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

What Business Lessons Football Can Teach You

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Whichever club you support in the Premier League, there can be no debate that Arsene Wenger has been one of the most successful and revolutionary managers in EPL history. With his philosophy of beautiful, attacking football, fostering young players, as well as a strict hold of the clubs finances being the hallmarks of his managerial style. It is not hard to believe that amongst Wenger’s experience in football management, he is an accomplished student of economics, having achieved a Masters of Economics from Strasbourg University. Because of this link, it is not too hard to argue that many aspects of his managerial style and philosophy are transferable to a business setting. There are a number of lessons that business owners can take from this man, who is not only one of the world’s greatest football managers, but also one of the great business mentors of recent history.

1. Hire potential

“We do not buy superstars. We make them.” One of the major recurring themes of Arsene Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal is that he does not rely on big-money transfers, but rather spotting and obtaining youngsters with potential. This is a lesson that business owners can definitely take on board, in terms of their hiring policy. Rather than hiring someone who has the most experience, place a higher emphasis on people who you can train and mould, and someone who you can see grow with your business. Combine this attitude with a killer recruitment process, you are set to fill your team with not-only well-trained superstars, but incredibly loyal ones as well.

2. Know your budget

“My target is to make the players as rich as possible within the financial constraints of the club. My target is not to give them less money. I’m happy to make them rich. A big factor of Wenger’s success at Arsenal has been his tight control of the club’s finances. Wenger has helped Arsenal Football Club through the financial rigours of moving into a new stadium, while still keeping the club competitive at the highest level. For any business to be successful, it is extremely important to know what your accounts mean, and to keep a keen eye on all your finances. Spend well and spend wisely.

3. You need to stand out

The biggest things in life have been achieved by people who, at the start, we would have judged crazy. This is the lesson that is most transferrable to the business world. To compete – and succeed – you need to stand out from the crowd, especially your competitors. In football, as in business, if you do what everyone else does, the best you can hope for is to be average, and the worst possibility is to be completely ignored. In a world where we have had more choice than ever, you need to give people a reason to choose you.

4. Believe in your business

If you do not believe you can do it then you have no chance at all. This is the most vital lesson that Arsene Wenger can pass onto any business owner. Wenger is really clear on his identity. He believes in his team, in his philosophy, and his process to succeed, because if he did not, he might as well just give up, especially when competing in the top flight of European football. As a business owner, you need to believe that your business will succeed otherwise why are you doing this?

5. Take a break

“Any man who concentrates his energies totally on one passion is, by definition, someone who hurts the people close to him.”

Wenger is a true student of football, and that is where his passion lies, but he realises that if that was his sole focus, he would burn out and neglect those around him.

As a business owner, it can be easy for you to focus all of your time and energy on your business and prioritise it above everything else in your life. This is a very shortsighted strategy and while it may seem like it would mean success for your business, it would be detrimental in the long-term. Not only will those who you care about feel uncared for and neglected, but you will also eventually run out of energy.

You need to work hard – no one can deny that – but you need to know when to take a break and take a step back from your business as well. Obsession in any form is unhealthy and it will only lead to a break down of personal relationships, as well as the eventual downfall of your business.

It is not hard to understand why Arsene Wenger is commonly referred to as “Le Professeur”, as his footballing knowledge is only second to his business acumen. Even if you are not a big football fan, there are lessons to be learned from this managerial master in helping run a better business.

Now, one final lesson from a football player, turned economics student, turned football manager, and now a business coach: “Nobody has enough talent to live on talent alone. Even when you have talent, a life without work goes nowhere.”

Need advice getting to the next level?

London Business Coaching Strategy Session Leaders very rarely lead alone. Business coaches and business mentors are just like football coaches: we help watch your plays and improve your game. Book a free 1:1 strategic session and let’s identify how we can help your business.
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Business Reading: Are You the Person You Want to Be?

Business owners often blame themselves when their business starts to falter. While usually there are a number of reasons for declining business – most typically they haven’t implemented systems correctly – sometimes there are some behavioural changes that do need to happen. Often, these changes are not about focusing on your personal capabilities. In fact, it is often about the environment that you are in and the way that that affects how you behave. My coach, Marshall Goldsmith, has taught me so much already that it would be amiss of me not to recommend this book. It contains some powerful strategies that I have passed on to my own clients and frameworks which I have used myself to achieve significant results. business-coaching-london-reading-triggers-book Triggers is all about behavioural change, which is something that I wrote about in depth just a few weeks ago in the four-part blog series – how to eat the Pie of Change. That framework is one he has included in this book and is just one example of the strategies Goldsmith has to offer from his wealth of experience as a life and business coach. Key learning points from Triggers:

  • Enable self-awareness of your environment. Understand what triggers are good and which are bad and how you behave when you encounter them.
  • It is not just about identifying “problems” or bad factors – behavioural change is about progress and development of the positive triggers.
  • At the end of the day, the principle reason is to allow your brain to function for self-motivation, self-development, self-evaluation & self-progression.
  • The key word throughout is self – you need to know yourself, and what are your good and bad external factors.

