holiday; my brain seems to find a sixth gear from somewhere. Okay I think I’ve mixed enough metaphors, moving on!
I was trying to find some stats relating to business owners taking holidays or not taking them. In one report, research revealed that around 20% of UK business owners interviewed didn’t have a single day off that year. 52% took five days or less and well over half of those worked while they were away.
I like to think I’m as passionate about my work as the next person and many days it doesn’t feel like work because I love what I do. So I work hard but I do make sure that my planning is for life first and business second. As a fan of Stephen Covey’s, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ I know that I need to ‘regularly sharpen the saw’. This isn’t just about burnout, or always having energy and focus to give my best. It’s about relationships, pursuing favourite hobbies and pastimes and having a full and enriched life.
I don’t think success is all about money. I think it’s about making a difference to the lives of those around you - loved ones, clients and communities and also living your own life to the full. To achieve any of that I need freedom.
Two main things help me strive towards that goal:
Small business owners are clearly passionate about what they do, so it’s no surprise that they find it hard to leave work behind on holiday. It can be a challenge also to totally switch off from work as technology has made it so much easier to stay in touch. It is crucial to take proper breaks to achieve an enriched life and avoid business burn out.
Do one thing: Unless your business directly benefits from bank holiday weekends, take well-earned time off to recharge your batteries. If you find yourself using the time to catch up or get ahead, have a think of what you could change to give yourself that time freedom.
Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!
I read a great quote by Clare Balding the other day about Pep Guardiola. She wrote, “He (Pep) is the manager not just of a team of players but also of backroom staff whom he always values, praises and thanks. He is a leader who makes them all believe the impossible is possible.”
It just got me thinking about how bosses and managers treat their ‘backroom’ team. One of my pet hates over the years is hearing a manager giving someone a task and apologise for it. How does that person then feel? How can they take pride in their job and feel any sort of fulfilment? I’ve seen it in managers who want to be liked or are worried about a possible reaction, “I’m really sorry to have to ask you to do this…’’
Now I’m not suggesting they do a Tarzan swing and ‘big-up’ a simple or repetitive job but rather to explain to people how their role fits in to the bigger picture. You may think cleaning toilets isn’t much of a job. Okay now imagine you work in an office and they’re not cleaned! I know many people who judge an eatery not just by its food and service but also by its toilets. Have you ever come back from the loo and raved about it or returned to your table vowing never to return to the restaurant?
We had a US vice president at McDonald’s who would always make the toilets his first port of call when checking out a restaurant. Not for a call of nature but to make sure they were so clean that he could eat his burger off the toilet floor. (I wonder if he ever did?)
People want to feel that they belong, that they’re valued, that they are part of the business and that they make a difference to its success. I heard a story recently where a school had called a meeting about its future but had just invited teachers to it. Not the facilities people or the grounds team, those people without whom the teaching couldn’t happen. How to quickly make people feel they don’t count!
On the other hand, I know someone who made a point of working late a few times a week to catch the cleaners coming in so she could learn their names, thank them in person and explain the difference they made to the working environment and the business’s success. Yes, these people were employed by an Agency, but she felt they were still part of the team. She would also insist on clear desks and work areas every night explaining that it made it easier for the cleaners and to get her team members to appreciate their work.
An old boss of mine used to love telling the tale of the man he used to pass regularly on his way to work pushing his dustcart round London streets. He was so impressed that this guy was always smiling, acknowledging people as he passed. His cart was decorated and the pride he took in his work oozed from his pores. Imagine if the person giving him that task had been apologetic rather than explaining that the first impression people get of a city is its clean streets.
So going back to Guardiola, I imagine that when he has a team meeting which is about the future, rather than next week’s tactics, he invites the whole team. And what is so great about it is that the extremes in that team would be hard to replicate in most SME’s; famous multi-millionaires and the person who cuts the grass being inspired by the boss about the future of the club.
Do one thing: make time to ask your team members individually how they think their role impacts the business. If they don’t know, then there’s your chance.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week.
Can you remember back to your school days?
I’m sure for some of us it will be easier than for others! Remember how you’d answer a question, but even though it was technically right, it wasn’t the one the teacher was looking for?
Q. What is ‘hard water’?
A. Ice (of course!)
See what I mean?
There was only ever one right answer at school - imagine what that did for your creativity and your confidence.
Many people, and you may be one of them, grow up believing that they’re not creative, but I’m a strong believer that trying to be creative makes us creative. It gets the under-used side of our brain up and running, the side that’s been lying dormant possibly since childhood.
I think it was George Bernard Shaw who said,
“We don’t stop playing because we grow up, we grow up because we stop playing”.
Of course, I’m not suggesting you go out french skipping at lunchtime or kicking a ball against a wall (though then again, why not?) but start playing at work; playing with ideas.
