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

Did You Get My Message In A Bottle?

business-coaching-london-man-island

Do you sometimes feel like you are alone on an island and the only way to communicate is by placing rolled up messages on faded parchment into bottles and throwing them out into the ocean, hoping for a decent response?

When you build your business, it can be really lonely. You have to devote so much of your time, effort and headspace into creating success, that it can sometimes feel like you have forgotten how to interact with other people. Working with team members, communicating with suppliers, talking to customers – these seem to be monumental tasks, but also not the absolutely critical skills to prioritise when you are just trying to keep the right pace in your business.

When you grow to a size where you need to start bringing in the help of team members, it can be frustrating when they are unable to do the work the way you want them to – and it feels easier to just do it yourself. So, to just get on with it – to just keep the business moving – you knuckle down, sweep away the faults of your team environment, and continue on your journey. You haven’t really changed the way you work to adapt to this new business size.

Additionally, at this size, communication with your customers becomes a lot more complicated than when you were just your own little island trying to shout out about your product. Often, you just end up shouting louder to try and be heard by more people, which comes at the expense of the clarity of your message.

While the approach of just working harder at what you’ve always done might keep the business ticking over in the short term, you not only run the risk of burning yourself out, but you may also be missing out on leveraging the power of your team and your market, which holds you back from greater, longer-term, sustainable growth.

If you learn how to build strong and free flowing bridges, you can leverage good communication to ensure your business is a wide-spread and connected archipelago sending out radio signals rather than just your lonely island that’s trying to throw thousands of bottles out into the ocean.

Here are some ideas that have cropped up in recent business coaching sessions that may help you streamline your business’s internal and external communications.

Internal Communication: One Thing You Can Start NOW

A client once said to me: ‘I wish I could grow my business without having to hire anyone’. To them, the idea of finding new employees, providing them with training and managing them as a team sounded exhausting, time-consuming, complicated and entirely unappealing (even with our streamlined 4-hour recruitment process).

Our clients tell us that they hesitate to hire because they do not want to waste time constantly firefighting. They tell us how they wish they could align their team’s focus with their own focus when it comes to business matters – because these are so frequently maligned.

If you have felt the same, know that you are definitely not alone and, fortunately, this usually requires a reasonably easy fix to get a powerful team working well: improve communication.

There is one simple intervention that I think every business owner with a team of more than 2 can do in order to improve internal communication. That is to introduce formal, and well-run periodic team meetings. These should be scheduled, structured and focused meetings that your team know about ahead of time and are prepared for.

This gives them an opportunity to quickly address issues that need to be addressed not only with yourself (so you don’t become a got-a-minute boss) but also with other team members.

Not only that, it also ensures that each week, everyone on your team has some idea of what others on your team are doing – which ensures that everyone has a wider scope for their work and do not get stuck in a demotivating silo-type work environment.

Internal Communication: How to Implement Formal Team Meetings

There are 4 key points to consider when you are arranging your team meetings.

  1. Purpose: Why have you scheduled this meeting? What focus will it take, and what do you want to get out of it? This will help you maximise useful time during the meeting.
  2. Agenda: What do you plan to discuss in the meeting? You might want to tell the team about this ahead of time so that you can get the most out of it and so they can also add items to the agenda if they have things to bring up.
  3. Time: How long is the meeting going to last? Sitting around and having an informal chat is unlikely to help move the business forward. Set a time limit and put a check in place to make sure you stick to it.
  4. Attendees: A huge mistake is including the entire team in every meeting. Think carefully about who is actually needed so you are not wasting the time of employees who could be spending that time on something more useful, maybe. This requires careful consideration because sometimes your team members may not feel like the meeting is relevant, but they will, in fact, benefit from being there. You should make the final decision on this: in the end, it is you and your business that is paying for your employee’s attention and time. Use that resource wisely.

Internal Communication: What Type of Team Meeting Should You Hold?

