I’ve refrained from mentioning the B word in my posts. Like many of you I’m heartily sick of the dreaded ‘Brexit’ word. It’s not that I’ve been burying my head in the sand or anything, just rather like many people I’ve not felt qualified to give advice. But there is one thing I would recommend, and that is to plan.
Not knowing which way we’re going to go, let alone what’s going to happen then, can perhaps make people think what’s the point of planning when your crystal ball has totally clouded over.
Any time you work on a business plan you are faced with two things.
Now at anytime those ‘unknowables’ take an amount of guesswork based on things like the starting point of your business, the economy, strength of the pound, forecasts etc. So you plan using what you know and your best guesswork based on your current knowledge.
With Brexit/no Brexit looming those ‘unknowables’ are worse than usual since they can be a totally different set of unknowables depending on a hard Brexit or even no Brexit at all! Suddenly your best guesswork is built on very little knowledge and two possible outcomes at extremes of each other.
I usually say that planning is fun but I imagine planning for many businesses at the moment is a nightmare. So many factors are outside individual businesses’ control it can feel like you’re going to hit sheet ice and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
But I still believe in planning. Plan based on what you know and then plan based on what you can imagine. Planning in the current climate is going to need some creativity. Brainstorming how a hard Brexit or no Brexit might affect your business; get your team, your suppliers, your Customers involved, perhaps a third party unconnected with you who can add a ‘naive’ or independent view.
This is about planning for the worst case scenario but it can also be about recognising opportunities for example the effects of a weakened pound on exports, tourism, staycations etc.
McDonald’s taught me a lot about the importance of planning, and how to be smart about it. I learned that planning is a team sport; most effective when it involves the people it affects as well as those who will deliver on it. Add someone with no bias or axe to grind into the mix, and you will develop a truly effective plan.
I learned that you listen to those with the skills and experience, but you also consider the new and the different; that it’s ok to re-visit what might once have been considered crazy or just plain wrong for the business, as things change, and the ‘right time’ comes along.
I learned that you have a system for planning that makes it routine, regular, consistent; that keeps you focused on the end goal, even when you need to adapt, or change your route.
A plan for me isn’t something to be made then stuck in a drawer it needs to be dynamic; reviewed and adapted to changing circumstances. And 2019 may prove the most fluid yet.
Do one thing: Review your business plans. Do they include worst case scenarios or potential opportunities?
For more information on how MPL can help you, contact us here: email@example.com
Imagine you have a boat. It’s the start of a new year and you’ve just set sail, headed out to sea - full of optimism and excitement. Captain of your destiny. Owner of your fate.
But where are you headed? Wherever the current takes you? Slave to the tide and the prevailing wind? Or have you plotted a course to take you to your dream destination?
Now imagine that boat is your business.
Business navigation is no easier than navigating the ocean, but just like sailing the high seas, you’ll always be better off with robust preparation and planning, so give some thought to the following:
What’s the name of your boat?
This will say a lot about how you see yourself right now.
If you had to name it today what would it be: ‘Victory’, Endurance’?
Or might it be ‘All at Sea’?
Have you set your course?
What are your goals and milestones for 2019; for the next 90 days?
And what about practical action plans to achieve them?
How will you recognise that storms are coming before they hit?
What have you put in place to pick up on problems - to anticipate and overcome them?
How will you fill the gaps in your knowledge and experience?
Who or what are your anchors that will keep you from going under?
These are often the people who keep you grounded, keep you going, maybe develop and inspire you. A family member or a trusted mentor.
Perhaps they are words from a loved one that you carry with you.
Or perhaps it’s a faith, a belief in something greater than yourself.
How have you selected your crew?
Did you recruit to your values and passion? And how have you developed their skills to help them fulfill their promise? Can they take over happily if you get seasick or need to sleep?
What are the Values, the compass points that will keep you on a true course?
Those things that make you and your business tick, that show the world what you stand for. That you hold true too, day in and day out.
Do one thing: Think about where you're headed in 2019, and ask these questions to check that you’re prepared for whatever comes - good or otherwise.
Wishing you a safe and splendid passage through the year.
For more information on how MPL can help you visit www.mariannepage.co.uk or contact us at
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
Do you feel like you’re drowning? Drowning in paperwork, in problems, in people stuff? And all because of your success!
When you were starting out you had a handle on everything. Now that you’ve grown you’ve had to take on more people and it’s just not the same. You feel like you’ve lost control. And like any new parent you’re finding it hard to trust anyone with your ‘baby’ - to do things your way.
If it helps, you’re not alone. There are lots of successful small business owners out there who have fallen out of love with their business. What used to be fun, exciting and rewarding is doing great financially, but not giving you the same pleasure or sense of adventure.
Of course you've always worked hard, but in the early days that hard work was interesting and added real value to the business. Now you’re working even harder and it doesn’t ever seem to move things on.