Here’s a couple of ideas that will not only get the creative juices flowing but will also add value to your business.
Idea Pooling: how you can improve your Customer experience maybe or how you can attract more of your perfect Customers.
Gather your team, no ‘wrong’ answers, just as many ideas as you can think of, sane or wacky - get them all down and then pick out the gems. You’ll see people building on the ideas of others and gaining confidence that anything goes and no one is sitting in judgement. As well as providing original ideas it’s also a great team building exercise; just keep the energy high and have fun!
Mind-maps: I love. They are a great way to generate new and creative ideas, I so wish I’d known about them when I was at school. Such a great tool for revising and particularly for generating ideas when you’re planning.
A mind-map gets us thinking in almost a chaotic way, allowing us to go off in all sorts of different directions, like a spider’s web. It snaps us out of that linear way of thinking which is more ordered and restrictive.
I bet you know someone who you think of as an ‘ideas’ person. Well the truth is we are all ‘ideas people’, we just need to give the creative side of our brain a bit of regular exercise. Just make a start and keep practising. I’m telling you, you’ll be amazed.
I wonder where the creative children who gave these ‘wrong answers’ are now?
Q. How can you delay milk turning sour?
A. Keep it in the cow
Q. Explain what you most like about Kipling?
A. Almond slices
Q. How do you change centimetres into metres?
A. Remove ‘centi’.
Do one thing: Have some fun this week!
P.S. Great systems are a great foundation for you and the creative people in your business. They take care of the nuts and bolts of business to give you time to get those creative juices flowing.
‘Great systems are not chains to tie you down they are wings to help you fly’.
For more information on how MPL can help you visit www.mariannepage.co.uk or contact me on
Does your other half complain that they see too much of you?
Do your kids groan ‘cos you’re taking them out for the day, again?
Are you the number one invite on your friends’ social calendar?
Do you never take your laptop on holiday with you?
So you’re telling me you don’t have all the time in the world?!
Then let me ask you this: do you own your business, or does it own you?
We had a meeting with a new client recently, and we asked him how he felt about his business. He paused for such a long time I can remember thinking, ‘this is going to be a loooong day’, and then he said just one word:
“This ‘job’ - that’s what I call it now, totally owns me. It dictates my mood; my appetite, my energy levels. I think about it all the time. I lie awake fretting about it. It feels like my entire life is being sucked into a big black hole.
“I went out on my own to have more freedom - to spend more time with my wife and kids, and look at me now - working every hour God sends.
“Everyone told me I needed a team, but all that’s done is increase my workload - the tax, the paperwork, keeping on top of them. I’m sure right now they’ll be glued to their phones cos I’m not there. Arghhh….”
Of course he’s not unusual.
In fact he could be a poster boy for the small successful business owner! Maybe he’s just like you?
You started small, right? Built a really great business, had loads of fun doing it, started taking people on. It was all ok for you too at first, and then… the wheels came off. You lost your consistency, you lost your belief that people would perform for you, you began to work longer and longer hours to keep on top of everything.
But, and this may surprise you, even ‘the youth of today’ don’t come to work with the sole purpose of pissing you off. Nobody plans to have a bad day or do a bad job, especially not the people you hand-picked for your business.
The change you’re looking for doesn’t start with your people, it starts with you.
You want freedom, particularly time freedom? Then build strong foundations, that free your people first.
Strong foundations built around:
Your Plans - showing your team what the destination is, and how you’re going to reach it together - the route map for them to follow
Your Processes - having a set way of doing what you do - a system for everything
Your People - only hiring people who match your values, and fit your team, and then training them to follow your set way of doing things
Your Performance Management - taking every opportunity to give constructive feedback, to correct, to praise. Having regular performance reviews that reward excellence
Successful business is built on the consistent performance of high performing teams who know where they’re going and follow the business systems to take them there. Look to McDonald’s, to Virgin, to Apple if you doubt what I’m saying.
And you can have this too. Put your energy into building your foundations, and you will find your freedom.
Do one thing: take a look at your life and your business and decide if it’s time to change.
Thanks for reading :)
Many people I speak to can see the benefits of a systemised business. ‘Look at McDonald’s; look at Amazon,’ they say, ‘every really successful business is systemised, absolutely…there’s no getting away from it.’
But when it comes down to their own business you can see them coming out in a rash. The thought of systemising their business is just too overwhelming…
’I don’t have time’
‘I can’t afford it’
‘Systems are just a luxury’
I’ve heard them all.
The reality is that we all already have systems in our business; we all do things! But if the way we do things is not simple, logical and repeatable then we are wasting time and money and not achieving what every Customer (and every business owner) wants – consistency! We’re spending time checking, correcting, complaining, working in our business not on it.