Not all team meetings are made equal. Different meetings serve different purposes – so think carefully about the format of your meeting and align it with the purpose. The kinds of meetings we suggest to our business coaching clients are:

  1. Daily check-in meetings: These should last between five and ten minutes and should help give managers an overview of immediate actions for the day, and help team members bring up any pressing immediate issues impeding their work.
  2. Weekly meetings: These are tactical meetings that focus on the current operations and allow both team members and managers to highlight priorities, and for you as the leader to ensure that the priorities are still aligned to optimise growth.
  3. Monthly meetings: These should be more strategic than tactical and should focus more on the wider goals and progress metrics. Typically, these meetings will have fewer people and be more targeted to particular teams or departments.
  4. Quarterly meetings: These are most important for taking a giant step outside the business to assess it from afar. These should be in-depth, long meetings where you celebrate wins of the previous quarter, and set the larger, business-wide strategies for the coming quarter. Doing this ensures you align everyone in the business with the longer-term goals so that they remember what their day-to-day operations should be ultimately contributing to.

You must remember that you will be much more able to run a large, powerful business when you have more than just your will-power and expertise alone to pour into it. A good team should mean that you are working with people who are as smart, if not smarter, than you. When you effectively systemise and manage good team meetings, you can leverage that collective intelligence to take your business further than you even imagined it could go.

The frequency and format of your meetings will largely depend on where you are in your business lifecycle and the kind of culture you have fostered. And as you transition from a smaller to a larger business, you will find there is a critical balance to be maintained with regards to how often you should have meetings and how important they are. Where in massive corporations fewer meetings are more productive, in small and medium-sized businesses you may find that more frequent meetings are exactly what your business needs to progress quickly and with precision.

And that’s where having a business coach can be invaluable – I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have helped dramatically improve productivity simply by seeing that the frequency of team meetings wasn’t quite right for where a business was currently at.

External Communication: Your Marketing Message

If you are trying to constantly throw bottles into the ocean hoping that your customers are going to find them, you will struggle to ever achieve the kind of growth that you have the potential to reach.

If you are a bit fuzzy on who you are supposed to be communicating with, or how those people best like to communicate, you are highly likely to send out confused messages to your customers or worse, not reach your customers at all.

Having clarity about who your customers are and what they respond to is the first and most critical step to providing them with relevant and consistent education about how you can help them.

Do you know who your target customer is? Not your target market mind you (target markets don’t work!) – your target customer. Simply saying ‘interior designers in London’ is actually NOT specific enough.

As we regularly tell our clients, marketing is often thought of as 1:many. However, what marketing really is, is 1:1, many times.

Define how you would communicate with one individual customer (your ideal customer) – know that person inside out and know exactly the words you need to say to them – and then replicate this so that you talk to your entire audience in an extremely personal way.

External Communications: Define Your Marketing Avatar

A simple way to determine your target customer is to create a marketing avatar. Our Avatar Creator Toolkit is how we help our clients to do this for themselves (you know your customer best – you are the best one to define the Avatar).

Identifying your marketing avatar is quick and easy, and makes it so much simpler to develop your business’s ongoing communication strategy. It also helps make it clear to your team who your business is selling to and how you are selling to them so everyone is on the same page and is sending out the same message.

As some general rules of thumb, your marketing avatar should:

  1. Like your business.
  2. Be easy to reach out to.
  3. Be receptive to marketing.
  4. Have a relatively short sales cycle.
  5. Buy from you repeatedly.
  6. Be profitable to your business.

Once you have clearly and precisely defined your marketing avatar, you can use this information to write relevant content and decide which communication channels to use.

You should be where your target person is. If they mainly connect with brands on social media, for example, then social media is where your strategies should be focused. If they are the kind who are surprised and delighted by something coming in snail mail, then focus your strategy meetings around how to best leverage a direct mail strategy. If they think a message in a bottle is actually quite exciting, then figure out how to systemise sending out those bottles to them!

By taking this systemised and considered approach, you can stop using a haphazard method of tossing those bottles out and letting the tides hopefully carry your message to them. In doing so, you can drive your business forward more efficiently and effectively.

Business owners who focus on streamlining their internal and external communications are much more likely to find that their team is happy, their growth is consistent, and their customers are satisfied.

