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Useful tools, tips and strategies to help your business learn, develop and expand.

How To Get Your To-Do List Done

Almost anyone who has run a business will agree that one of the most difficult hurdles is managing the overwhelming quantity of work to be done. And with only 4% of businesses ever achieving more than £1 million turnover, and 0.4% achieving £10 million, it’s worth scrutinising how this and other factors are holding business owners back from running an even bigger business than they already do.

In my experience, having engaged with some of the brightest minds and most motivated business owners in the UK, I have some confidence is noting that one of the primary reasons for stunted business growth is a lack of time management, which generally has been the result of an inefficient delegation processes.

This, in turn, has usually arisen from business leaders not identifying more carefully exactly which tasks should be assigned out to their team, and which they should be doing themselves.

I’ve discussed the 4D framework for productivity before, but I want to share a slightly simpler version – one which lets you swap out your “to-do” list for something more successful.

Purpose and Priority

Let’s take a little look at this diagram:

What this little triangle is telling us is that you need to start with purpose. (Remember Start With Why? Similar concept.) Why are you actually trying to do these tasks? What is the reason you want these things done, and what is the ultimate driving force behind you spending time on any task at all?

Once you have purpose, you can move on to considering what your priorities are. Which things are most important to you and which things aren’t as critical? What order should you do them in?

With purpose and priority, you automatically start achieving productivity, and in business, that automatically results in profitability.

So the key is to tweak that to-do list to highlight the tasks with priority and purpose so you aren’t just blindly pouring out your effort into a massive to-do list and not getting an adequate return on that investment of effort.

3 Steps to Creating Your Success List

Step 1: Create Your To-Do List

The classic to-do list is an important starting point in this process. Do a total mind-dump of all the things you need to do.

What I usually advise to clients is to open a simple spreadsheet at the end of each day, and at the beginning of every week, and note down everything that needs to be done. This is your “to achieve” list.

The next two steps are what converts this “to achieve” list into a “success list” instead.

Step 2: The Priority Question

Ask yourself, “If I were only allowed to do three things today/this week, what would those be?”

With this question you begin to prioritise and start to separate out the “should do” and “have to do” tasks from the “could do” or “would like to do” tasks.

Step 3: The Leverage Question

This is the important step that gets true leverage from your list and transforms it fully into a success list. Ask yourself the question, “Are these the things that make everything else easier or unnecessary?”

While it is likely that sometimes your day will consist of fire-fighting and taking care of the ‘urgent’ tasks, if you have a success list built off this question, then you will automatically ensure your most important tasks – the ones that are giving you the greatest return – are front of mind.

A lot of people stop at step 1. The good workers stop at step 2. But the most successful people are constantly doing step 3.

Most people create a long and overwhelming laundry list of things to do, and then wonder why they feel so unproductive. Developing this success list will guide you away from the procrastination that comes from doing little, insignificant tasks and steers you into achieving the big tasks that take your business forward.

Need more productivity tools like this?

Providing the world’s leading business coaching services, we help business owners boost the productivity of their business through simple changes in the way they think – such as swapping a to-do list for a success list!

Book a place on our web event and find out the framework we’ve used over the past decade to help businesses achieve real double-digit growth.


How To Settle Unpaid Invoices In 4 Weeks

Many of the businesses I have worked with in the last 9 years business coaching in London, especially those in service industries, have come to me with a bank of uncollected invoices. Some of them have even had debtors owing them for work that was done months, sometimes years, ago.

Chasing up invoices is probably one of the most tiresome, time-consuming and immensely frustrating parts of running a business. And it’s almost definitely not what you got into business for, is it?

After months of unanswered phone calls, voicemail messages and emails, you might get to a point where you decide it’s easier to give up and write it off rather than persist. This leaves you out of pocket for work that you completed – this leaves you without money your business actually earned. Alternatively, you could keep chipping away and trying to contact the client, but if that is not systemised, it usually means you are wasting time and resources that could be used on more important matters. Clearly, this is not the most effective way of managing your team and makes the entire process more stressful than it needs to be.