Business owners who I have shared these frameworks with have often come away with results that astound them. Developing your personal life and understanding how you react to your environment almost invariably has effects on your business as well. After all, a solid hand on the wheel steers a steady ship. So if you feel like your ship needs steadying, I would recommend reading this book and perhaps learning to identify your personal triggers. Other business reading I have recommended:

Need more than just books to help?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionBrad Sugars says that once you out-learn me, you can out-earn me; reading is critical for a business owner. Sometimes, you need more. A business coach could provide the accountability you need to steer your business towards double-digit growth.
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Stuck At Success: The 5 Stages of Your Business

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A number of our clients have come to us when they have already been running for over 10 years. This may seem odd – why would a successful business like that need coaching, right? What’s happening is that they are following the 10/5 rule for continued business success, and are not quite sure at what stage they have become stuck.

What the 10/5 says is that if you have been in business for 10 years or more and the business is not making more than £5 million, you may need to rethink your organisational structure and practices if you want to ensure that your business continues to grow in the following 10 years.

At this point, successful businesses have often become a victim of their own success: being good at what they do has meant they have gotten used to a certain way of running things. However, almost all practices that have taken entrepreneurs from start-up to success are simply unviable for growing to a larger size – and many business owners refuse to acknowledge that they have hit this point, which we often call a “complexity ceiling”.

However, it is critical here that you, as a business owner, recognise that “what got you here, won’t get you there” – your practices need to be adjusted if you want to take your business to the next level. With small businesses coming in all shapes and sizes, there is no single playbook that has all the answers to business success. However, most SMEs do experience a common set of road-blocks and hurdles during specific stages of their development, so it is important to recognise what stage your business is at.

Here I explain the 5 stages which small businesses and business-owners go through in their development, as well as showcase the key characteristics and warnings at each of these stages. You can then use this as a guide to figure out what level you are at, and thus address the correct issues to grow and move your business – and yourself – forward.

1. Existence

At this start-up stage, the organisation is a simple one whereby the key focus is to stay alive – which is easier said than done as half of UK start-ups fail within five years. Furthermore, the owner of the business is usually the whole operation, performing all of the most important tasks themselves.

The key points that these businesses have to focus on are attracting new customers, fulfilling demand as it comes in, and providing a product or service of a higher quality than their competitors.

2. Survival

Once a business breaks through from the existence stage, they will be evolving into an organisation which focuses on revenue and cost management, rather than just staying afloat. The owner is also still in a hands-on role as the organisational structure remains very simple. Many business management consultants agree that the major change between the first 2 stages is the business’ mind-set, which has moved from asking if it can stay afloat to how it will look to grow.

The main pressure point that arises at this stage is usually a lack of revenue management strategy, which could lead to the deterioration of the business’ profits and its ability to grow. Ask yourself how you will get the necessary cash flow for your business goals, and once you achieve it, how will you use it to maximise your business’ potential?

3. Success

If a business is able to manage the second stage well by generating and managing their income in a profitable manner, it will progress to stage 5 – Success. This is a counter-intuitively dangerous stage for a business owner and this is the stage that most business owners get stuck at – and where they need to think about applying the 10/5 rule.

At this point the business is healthy in its ability to generate cash flow and is beginning to integrate efficient processes within the organisation. The organisational structure at this point is becoming slightly more decentralised with the introduction of managers and junior level employees – meaning that owners should be able to occupy a more supervisory role. During the Success stage, the main concern is that there are 2 directions in which the business can go:

Firstly, when experiencing success in a venture, an owner could decide to disengage from the business. This means that their major focus is to set a strategy to maintain the business’ performance and revenue stream. In this direction, the owner will use the company as a source of support for external ventures, rather than looking to develop it. The second option for an owner at the Success stage is growth.

In this case, they will look to grow the company by consolidating its resources and risking it in their bid to realise the business’ greater potential. Either of these directions require that the business owner steps up and out of the hands-on daily operations and learns how to work on the business, rather than in it.