You may still wish to retreat to your island from time to time, but as long as you establish a secure network for communication across the other islands – and with the wider world – you can participate in a network of minds, and truly transform your vision of a larger business into your reality.

Need more business communication strategies?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionA large component of business coaching for London businesses has been to help business owners transform their communication with their teams and with their prospects – marketing and team management are always some of the most useful ways we can help business owners.

If you feel like we may be able to help you streamline your team management or your marketing, book a complimentary strategy session with us and let us dive in and see how we can help you grow.

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Is Next Week Wasting Your Time?

There’s a small mistake you may be making unknowingly, which could be massively impacting your productivity.

This came up in a recent business coaching session when we were discussing how one of my clients goes about delegating tasks to their team members.

This small shift could be saving you days of work with your team members, and could help you spur on even faster growth in your business.

So the first step you have to remember is to make sure you set some sort of clear communication about the timeline of tasks (remember – manage activities, not people) that your team members are executing.

But secondly, and importantly, you must stop thinking about tasks as being done in this week or that week, and start narrowing them down further into days.

Stop waiting for a week when the task may only take a few days. Then you will gain days of work that can be put towards taking your business to new heights.

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 you can see I’m about to leave the office, but I had to capture this learning which got featured in one of the coaching sessions with the client. Now the topic really is that when we are delegating tasks to our team members, one thing that I see very commonly is that business owners don’t allocate or assign a specific timeline to a task.

The Question To Ask When Delegating

So it’s like asking a single simple question: By when do you reckon you will complete this work? So that’s one. But what I really want to focus on today is how the timelines get agreed and the very common phrase, a very very common phrase that I hear from my clients, that I hear them saying to their team members and vice versa, is “next week”.

What I mean by that is, yup Shweta we’ll do it by next week. Yup, my team member, can you come back to me by next week? The team members say yeah I’ll come back to you by next week or I’ll finish it by next week. This whole “next week” phenomenon, if you think about it, there are 52 weeks in a full year. By the time you say next week, roughly 2 percent of the time is gone and how many times do you say this in your business?

Let’s sit down next week, let’s do this next week. All this, when it gets accumulated, a lot of time gets spent and wasted and the most important thing is that it generally doesn’t take a one full week to complete the work. It happens in a certain number of hours.

Team Management: Think in Days Not Weeks

So what I’m really trying to explain here is that when you are next time allocating or assigning some task to your team member, try to think in terms of days and not weeks. Try to say OK and give them a choice. Do you reckon you can give it to me tomorrow or day after? And they might say day after – perfect! That’s good. We’ve just saved three to five days for ourselves and for our business.

So again start thinking in terms of days and not weeks when you are delegating tasks to your team members and to yourself.

Ready to start climbing to those new heights?

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The Lesson from Tongues in Tennis

You may be wondering what on earth tongues and tennis have to do with business coaching. One of the big differences between business coaching and business consulting can be that business coaches will teach business owners the how and why of important business actions and concepts – so that you can make the right decisions – whereas a business consultant often will just lay out the work that needs to be done.

One of the snippets of teaching I recently delivered involved an anecdote about tennis players Andre Agassi and Boris Becker…

You see, earlier this year, Agassi told the press about a bizarre-yet- crucial observation that had enabled him to defeat Becker (whom he had lost against in all three of their previous matches) from 1990 onwards. He had spotted that Becker’s tongue gave the player’s game away every time.

Whenever Becker was about to serve, he would unconsciously poke out his tongue as he tossed the ball into the air. Agassi had realised that every time Becker’s tongue went to the left side of his mouth, he would serve the ball wide; if it stayed in the middle, he would keep the ball in the central parts of the court. This subtle tick meant that Agassi was able to adapt his game accordingly and stay one step ahead of his rival in crucial moments. However, he had to also keep a fine balance so that Becker didn’t cotton on to his discovery! In the next 11 games, Becker achieved just one victory – with Agassi taking the glory for the other 10.

So what on earth has this got to do with business? Well, there are two major learnings to be had from Agassi’s revelation.