So, with this in mind, here is a simple four-week plan that we give our clients to ensure that the process of following up on unpaid invoices is organised to decrease the number that drop off, and increase the cash being paid back to you, without any unnecessary wastage of resources.

Week one

An invoice that is one week late could be due to a genuine oversight by the client, so it is important to just give a gentle nudge at this stage. The majority of clients will appreciate the reminder and pay it immediately.

A friendly yet firm email is sufficient, informing the client that their payment is now overdue, and asking them to arrange payment as soon as possible.

Week two

It is fair to assume that, if the client was going to read your email, they would have done so within a week. If they have not paid at this stage, they have either not seen your email, or have decided to ignore it.

The best thing to do is call the client (this can be done by a junior member of staff, as it is not yet an urgent matter) and ask them why the invoice has not been paid. Offer to help them with any issues that they might be experiencing.

Week three

If the invoice has still not been paid after you have spoken to the client directly, then the issue should be passed to a senior member of staff. The client may be disputing the invoice, or might simply need a more forceful push to encourage them to pay the debt.

You should send the client another email advising them that the matter will be escalated if the invoice is not paid within a week and that they can get in touch if they have any issues.

Week four

A senior member of staff should call the client directly if the invoice has not been paid by week four, providing the client has not contacted you to discuss any payment difficulties.

Note: if they have contacted you, you might decide to offer the client an extended deadline, or set up some sort of payment plan.

The senior staff member should make it clear that the matter is now serious and that, if the invoice remains unpaid, legal action will be taken.

It is rare that after this stage, a client will not pay the invoice. If they still do not pay, then you are likely in the realm of having to decide whether legal action will be worth it at this stage or not.

However, implementing this simple four-week follow-up process, or investing in business consultancy services to help you introduce the system, will mean that your business can streamline its approach to unpaid invoices. When we have seen our clients introduce this system, it has invariably saved them time, money and stress.

If you are struggling with even figuring out who has lapsed in payments – or you have so many that you need to figure out who to prioritise – check out this video on following up with aged debtors, where I go into more detail about how to set your Terms of Trade, map out your debtors, set targets, and decide who to chase first.

Need more strategies like this in your business?

Business coaches are here to help point out strategies that will be useful specifically to your business – like this one for following up on invoices.

Book a free strategy session with us and find out whether our strategies could be the ones that take your business to the next level.


Why Delivering A Baby Can Help With Running A Business

I have heard some experts say that business is about making decisions. Sure, that is true in a sense, but what is more accurate is that running a business successfully is about making the right decisions.

And that is where we can relate it to delivering a baby…

Let me explain.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi this is Shweta from London Coaching Group. As per hospital episode statistics 50% of UK births need intervention. What I want to share with you today is a very practical tool which not only helps deliver healthy babies but also helps you with delivering healthy business results.

Crucial Decisions

Now as you can imagine in the moments of crucial decision making when you have to decide which intervention to go for, it could be very tricky for parents when time is less, energy is less, and emotions are running high.

And keeping the business context on, when you have to make the crucial decisions for your business when the energy, time, money is not unlimited you need to be making the right decisions.

Now the model I want to talk about actually helps you place your intuition, your energy and your passion or your experience at the right time rather than clouding that decision.

The BRAIN Model for Making Decisions

So what I want you to do is actually write down this model and what is called the BRAIN model, so just write this down and we will go through it quickly, systemically but quickly.

Now let’s take a scenario in the business. Imagine you’re thinking of hiring someone for an important position, which might help you with the top-line growth, the revenue growth, now it’s an important one because there is an outlay and it will help us deliver the growth of the company.

So when you’re looking at this kind of a situation, you can make an intuitive call but it’s like flipping a coin and hoping it will be the right one or you could use this model to make sure it’s the right decision. So let’s go through this.

Decision Making Model Step 1: Benefits

The first thing that you need to look at is what are the Benefits of making this decision. And simply writing down the bullet points as to what are the benefits that you will have from hiring this person.

Decision Making Model Step 2: Risks

The second thing you need to look at in a very objective manner is saying what are the Risks of hiring this person. If this person is not successful, what will it mean in terms of the next 3 months of salary costs. And will there be any other disruption or organisation change? What are the possible risks?