This means they need to learn how to change their practices since, up until this stage, their own personal work was what kept the company going. At this point, it is time to create systems that allow it to run and/or grow without their constant supervision.

4. Take-Off

During this stage, the organisation is even more decentralised, with an increased hierarchical structure. Furthermore, the company’s systems and processes have become more efficient, allowing managers to focus more on operational and strategic planning activities. Additionally, the owner’s participation in the everyday working of the business is very minor, but they are still pivotal in setting its future direction.

There are 2 key potential problem areas for a business in this stage. Firstly, is the owner able to delegate tasks effectively to his managers? And secondly, are the revenue and expense controls in place, adequate enough to ensure that the business has the resources to satisfy the demands which growth brings?

It is absolutely critical that the correct systems and processes have been implemented before getting to this stage. Without that, the business quickly slides back from take-off into a position where the business owner has to dive in and fight fires. The worst possible scenario, and I have seen it happen before, a business can go from success up into take off and then descend right back down to survival because the organisational infrastructure just was not there to support the rapid growth.

5. Resource Maturity

At the fifth stage, the business is highly decentralised, and has the resources, as well as the expertise, to undertake detailed planning in an operational and strategic sense – which is something we do with our clients at a Strategic Planning Day once every quarter.

Furthermore, the processes and systems in place have been well integrated into the organisation, which allows the owner to fully separate him or herself from the business. However, the business should not rest on its laurels here. At any point, the business could slide back into an earlier stage, so entrepreneurial spirit must be retained in order to build on its success.

The main concern of the business in stage 5 is that it needs to ensure it remains flexible and can pivot easily as a small business, while also expanding its management force in order to meet the rigorous demands of the growing customer base. It is about creating systems and processes that flow efficiently, without creating unnecessary bureaucracy.

The rate at which small businesses grow is dependent on a multitude of factors; from the industry you operate in, to the kind of managers you hire (which really depends on how you’ve gone about hiring them), and the quality of the products and services you offer. However, more often than not, successful ventures go through the 5 stages above in some way shape or form. If you do not fulfil the 10/5 Rule, you are probably stuck at one of these stages – most often, stage three.

You need to identify which stage your business has gotten stuck at, understand what your next developmental stage is, and then take steps in changing your organisation to allow for you access the next stage. You need to understand that what got you to where you are today will not get you to where you want to be in the future – it is time to adapt.

Wondering what stage you're at?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionIdentifying your stage can be difficult to do alone. Business coaches provide fresh, expert eyes to help you do this. Book a free strategic review, and we’ll help explain what you, specifically can do to progress to the next stage.
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Recruitment: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Your Start

Now that you have systems in place and your business is growing, do you have the right team to support you? You need to find superstars who will do their job without constant supervision so that you can focus on the higher-level business growth work, rather than firefighting and micromanaging. Finding these superstars is not as difficult as you may initially think and it does not require an extended recruitment period.

There is a simple recruitment process you can follow to ensure you fill your team with the best people for the job.

In this video, I explain the 3 critical questions you need to ask yourself in order to start your recruitment process in the best way:

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. What I want to talk about today is recruitment and what is the right approach to actually increase the chances of finding the right candidate for the business.

How business owners typically plan out the job description during Recruitment

What I have seen very often is that business owners say they figure out that yes there is a gap in the organisation and they put some kind of job description together, and the common thought process is that ‘We’ll put the induction or the key activities or the targets in place on we find the right candidate.’

What I tell my clients

Now I just want you to turn this on its head, and think it just the other way around. What I always coach my clients on and what they do – if you have seen some real good results from this is actually doing the hard work right at the beginning.

What is the business’ objective?

Actually assuming that this candidate is on board, and what is the target that this person has? What is the business objective which needs to be met through this person? And then the next level of questioning is for the business objectives to be met, what are the key activities that will have to be undertaken? What are the key performance indicators?

Figuring out what essentials the right candidate should have in order to be a success

Now with these two questions answered and with the level of clarity that one has now that a real thought through job description is put in place. And not with the long list of good to have things like; you have good communication skills, a negotiator, and initiative taker, self-reliant. All that stuff is good to have and we want all of those things. But you start questioning saying; what are key essentials that this person must have to meet those business objectives to undertake those key activities and to be a success.

What can happen once you change your approach?

Now, once you start changing your approach and start looking at recruitment with the end result first, and then get on with hiring the candidates – the chances of finding the right candidate for your business. It just shoots up, and gives you the right results in your business.