Lesson 1: Who is Helping Watch Your Plays?

Agassi learned about the tick that was the source of Becker’s downfall by carefully analysing Becker’s game and realising that this was a chink in his armour. Really, Becker’s coach should have been watching Becker’s game and identified this as a flaw in his game.

As a business owner, you could be Becker, and Agassi could potentially be your competitors. So who is helping you make sure that you aren’t giving away your next move? Who is checking your business for the holes where you could trip up, or the gaps where you are missing an opportunity to hit that metaphorical ball in the right direction?

Lesson 2: Are You Watching Your Competitors Closely Enough?

On the flipside, you should be keeping a close watch on your competition, so that you can match their moves and stay one step ahead at all times.

In my business coaching, I am frequently reminding clients that it is not enough to focus just on what they are doing as a company – they need to be acutely aware of what other businesses are doing, and keep on top of what the market is responding to. This is crucial to achieving growth and winning market share.

By sussing out the ‘Beckers’ of business, and identifying their weak points, you could develop growth strategies that are as strong, forward-thinking and undefeatable as Agassi.

Are you on top form in your game?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionSo many London business mentors and coaches are talking about how they can help you play a better game in business – the metaphor is definitely apt.

Book a free strategic review with us and find out how we can help be that real ‘coach’ in your business, and help you train to be harder, better, faster and stronger!

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A Boy Walked Into the Business Excellence Forum…

The London Coaching Group team, along with most of our clients, attended the Business Excellence Forum and Awards (BEF) last month – and our group took away 38% of the accolades.

The event was not just about awards, but also about coming together with over 1000 entrepreneurs and their coaches to learn from some notable figures. Among others, these included influential authors Dr. Marshall Goldsmith and Professor Steve Peters, as well as inspirational entrepreneurs such as Baroness Michelle Mone.

One of my clients, Stephen Reynolds from the award-winning Christmas Tree business Evergreen Christmas Trees (which took away a finalist award on the night for Best Marketing Campaign) has one of the youngest team members I have ever had the opportunity to coach. At just 14 years old, Stephen’s son Alfie Reynolds helps his father and older brother in the family-run business, and is clearly a bright and motivated young man.

Given my interactions with him, I knew that he would get a lot from the BEF so I extended an invitation to him to join his family at the event.

He was likely one of the most engaged people at the conference, and in the video below, he explains what he got out of the two days of talks…

The experienced entrepreneur may not find anything revolutionary in Alfie’s top learnings. However, you can see how invaluable it was for him to immerse himself in this environment to fuel his entrepreneurial drive.

Alfie proves that it’s never too early to start laying the foundations for becoming a great business owner.

You might want to ask yourself now – when was the last time you consciously put some effort into your business education?

Alfie has started investing in his business education already – and he’s already booked in for the 2018 Business Excellence Forum!

What can you commit to learning before this time comes around next year?

Ready to Kickstart Your Learning?

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Super Achievers Are Incompetent

Most business owners feel some sort of pressure or stress from their business. Most of my clients feel the pressure because the business is growing and moving forward, so there is a strain they have to deal with.

How one deals with that pressure is the key distinction between those who achieve more and those who constantly struggle with no results.

The model that I share in this video is one that helps to explain where that pressure comes from, and also how to deal with that pressure.

It all has to do with how aware you are of your incompetence…

When you start to recognise the areas where you can go to a new level and that you don’t know everything – finance, marketing, sales, team management, planning etc. – then you can start to work on that area.

And then when you feel that growing pain – and you are conscious of the result you are gaining from that pressure – you can actually start to enjoy it as you take your work to the next level.

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 the coaching group. We want to talk about today is something called pressure. You might have heard of it or you might be familiar with it. Now the point is that when you are running a business there’s always a pressure. Pressure could be from the growth of the business or the lack of growth in the business. Now most of my clients they feel pressure because their business is growing, it’s moving forward and therefore they can feel the strain in their team management side of things sales, marketing, planning, you name it.