Decision Making Model Step 3: Alternatives

Once you do that, this is the other question that people don’t ask very often and when I’m working with clients it’s actually having that divergent way of thinking. Looking at different possibilities and then coming up with the right solution.

So the 3rd one you actually want consider and ask yourself this question – what are the other Alternatives? What are the other options? Could you be rejigging the organisation? Could you actually outsource this? Or maybe someone else just needs to spend a little more time doing this and that will take care of the problem. So what are the alternatives that you could be looking at?

Decision Making Model Step 4: Intuition

And then once you have looked at these three elements that’s where the energy, that gut feel comes into the picture – your experience and what I call that here is intuition. What does your intuition say? What do you think?

Because now your logical mind has kicked in and now it’s all about thinking, “What do you think?” What does your gut say?

Decision Making Model Step 5: Nothing

And finally the last one, which is quite interesting, I personally find it very interesting. And I think business is not always about just moving on and doing lots of things. Sometimes not doing something, not focusing on something itself is a decision you are making in the business.

And what this stands for is Nothing. If you don’t do anything, then what would that mean? Is that the right thing to actually do? Just wait a little bit more and then a better solution will emerge.

 

So when you think about it, it’s all about going through the decisions, not in a slow manner, actually in a fast-paced manner. But doing things systematically so that you’re not missing out what you should not be missing out on. Because at the end of the day, business is about making decisions and making the right decisions for your business because that’s what reflects in its results.

Give Your Business A Check Up

Business Coaching London Business Health CheckWhen parents make decisions on what direction to take when there are complications at birth, they rely on the expertise and advice of their doctor – or doctors – to guide their decisions.

Why not take your business to the experts to give it a check-up and find out if some small changes could put it in better shape?

Book a Free Strategic Review


The 4Ds of Productivity

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When was the last time you made a significant improvement to your time management habits? If your task list is extremely long and interspersed with items that have never really been important to you, you may be able to dramatically improve your personal productivity with a few changes.

I want to share with you today a simple framework / productivity tool that I shared in one of my business coaching training webinars with my clients recently, which may help you when it comes to organising and managing your task list.

The first thing you do is make a list of all the things that you need to do. This is a moving list, because there may be a few things that you didn’t achieve so you move them to the next day or the next week because that is how life works. But the first step is to have a list of everything that needs doing.

The Default Diary Tasks

Before you go further in prioritising that list though, you must first identify the core, non-negotiable items. What is it on your list that absolutely must be done, otherwise the consequences will be truly dire?

These items you need to add to what we call your “default diary”. That means simply going into your calendar and putting in a recurring item that happens every week for those items to happen. This is something I do personally and it works. If you do not put that time into your calendar, and you just leave it on your list, the chances are much more likely that it will slip.

And I would then hope that you are being held accountable through either calendar reminders or through your team reminding you.

The 4Ds Framework

Once you remove the non-negotiable activities, you are left with the tasks that you choose to do. And that is an important decision you make, because when you choose to do something, you are also choosing not to do something else.

There is a school of thought where people think it is best to create a list and then just crack on with that list item by item until the whole list is done.

However, I believe that after you make a list you need to be extremely selective in what you do from that list. It is not about hard work and doing everything. It is about knowing where to strike and what to focus on.

But the question is, how do you choose what to do and what not to do? That is where the 4Ds framework comes in, and which I have brought up in many business coaching training sessions before.

This framework is based around 4 ways that you can categorise any task you do:

  • You can Do the task yourself.
  • You can Delegate the task to someone else.
  • You can Defer the task to another time
  • You can Dump the task altogether.

The way you should work through this framework – and the 3 questions you should ask yourself of any task on your list – should be from the bottom up.

Question 1: Can I Dump This?

This is the first thing you should ask yourself of any item because it is too easy to fill your list with unimportant and irrelevant items that make it very difficult to see your other tasks.

Can you strike this task off your list? Is it there just because you like making long laundry lists? You might realise that this task is not actually adding value to your business and not helping you move forwards towards the goals in your business plan, so it should be removed from your headspace.

Question 2: Can I Defer This?