Fill your team with superstars in 4 hours

Having helped clients recruit thousands of superstar employees, we get how tiresome it can be. With our 4-hour process you can streamline recruitment, get the best person for the job and make hiring exciting rather than infuriating. If you have struggled with poor team members, maybe your recruitment process needs this fix.

Get the Recruitment Process

4 Ways To Engage With Your Team

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One of the most overlooked obstacles to a business’ success is the engagement of its workforce. Engaged employees are what we like to call “unlocked” – they are more likely to go the extra mile for the business, be more loyal, as well as breed a more positive workplace environment for the whole organisation. In short, engaged employees mean all the cogs can turn smoothly.

A recent study of British employees showed that only 36% of the workforce in the UK is highly engaged. This means that the remaining 64% ­– which could very easily be sitting in your business – remain uninterested in doing their job to their full potential and are impeding the company’s growth and success.  A disengaged workforce has the ability to undermine the best of business plans and strategies.

We have seen it happen before. Here are 4 actions you can take to interact with your team and cure their disengagement.

1. Showcase a high level of leadership

At the heart of an effective workforce is an individual who showcases the highest levels of leadership, regardless of the size of the team. The foundation of a strong leader is the ability to communicate effectively and consistently. Set the business direction and sell it in to your workforce.

If your employees do not know which direction the business is heading, they will not be able to alter their behaviours accordingly. Furthermore, ensure that there is reciprocity in the communication – foster the culture that your employees are able to come to you with ideas. Giving your employees some ownership in the business’ direction and processes is a pivotal step in ensuring workforce engagement.

The best way to do that is to ensure that you are managing your team effectively. You can download some further tips plus an easy (and free) system for managing a small team’s tasks here. Additionally, ensure that you help your employees understand the purpose and meaning of their work.

Each individual needs to know how their responsibilities are impacting the greater business. As a leader, it is important for you to facilitate a working environment of transparency whereby people can question what they are doing and how it adds value to the organisation.

2. Recognise Achievement and be a Problem-Solver

Employees are more likely to work harder for you if they know that they will be recognised for the effort they put in. As it is much more common and easier for employers to criticise their workforce, the size and manner of recognition for a job well-done is not as important as the existence of it.

If employees know that you care and are grateful of their work, they are more likely to be more productive and engaged in their responsibilities. The key word here is “Value”. If you can make people feel valuable, they will reciprocate by giving it back into the business.

Furthermore, criticism is sometimes necessary for a business’ workforce, however when employees underperform, try to understand the root cause of the situation as well. Your employees will react more positively if you are able to help them work through their issues rather than just be a disciplinarian. As I have recently written, stop giving feedback and instead give feedforward.

3. Build Relationships

People react positively in a workplace when they are in an environment which is conducive to relationship-building. Not only should you foster relationships between employees, but it is also pivotal for the business owner/manager to do so as well.

Building camaraderie in the workplace will allow you to create a unified front in tackling your business’ obstacles. As an employer, you need to realise that each of your employees is unique in their work motivations and styles. Therefore, you should invest time in your employees by getting to know them and, in a top-line sense, understand what makes them tick.

4. Be Future-Focused

One of the reasons why employees re disengaged in their roles is that they are not able to see a future with the business, or do not have confidence in the business’ ability to grow with their personal objectives. Therefore, not only should you foster a positive belief in the business’ direction in the future, but you should also ensure that employees are assured that their personal development is possible with the company. If employees are able to see a future with the company and know that they will be able to grow with it, they will have no reason to disengage.

However, you also need to ensure that you make your employees understand the link between what they are doing today to what the business is aiming to achieve in the future. Finally, make sure you do not take employee engagement for granted. Just because you believe that your business has all of the above, you will still need to ensure that you monitor your employees’ satisfaction and beliefs toward the company.

Many organisations do so through satisfaction surveys. This is all well and good, however when conducting surveys, ensure that you act on what has come out of them, and that you are not treating them as an easy KPI to tick from the list. It is the actions you undertake between the surveys that are what matters, rather than actually conducting them.

It is easy enough for some businesses to comment on employee disengagement as a generational trait or an individual’s own issue, and in some circumstances this might be the reason. However, the organisation is the entity responsible for providing a work culture which gives its employees every opportunity to engage in the business – and you are the organisation.

Looking for more advice managing your business?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionYou don’t have to know everything yourself. Business coaches are here to help you choose the best strategies for the growth of your business. Book a free strategic review with one of our team and see if our strategies can help.
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