7 Clear Signs Your Business Needs Simplifying
So…are you stuck? Or are you drowning?
I hope you’re neither, but if you are, let me throw you a lifebelt.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can have time freedom and a business that runs like a well-oiled machine, manned by a high-performing team. You just need to systemise in every area of your business and develop a strong second line of management. That’s not as daunting as it sounds.
In fact, there are only 10 steps to your Freedom - that freedom to scale, grow or sell your business, or run it from a beach somewhere if that's what you really want.
Fancy a bit of that?
Do one thing: Our Systems Mastery Programme works around you and your life, giving you the freedom to work ON your business, not IN it. Read more here: Systems Mastery Programme
I want to share an interesting conversation I had recently with a control freak.
Business Owners come to us for help to escape the day-to-day operation of their business, but the truth is that so many find it hard to let go of their role, even the small tasks.
Some believe that they are the only ones that can do a certain task to their exacting standards, and we come across this so often that a huge part of our work is changing the mindset of the business owner to let them know that they can trust their team with the right systems in place. They can take a step back to work on growing their business, while it runs smoothly without them, or with only a little input from them.
This particular ‘control freak’ (and I use that phrase because I can - I was one too!) was telling me how he hates to delegate - doesn't trust his employees to do anything without some sort of supervision, because they cock things up, make mistakes, take longer to do the job than he would.
"I check EVERYTHING' he said, 'I don't want my customers to have anything but a perfect service'.
It's the perfect excuse for the control freak - “I’m not doing it for me, I'm doing it for my customers.”
Drives me nuts.
Here's the thing, for those of you who recognise that you may be borderline, if not full-blown freaks, you’re keeping yourself stuck in that rut we talked about recently.
Just like the bindweed in your garden - you know the one with the pretty flower that pretends its trying to make your garden look lovely, while its tentacles set about destroying it? You too are strangling the growth of your people and your business.
You've forgotten that someone let you make mistakes when you were learning, someone gave you room to grow and develop, someone recognised that mistakes are how we all learn. You've forgotten that all of the successful people you look up to have built their success on a bucketload of failures, and much bigger failures and mistakes than any of your people might make if you gave them their head.
You want to limit mistakes? Have systems. Set standards. Give your people proper training in how to use your systems to achieve those standards. Manage their performance. Reward good performance and re-train when it's not so good.
People want to learn and develop, they want to grow - it's much more of a motivator than money. Give them ownership of their job, help them to feel like they belong to something, that you're relying on them to help you build something that you can all be proud of.
I saw this quote on Facebook, and it is oh so true - 'A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust one another.'
Trust your people and build a high performing team, that runs your high performing business.
Get control of your freak. Pull out the bindweed that's stifling your business.
Do one thing: Want to see where you’re at right now? Complete our Systems Scorecard to see where you’re at, right now, in your business.
One of the questions I always ask my clients is ‘How many of your current team would you re-hire tomorrow if you were given the chance?’
So…how many would you re-hire?
If you say all of them, congratulations! I’m delighted for you, because I know from experience how rare that is. In fact it’s only happened to me once since I started asking the question.
Most people have at least one person in their business who was never right; they may be the rotten apple in the barrel or just a round peg in a square hole. Someone who you’ve trained, developed, probed, and coached to no avail. You've put up with them for years rather than removing them from the team; knowing they should never have been hired in the first place - they were never a good fit for you, your team or the business. And on the other hand you’re probably not a good fit for them and perhaps they could blossom elsewhere. But both parties are just playing safe avoiding the pain of parting.
So how does hiring the right person for you, first time, every time sound?
By the time you’ve read this blog, I want to have convinced you that it’s possible. Not only possible but pleasurable; that it’s an exciting opportunity to build your high-performing team and grow your business.
I’ll go through the three steps to a great job advert and there’s a template too which you can download. I’m going to share with you my 2 Golden Rules for hiring and show how, if you embrace these, you will be well on the path to hiring a ‘keeper’.
So how to get it right first time?
Golden Rule No. 1
Never, hire in a hurry.
Why? Because anything you do in a hurry tends to be botched. You’re rushing to plug a gap; hiring somebody to make up the numbers. They may not be a great fit but you settle for the best of the bunch.
You hire in a hurry, you make mistakes.
Golden Rule No. 2
Always hire to your values.
Think about why you’re hiring. You're not just hiring a body. You're not looking for someone who's going to clock on, park their brain at the door, and then clock off at the end of the day. You want somebody who is engaged. You want somebody who cares about what you care about - who buys into that goose bump-giving inspiring vision of yours; who has the same values as you.
You’re hiring a mind and a heart, not just a body.
Things go wrong when you ignore the golden rules and only look at skills and experience; when you hire in a hurry cos it’s all just too much hassle; when you abdicate responsibility to a third party.