What I’m saying is that we have a choice, either:
a. do things haphazardly, with each team member doing things their way, reinventing the wheel every time a task is done, little being done the way you want it to be or
b. do every task in your business, in a simple, logical, repeatable way.
For me it’s a no brainer.
The question is not, ‘Can I afford to systemise my business?’ but ‘Can I afford not to?’
And the reality is, it’s really not the huge, overwhelming, expensive task you think it is.
You decide you’re going to do it, you start small, with your most routine, every day tasks and you ask three key questions:
1. ‘Is this task simple?’
Could anyone walking in off the street, (if it’s a basic task), or with the necessary technical knowledge (if it’s a specialist task) follow the steps to complete it?
2. ‘Is this task logical?’
Does the way we do it make sense? Can I answer the question, ‘why do we do it this way?’
3. ‘Is this task repeatable?’
Can it be done in the same way every time? Can I train people to do it this way?
A good system is simply a uniform and consistent way of doing things that makes your life easier. If a system doesn’t make life easier – for you, your team, or your customer, then it’s the wrong system.
There aren’t five different ways to cook fries at McDonald’s; there is one way. There aren’t seven different ways to open up the restaurant and get everything set up for the day, there is one way. Everybody at McDonald’s at every level, knows ‘the way we do things around here’ and everything that is done, is simple, logical and repeatable.
Contrary to what they might tell you, McDonald’s franchisees have a great life. They have freedom to choose when they’ll work and when they won’t; when they’ll go to the golf course, or on holiday, or simply stay in bed. They have that freedom because their business has systems, because everybody that works in their business knows exactly the way things work, so they can trust their team to perform consistently every single day.
Freedom, Trust and Consistency – business nirvana!
And the only difference between them and you, is that they have effective systems.
So what are you going to do about it?
Do one thing: Draw a line in the sand and take small simple steps towards a more consistent and profitable business:
Thanks for reading.
75% of the reasons people leave jobs come down to things that managers can influence. According to recent research these are the things that make people want to stay:
1. Having opportunities to grow
One of the best predictors of turnover is whether an employee has had opportunities at work to learn, grown and advance.
‘I am listened to; my opinion counts for something.’
‘My manager discusses my development with me.’
‘I receive training and coaching on the job’
are typical responses of happy employees
It was also found that 92% of these workers also said they planned to be with their companies a year later.
2. Pay and benefits
According to Gallup research, ‘engaged employees are far more likely to perceive that they are paid appropriately for the work they do (43%), compared to employees who aren’t (15%).’ Another factor that can boost satisfaction with pay is when employees feel their pay is fair in comparison to their co-workers. Nothing creates bad feeling as much as when someone in the team is not pulling his or her weight and it’s not being addressed.
3. Good fit for the business and the role
If people have been recruited who match the values of the business they have more chance of being emotionally connected to their work. If they’re then put into roles that maximise their talents and strengths, and give scope for development they are more likely to be efficient, effective and fulfilled.
4. A well-organised workplace
People benefit from knowing, not only what’s expected of them, but also how they fit into the bigger picture. Regular communication from a manager about how the team and business are doing keeps people in the loop and makes them feel involved and valued. Better still when they are asked for input and ideas.
People want to work in a well run workplace. No one enjoys that feeling of lurching from one crisis to another on a regular basis. Working for someone who is passionate but clear headed helps too. Having a systemised business, a one right way to do every task, and thorough training can provide employees with the independence and responsibility on which they thrive.
5. Work life balance
51% of employees would switch to a job that allows them flexitime and 37% to a job that allows them to work at home some of the time, according to research. Flexible working can be good for employees and for business; if people are less stressed and energised, it’s usually good news for productivity and retention. It also sends a clear message of trust, a great morale boost in itself.
6. Job security
People want to feel they’re working in a solid business with a promising future. One way to address this is to share the ‘back story’ of the business and your goose-bump-giving vision for its future. Employees want to feel they’re on that journey with you. And of course the business has to walk the talk; to get results and keep the team updated and inspired by performance.
7. Relationships and culture
When people are involved, encouraged to ‘fail forwards’ and work as part of a happy team, who they socialise with, they are more inclined to stay. Research reveals that if you have good friends at work you’re more inclined to stay. But key too is a good relationship with your manager. You don’t have to be best buddies but since your manager is responsible for so many of the fore-going points it’s essential for a good working relationship.
When you reflect on the above it shows how important it is to have the right manager in your business. They set the tone of the workplace; have responsibility for developing plans and people and for all important communication. They are pivotal, not just for performance, but for employee retention. A bad manager is the number one reason cited for people leaving their jobs. And I don’t imagine that by ‘bad’, people always mean unkind or grumpy. I imagine for many it means ‘well-intentioned but ineffectual’. And I know we’ve spoken many times about accidental managers; those chucked in at the deep end with little training or ongoing development.
