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!
Business owners, will you be keeping one eye on your e-mails on Christmas Day? According to recent research 1 in 5 of us will be. I can picture it now, a sneaky look at your phone secreted under your Christmas napkin and then all hell breaking loose when you’re spotted!
These stats make for interesting reading:
You could expect these figures for Christmas Day if they were coming from the hospitality industry, and of course retail returns with a bang again with Boxing Day sales, but these are across a wide range of SMEs. So what about other owners? Some will take the ‘down’ time to catch up on paperwork, some to think about the coming year and some may just want the excuse to escape from relatives.
For many though it’s the pressure of having to keep up with work. The ‘one man band’ may not have a choice. Larger businesses work over the festive period perhaps because the owners don’t trust their team and manager(s) to run things without them. It’s said to be the reason why so many businesses in the UK remain in ‘startup’ mode instead of scale-up.
So if you have a team but you still need to supervise and double check their every move, take a moment to think about ‘why?’ And then, what better time with the New Year approaching to think about what you’ll do to change things.
Michael Gerber says in the E-Myth,
“If your business depends on you, then you don’t own a business, you have a job, and it’s the worst job in the world, because you’re working for a lunatic!’’
He’s right, because quite often, as business owners, we are lunatics. We’re control freaks. We’re demanding. Demanding of ourselves. We insist on long hours and hard work, and really, that’s the technician, in us, the person who feels that they have to do everything.
Serious business owners and entrepreneurs can take time off whenever they want and their income still comes in. They have two fundamental things:
I’ll be taking a full two weeks off this festive season. I’m not saying this smugly, I’m saying it because it actually took me a while to get to this point.
To get to the point where I don’t feel guilty to get to the point where I can trust my team to do what needs to be done, where I have that level of trust. And to plan work so that I can also give my team a good break.
The trust that allowed me a totally switched off three weeks last Summer has come from having the strong systems in place that I need, having the team in place to get on and follow the systems, and achieve our goals. We business owners talk endlessly about how to engage and reward people and what better way than enabling them to get on unhindered by our daily meddling. Ask yourself how you would like to work for someone constantly looking over your shoulder and that’s how your team will feel. Simple, logical, repeatable systems, and a good team to run them, are the root to stress-free holidays, to long weekends off, to any weekend off, and to financial and time freedom.
Holidays, for me, are absolutely vital for continuing to do good work for my clients, continuing to come up with new ideas, or better ways of doing things. That all just comes out of resting my brain, stopping the relentless running and rushing around to see clients, or to develop and deliver programmes. It’s really, really important that you take that time to rest and relax, and you can only do that, as a business owner, if you have the systems in place, if you have the team in place.
I’d love you to think about that, if you recognise yourself here.
Simple, logical, repeatable systems, and a good team to run them.
Do one thing: Let this be your goal for 2019.
• you will not be working bank holidays
• you will not be working weekends
• you won’t be working 60 or 70+ hour weeks
Instead, you’ll be spending quality time with the people that you love, with your animals or whatever you love doing beyond your work.
Merry Christmas from all of the MPL team x
When I was starting out on my own I had a dream of what I wanted to achieve, but like many dreams, it was hazy and unfocused, and I could never tell anyone what it was all about with any clarity. It was like seeing a shape at the end of a foggy road but never getting any nearer to it. I wasn’t clear where I was going, and we all know what happens when you’re not sure where you’re going...you get lost!
And I did.
I ventured down so many rabbit holes, wandered into so many blind alleys, found myself in so many cul-de-sacs, desperately trying to get to...where?
You could say it was all part of my vertical learning curve, but looking back it feels like 18 months of wasted time, effort, and money!
Knowing your destination is crucial. It keeps you focused. It inspires your team. It gives purpose and meaning to your planning.
What is Your Vision?
When you’re thinking about your Vision, think about your ‘Why’ the impact you want to make, the problems you want to solve, the influence you want to have, the legacy you want to leave.
Look at Richard Branson, he has built a brand that inspires. His ‘Why’ - ‘because UK consumers deserve better.’
He created a movement with a 'Why' that was all about challenging the status quo and empowering people.
My ‘Why’? - ‘because business could be so much easier for so many business owners out there.’
But when I started out I was all back to front. I was thinking ‘what are my skills and knowledge?’ I should have been thinking, ‘what are the problems facing business owners and their customers, what are they struggling with, how could things be better?’ And then seeing where my experience would solve their problems. I started out thinking it started with me; I know now it should have started out all about others.
Your Vision should give you goosebumps every time you look at it, and connect with the hearts and minds not only of your team, but also of your ideal clients. Think ‘the best we can be’. Think ‘making a real difference’. Think BIG!
This is about the future you see for yourself and your business, your destination, so you can write it in terms of the future, but we prefer to write in in the more tangible present tense, so that it feels more real, obtainable:
At MPL (Marianne Page Ltd)
‘We are more influential than Gerber! The go-to mentors for business owners with a growth and scale mindset who want to work on their business not in it; giving every entrepreneur across the globe, the freedom to scale, sell or franchise their business… or run it from a beach somewhere if that’s what they want.’
It’s not about where you are now, it’s where you’re headed - your destination.
What’s the time frame?
People often talk about their 10 year Vision for their business, and it’s a great timeframe for the majority of us. But if your personal plan is to sell up and move to Bali in 4 years’ time, then the 10 year Vision doesn’t really work for you.
Whatever timeframe you choose, be clear about it. Write it in a journal or pin it on your noticeboard as the date you’re working towards. You’ll need it for your Planning.
Who is the Vision for?
Don’t keep your Vision to yourself. Once you’re happy with it, share it with the team, get their input, get them excited about it, and then get it out there on your website, your marketing materials, your training resources.
This is a big deal. Putting it out there is the first step towards achievement, so take it now.
Do one thing: Write down your vision and pin it up on the wall. Ask yourself, 'Does this give me goose-bumps?' and if it doesn't, take it back down, and work on it until it does. This is your future we're talking about!
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!
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
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)