Change your mindset around hiring
Create Inspiring Job ads
So many people put out the job description as a job ad. ‘You will be responsible for, you will have so and so reporting to you, you must be able to do this, that and the other.’
Who's inspired by that sort of job ad?
No-one. So when it comes to your job ad I want you to lead with three things.
Think about the person you're looking for, the sort of role that you've got for them, and write your pen portrait as if you are them and this is their ideal.
You want them to be reading going, ‘That's me, that’s me, that’s so me!’
If you want to know what this looks like click here to get your hands on a template which explains what you need in each section and gives you an example of what the ad might look like.
So let’s recap.
Of course, there’s more to it than just that and I’ll be exploring the next stage in a future blog!
Do one thing: Download the job ad template here (or below) and use it for your next hire.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week.
Life is awash with rhythms. The sun rises and sets, the tides ebb and flow, the seasons come and go, even if not as consistently of late! My business now enjoys a lovely rhythm too and the beat is set by 90 day cycles. I read a great blog the other day on a site called Asian Efficiency (all about time management and productivity) where they were talking about the 90 day timeframe as ‘the range where ambition and planning actually fall reasonably close together’. I like that.
I’m a big fan of 90 day planning. I do appreciate not everyone is keen on planning particularly when it’s something that takes time to do then is filed away and forgotten about. I get that, even if you don’t create an action plan for each goal and work your plan, there is a huge amount of power in thinking about what you want, where you want to get to, and getting the outcome you want down on paper.
I think planning too much detail too far ahead can be a waste of time. Have a great vision, of course, but three years of fine detail is too much since so much can change in that time. Planning too far ahead can result in overestimating what can be done too. That’s why I love the 90 day planning cycle. Starting with the end of that period in mind you can work back till you have a week’s action plan. It’s amazing how the closer you get to the actions needed, the greater the reality check! Of course you should be pushing the boundaries but too much, as it can become a demoralising wish-list. And no one in your team will buy into that. It reminds me of a great cartoon showing a line of productivity on a board with a gap in the middle. ‘What happens here’ says the boss. ‘Ah, that’s where a small miracle happens!’ comes the reply.
We all have a really good feel for what we can get done in 90 days – how far we can move towards a big goal, and plan the steps that we need to take to get there. Our longer term plans, even though it’s valuable to have them, can’t be planned right down to concrete steps; the goals are too big, there’s too much to get done, and if we try to plan the detail we just get overwhelmed, which in turn leads to inaction.
Working with 90 day goals:
Do one thing: Resolve to try out the 90 day planning cycle. I’d love to hear how you get on.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week!
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’m a big film fan and one of my favourite clips from ‘The Untouchables’ is Sean Connery chasing a baddie, then gasping ‘Enough of this running sh*t!’ And I’ve read a few articles recently denigrating business plans which put me in mind of that line. So I was intrigued to know why people held this view.
I found some common themes:
And I suppose that there’s the rub. It’s not business plans that are useless, it’s more a question of how good your planning process is. If your plan is just a wish list, too complicated, if it hasn’t involved the team and it’s merely been done to tick a box then I would wholeheartedly agree. But when used well, I believe it’s a powerful tool to give focus and energy to your business.
Planning is the platform on which your innovation and creativity can blossom and shine. And that’s just one of my top ten:
The benefits of Planning:
1. Helps you to spot opportunities
A consistent planning system, and planning calendar, forces you to step off the hamster wheel once in a while and get your head up. To go from being a hamster to being a meerkat, if you like. It gets you to review your progress to date – what’s worked well, what hasn’t, what lessons can be learned. It provides space and time to think – about what you want to happen, what might get in the way, how you can get round any obstacles. It opens you up to opportunities, that you might otherwise miss.
2. Brings individuals and teams together and breaks down silos
All too often, specialist teams, or individuals within a business, even a small one like yours, can get lost in their own little world, and not be able to see the value that others bring to the business, or the challenges others face to get things done.
Regular planning creates the opportunity to bring people together from different areas of the business to review the way work is done from the customer’s perspective and make plans based on what is best for the whole business.
3. Creates a safe environment for new and creative ideas
Meet ‘that’s not the way we do things round here’ – first cousin to, ‘we tried that before, and it didn’t work’
It’s this type of statement that will prevent the flow of ideas in your business, and even your best people will not put their creative heads above the parapet if they know they’ll be shot down in flames.
Your planning system offers a structured way to talk openly about the challenges facing your business, and ask for new and creative solutions to overcome them.
4. Gives everyone the chance to contribute
How motivating and exciting to be part of something that is growing and achieving success, thanks in part, to your contribution.
Involve your team in your planning, and you involve them in your Vision for the future – you give them the opportunity to create it.
How much more engaged do you think they will be? How much more ownership do you think they will take?