And if you think how costly it may be to train your managers (or yourself as a business owner) just add up how much it costs your business every time someone leaves.
Do one thing: If 75% of the reasons people leave jobs come down to things that managers can influence, consider what you’re doing to develop your managers?
It’s that time again. The time of year we all look forward to. Lambs leaping; skylarks singing, daffodils dancing and rabbits doing… what rabbits do!
Spring is in the air!
And for many of us that means being overcome by a strange urge to spring clean; to de-clutter and spruce up every area of our home and garden; maybe even to decorate - hoping we’ll keep it that way for twelve months (or twelve days if we have children or pets!).
So, what about your business? Any plans for a makeover?
Maybe you’ve had a successful year. Maybe you’ve worked your socks off and done ok, but you’ve lost a bit of your mojo. Maybe you feel like you’re just repeating the same year over and over; doing good, but not really evolving, not taking that big leap forward
We all know it’s difficult to grow a business and still have a life.
Success undoubtedly means more money, but it can all too often mean less time - sometimes no time, to enjoy it; you’ve heard the expression ‘cash rich but time poor’.
Success means a bigger team, bigger challenges, more sleepless nights.
Success it seems, is not all it’s cracked up to be.
But it could be, if only we took the leap. If only we realised that we had all the right ingredients in our business, to make that leap - to spring forward to success - to be time and cash rich - to have a team that performs brilliantly whether we’re there or not.
We have the money. We have the people. What we don’t have are the systems; they are the springboard to success. And by systems I mean a simple logical repeatable way to do every task in your business. I learned that at McDonald's, where systems run the business and people run the systems.
Get your planning system focused on your destination, develop a plan with your people to take you there, and you have a route map to follow. Create Simple Logical and Repeatable systems, and train your people to use them, and you have a team who can work independently, consistently every day to your high standards. Set up a performance management system that keeps them on track, inspires and motivates them, and you free yourself to work ‘on’ your business, to concentrate on those key elements, like strategy, which will take you to the next level.
As your business grows you cannot sustain managing it as you used to. As your business evolves so you need to evolve as a business owner. Spring is a perfect time for a new start; so are you ready to spring forward?
Do one thing: visit www.mariannepage.co.uk or contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how MPL can help.
’You can dream, create, draw and come up with the best ideas in the world, but you need people to help you turn your dreams into reality.’
As business owners, we rightly focus a heck of a lot of attention on our external customers and what we can do to give them a great experience. We can often forget that our people are our customers too, and without them, we can’t provide a great service, or grow a successful business.
We want our team to be full of ‘go-to’ people, leaders and high performers. We want them to support us in our vision, to be loyal to the business, to work hard for us; but what do they want in return?
If you had to choose one thing that has the most positive impact on your team what would it be? ‘Communication?’ ‘Involvement?’ ‘Trust?’ What would you be looking for if you were in their shoes?
Below is a list of the top 20 answers to the question, ‘What makes you feel valued at work?’
Take 5 minutes now to think about how your team would rate your ‘delivery’ in each of these areas, and rate yourself from 1-5 (1=unsatisfactory, 2=needs improvement, 3=satisfactory, 4=good, 5=excellent)
How did you do?
Are there a few there that might get rated ‘needs improvement’ or ‘unsatisfactory’? How would you say that affects your people’s performance or your reputation as an employer?
If you’re unhappy with the results, there is no better time to act than now, because as Walt Disney said,
‘You can dream, create, draw and come up with the best ideas in the world, but you need people to help you turn your dreams into reality.’
Value your people, turn YOUR dreams into reality.
Do one thing: We've created a questionnaire for your team members ready to use and a ‘How to' guide of how to use it (please download below).
If you do use it we'd welcome any feedback about how it went and any improvements we can make.
If you feel on a roll our Business Efficiency Test will give you further insight into how each of the key systems in your business is operating - including your customer experience system - and will give you strategies for improving them in a pdf report. Take the test now, to see how you measure up.
As a business owner you know that a high-performing team is essential for a successful business. But how do you start building a team from the group of individuals who currently work for you with all of their different personalities and egos? Any of these sound familiar?
Of course we’re all different - we all have different strengths and different experience, so what can you do, as the leader, to get all of these people to gel as a team?
Well, you can start by viewing individual personality traits in a positive way, and playing to strengths:
But if you’re serious about building a High Performing Team, then here are my top 10 tips:
‘The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.’ - Phil Jackson
Do one thing: Take a close look at your team, and use our checklist to see how you fare.
And if you or a manager in your business could use some help then check out our MPL ‘Managers' Development Programme.’ Our structured 6-month online programme is aimed at developing the mindset and the skill set of business owners and their managers.
Details and testimonials 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 :-)