Pressure Always Exists

So recently last week some of my clients actually verbalize it and they’re like, sure, I’m feeling the pressure because it’s the core trend it’s the march right? So I’m like that’s good. That’s really good. That was my instant response. That’s really good that you’re feeling the pressure, because pressure always exists, but how you deal with the pressure is the key distinction that one needs to make.

The Key to Dealing with Pressure

What I did was I shared with them this model, because that helped them understand why there is pressure and therefore also gave them a perspective of how they need to deal with that pressure. And I’m really hoping it will help you as well. You might be familiar with this, but let’s let’s just pay attention to this once again, understand the fundamentals. Now, in business or in life if you think about it there’s some something called unconscious incompetence. It’s like a four year old kid who might not know that he or she does not know how to drive a car.

Conscious & Unconscious Incompetence

Right, so unconscious about the fact that the person is incompetent in driving a car. Then as the kid starts growing, you realize that there is this conscious incompetence.  The kid understands that a 12 year old or 11 year old wants to actually drive that car, because the person knows it is not allowed to drive a car, and does not know how to drive the car.

Now at the right age then, this person starts learning how to drive the car and think of your days when you started learning how to drive that car. You know you can, you’re so conscious of everything every movement on the road, holding on to the gear. It’s like changing the acceleration, changing the gear. It’s like if you’re in every maneuver, this light maneuver looks so stressful and magnified and you’re present in that moment. And you can feel the pressure, the strain on your body by the time you finish it off. That drive was finished.

Now think about when you are so comfortable driving you could listen to the music, could change the channels. You know you could look around comfortably, maybe reach out to your coffee mug. You can do these things because there is this unconscious competence which is sitting there.

Now let’s bring that analogy to the business. So when business owners are working on their business, take an example when my client is working with me, clearly they are not in the zone. Although there are a lot of business owners out there who are in a state of denial. They don’t even know that they’re incompetent in many areas and it’s totally unconscious effect. Sometimes a blissful state, but not really a good situation for the business. Once the client is in this zone where they understand that there is the next level for them and they don’t know everything, they want to become better in lots of areas like, as I said, sales, marketing team, systemization planning, finance, you name it. They are humble enough to say “I need to learn here.”

Building that Conscious Muscle

This is where, for example, I come into the picture. My team comes in the picture. And the client is actually working on that in that area. This is where they are. This is the muscle that they are actually building consciously, they’re becoming competent. But think about the strain that you felt when you were learning to drive that car. It’s the same scenario. You’re conscious of everything, you’re testing and measuring and applying different things. The business is growing, which strategy will work or will not work. The team is expanding and therefore you feel that growing pain in your business. Now. It’s very easy to kind of say “Oh it’s too much” but again I’m very lucky to have clients who are absolutely willing people who want to see through it and want to have breakthroughs in their business.

Enjoying Pressure

I think they enjoy pressure to a large extent because they know that it’s a pressure of the growth. It’s taking them to the next level. And then they reach here, which is beautiful. Unconsciously they are becoming Camberton in lots of areas things which were difficult become easy for them become very natural second nature. And then once again I’m coming into this picture. By the way, even this picture is where we are working with a client, but this is where again what we say is that come on let’s redefine your next level, let’s redefine. What are the next areas where you know you’re not still there, and it will help you achieve even more, become even better. What does that next level?

And then for the business owner on schist see defines the next level of incompetence, works on it, comes to this level and this level and therefore it’s a constant cycle. And that’s what super achievers do. They don’t just reach out and say “Yeah I’m done.” There’s always a next question saying “What’s next?”, “What’s my next level of competence which I need to build?” And therefore I want you to understand is that if you’re too comfortable in your business, either you are here or you are here.

For me they are dangerous zones. The areas that you need to be in are these and these. And if you are in these two areas of growth, then the pressure is bound to happen, but how you deal with that pressure is the distinction between average people and super achievers.

Think these frameworks could be useful?

These are the classic sort of frameworks that we use to help our clients to put their work in a light that makes sense, and ensures they are focused on real, sustainable growth.

Attend the next Web Event to discover more of these frameworks, and to find out how they could be helping your business discover new opportunities for growth.

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