5. Exposes your blind spots
We all have them. We can all be blind to our own strengths and weaknesses, to our innate prejudices, to other people’s talents and the value they add; and often we need others to shine a light on our blind spots.
It’s the same in business – we all see things from our own view point, and benefit enormously from understanding how others see things. Planning gives us a framework for this.
6. Puts the customer first
Life planning puts you first. Business planning puts the customer first, and ensures that the focus is on what’s best for the customer, building trust and ensuring that everyone is focused on what really matters.
7. Keeps your products relevant
It’s your customers who decide whether your products are relevant to them or not, and it’s your planning system that will ensure that you check in with them - that you look for more innovative and effective ways to meet their needs and satisfy their wants.
8. Builds a stronger management team
Regular planning, focused on the business as a whole, brings the management team closer, and helps them to see the value – skills, experience and expertise – that they each bring. It’s also a great way of developing them, teaching them to focus on the end goal, and the strategies and tactics that will get you there.
9. Determines priorities
Your planning system is a key element in your continuous improvement cycle: plan – implement – review – plan. You start the exercise looking at what’s possible, and by the end it’s all about results.
You understand your long term goal and you’ve plotted your course to get there. Together you’ve agreed your priorities, you’ve decided on your 90 day goals, you have your action plan, you know your first step. It’s simple and it’s logical, and it’s all about getting the right things done.
10. Builds ownership and accountability
Any effective plan assigns the who as well as the what, where, how and when. It gives everyone ownership for their own little piece of the business – their role, their goal, their action plan.
Ownership and accountability are the key differentiators between a regular team, and a high performing team. Your plan will drive this.
Do one thing: Start planning this week for a successful 2019
Thanks for reading. Have a great week.
A skunk as you know is something that stinks, and nearly all businesses have them. No, I’m not talking about issues with personal hygiene - your skunks are in your operation, your customer journey, your hiring.
So what does a skunk look like?
It looks like something that isn’t adding value to your business and may be actively detracting from it:
Imagine that you’ve only got one person trained on an aspect of your business and you haven’t got what they do recorded, as a How To, a system which anyone could follow. What happens when this person is sick or on holiday? Things don’t get done or not done to the standard you expect. Often it’s the business owner who has struggled to delegate, not willing to give up ‘their’ tasks for fear of losing control.
I smell a skunk!
Say for example you had a problem with quality, so you added a layer of checking and that’s continued for several years. But you’ve never reviewed it since, to see if it’s still necessary. Quality has improved so you’ve left well alone. But what if the problem was fixed at source through recruitment, training or development and the checker has not found a problem in twelve months? It’s wasting time and money and robbing people of taking pride in their work. It’s a skunk.
Waste really stinks and it’s the little things that collectively can reek. When was the last time you found yourself asking, ‘Has anyone seen the xxx?’ Who was last to use the xxx I can’t find it anywhere?’ Or think of a time you couldn’t go straight to a file you were after online.
‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’
I love the factory idea of a place for everything and a picture of what should be there. (I imagine its what a Japanese garage looks like rather than my own!)
Waste also occurs when we reinvent the wheel; I know I’ve been guilty of it. You know those tasks you do infrequently where you think, ‘How the devil did I do this last time?’ And you waste time going round the houses to get it done. And you’re saying to yourself I really must make a note of this for next time but then you’re so relieved it’s done and your to do list is so long…. so it’s left till next time and round you go again.
How often have you added a step in a procedure without really getting down to the root cause of the problem. That sort of analysis and investigation takes a bit of time and you’re after a quick fix so you just throw money at it. But unless you’re lucky, meddling isn’t fixing. Similarly automating a process without first streamlining it can simply automate inefficiency.
Have you ever recruited someone because they weren’t exactly who you were after but they were the best of the bunch and it was an expensive process? How has that worked out? They might have worked out well but if not, how expensive has that been to your business?
As a customer just think of the last time you were infuriated by the hoops you had to jump through to get service. My pet one is telling someone your tale of woe having queued for twenty minutes on the phone only to be told that someone else has to help you and you’re back in the queue again and then having to re-tell the story… You feel yourself losing the will to live and, unless it’s a service or product you really want, you just walk away.
Solutions for skunks
I know it’s tempting to just kill a skunk when you spot one, and a quick fix will work for some skunks. But if you route one out at the beginning of a process it may have a knock on effect down the line.
What you need is that helicopter view of your whole business, starting with a ‘warts and all’ look at your Customer Journey. Working through the journey from start to end, ideally with your team, will show you the inefficiencies, the blocks and the weaknesses; you’ll be able to see how something at the beginning of the journey is causing a problem further down the line; or how you are a block at a crucial point.
With the whole picture in front of you, you can then make a plan to kill off your skunks, one by one.
Your business will never have smelled so good!
Do one thing: Take the Systems Scorecard and find out where the skunks may be lurking in your business.
Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)