If you really cannot strike the task off your list, then you need to ask yourself if this task needs to be done right away or not.

Is this something that can wait until next week, next month, or next quarter? Will it actually help move company run better or move faster if it was done now?

If this is just a nice thing to have that will not make a significant difference whether you do it sooner rather than later, then you can and should defer it.

Question 3: Can I Delegate This?

Ok, so you really need to do this task today or this week, then you need to move up to the next step and ask yourself can somebody else do this?

Can you delegate this to a business partner or to a team member? Will someone else do this better than you, or will it empower someone else in your team to take on a role of greater responsibility in the business?

Learning how to delegate effectively is a really important part of team management. If you are constantly thinking that it is better for you to do things yourself because it will be faster, then that is another problem altogether which may involve a broken team model. It is nearly impossible to achieve sustainable growth without a capable team supporting you.

You may then need to consider a better recruitment process and team management / leadership strategies.

Alright, Just Do It

If you have moved through these three questions, then you have arrived at the work that must be done now and must be done by you.

You then need to put aside the time in your diary for it, let it live and breathe and just get on with it.

But if you ask yourself those three questions first, you will find that your “Just Do It” list is not only a whole lot shorter, but is filled with things that are actually moving your business forward.

This is a system that I personally use myself before I add anything to my to-do list. I know the value of my time and it is important that I make sure I spend that time on activities that are moving my business forward. Simultaneously, I am constantly raising my team members up with greater responsibilities and our businesses are in a state of constant growth.

Have you started using this system in your business? What is the best productivity / time management approach you have used successfully? Know of any other great ways to gain control of your task list? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

Want to get more time mastery?

At the Multi Million Maker webinar, Shweta presents some of her best strategies for generating the kind of growth that is manageable and sustainable.

Reserve a spot at the next session and find out if business coaching could help take you and your business to the next level.


What All Businesses Can Learn from McDonald’s

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Have you ever wondered why McDonald’s has been able to turn into the global powerhouse it is today? One word: Process. You will never find yourself waiting more than a few minutes for your order, and you will never experience too much inconsistency with the quality of the food they serve.

Even though many may say that their food is not something to admire, the processes and systems that they have put in place to make each item on the menu certainly is. Each team member knows exactly what goes into what menu item, in what order and how many seconds it should take them to do it. These processes have been developed, tested and redeveloped to wean out all inefficiency from the organisation.

This is what every business owner can learn from, especially if you own a small-to-medium business.

Have you ever found yourself picking up after your staff’s mistakes, or hesitated from delegating a task because you felt that no one could do the job as well as you?

The easy (and ineffective) solution is for you to take on the tasks of three people, which can cause burnout and can create a strain on your relationships and even mental health.

Instead of concentrating on the symptoms of inefficiency, you should treat the root cause. Processes and systems can empower your team to improve their performance and help the quality of their work reach a level that matches yours.

This is exactly how McDonald’s turned from a small Californian barbecue restaurant to one of the world’s most recognisable companies. Here are a few simple guidelines to making systems that work for your business.

Create Systems Where They Add Value

Not every facet of your business needs to be systemised and follow a strict process. Having too many systems in place make your team members (and you) feel stifled and constrained in their roles.

Identify the aspects of your business where implementing a system can either reduce risk or increase efficiency. Only create a system if it simplifies a task, speeds up a process, or improves quality.

At McDonald’s, they knew that customers wanted fast service, so they helped speed up the process by creating a step-by-step and second-by-second process to making each of their menu items.

Involve Your Team

There is no better person to identify the inefficiencies of a team member’s role, than the team member themselves. By involving them in the process, and really understanding the problems of each role, each team member will be more willing to accept the systems that are put in place.

Team members should also be encouraged to find faults in the systems to help the continuous improvement of their roles.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

There is no truer adage than this: Simplicity is Key. Your team members need to understand the systems in place as well as you do.

Understand the systems you want to implement, because when you truly understand them, you are more able to communicate them to your team members in a clear and concise way.

The right systems implemented in the right parts of your business can see a considerable improvement to your organisational efficiency, increasing your profitability.  

A good example is the system for team management in this PDF download.

I will leave you with this fact: as of May 2015, McDonald’s is worth $92.5 Billion.

business mentors londonWant to know more ways how to become an effective leader?

If you would like to know how to start creating these systems among other ways to improve your business’ efficiency, you can claim your spot in our online workshop.

Online workshops are just one component of our business coaching services. The aim of our business mentors is to help you reach the goals that you have set for your business. Find out how we can help by coming along.


Let Your Appointments Book Themselves

Before I begin let me first state that this is not a sponsored article. I am writing this because I genuinely believe in and enjoy this app and highly recommend it to all business owners that need scheduling capability.

I’ve found that trying to figure out appointments with your clients or customers can be a tiresome backwards and forwards process. It was really irritating to have to wait until both my client and I had a free moment to sit down, look at our calendars and figure out an optimal time for a session.

Not to mention trying to fit in the complimentary business strategy sessions  I arrange with prospective clients alongside all of that. Then I discovered TimeTrade and suddenly scheduling appointments became a whole lot easier – and it can be easier for you too.

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What is Time Trade?

Quite simply, TimeTrade is a scheduling app that allows you to integrate your calendar and set up blocks for appointments. You can then send a link to your clients or customers and they can simply take a look at when you’ve got a free slot and book in a time with you. That appointment is then automatically imported into your calendar (if you’ve connected it to TimeTrade) so you know that you’ve got an appointment. Basically, it automates scheduling your appointments and makes the whole process easier for both you and your clients.

How does it work?

If you use Outlook or Google Calendar, I highly recommend that you first follow the (pretty clear) instructions for connecting your calendar to TimeTrade. Believe me, it’s worth it. There are 3 simple steps to getting your scheduling going:

  1. Create an “activity” – that is, some sort of appointment that you want people to schedule with you. For example, one of my activities is the complimentary strategy sessions to see if a prospective client is a fit. Here you also create the time slots that you want to make available for people to book through TimeTrade.
  2. Send invites out to people so they can schedule an appointment with you. This is honestly as simple as taking a link that TimeTrade generates for you and pasting it wherever you want to. They’ve also got a function to send out emails through TimeTrade itself (though I don’t use this function personally).
  3. Your customers or clients will be taken to a calendar where they can book the available slots. Once they fill in the information, the booking will be reserved for them (so any new visitor will no longer see that slot as free) and the appointment will flow into your calendar (if you’ve connected it).

So what’s so good about it?

There are a few reasons why I recommend TimeTrade to anyone who needs to make frequent appointments:

  1. This is leverage. I’ve talked about leverage before – this is a really great example of where you can do the work once, and then let it happen on its own again and again. You just need to put in the slots when you’re free and then never worry about organising another appointment. You can even set it to be a recurring appointment. So if you always want to do your meetings on, say, Tuesday afternoons, you can just put in the slots for every Tuesday afternoon and it will keep those slots available every week.

    And if you’ve connected up your calendar, then even if you book an appointment into your calendar during one of your TimeTrade allocated slots through your regular calendar (i.e. not through TimeTrade), the calendar in TimeTrade will acknowledge that you are now ‘busy’ during that time and will not allow people to book that slot anymore!

  2. It’s easier for everyone. This doesn’t only reduce the pain of setting up appointments for myself, but for my clients too. When they’re ready to make the appointment, they can sit down with their calendar in their own time and figure out a time that works for both of us. It’s a complete win.

     

  3. It’s easy to use and edit. Setting up TimeTrade to link with your calendar is probably the trickiest part, and even that has pretty clear instructions. This isn’t some technical app that requires some serious computing expertise. It’s designed to be simple and easy to use – and it is!

Ok let’s do this! How do I get it?

You can sign up for TimeTrade by visiting www.timetrade.com where they have a range of plans for small businesses right up to bespoke arrangements for large enterprises. I use the plan that’s about £29/year and it’s sufficient for my needs right now, and I’m sure it will be for most small and medium businesses.

I’ve found TimeTrade has worked exceptionally well for me, and I often recommend it now to my clients and I would encourage you to check it out if you need to make appointments in your business.

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