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

Three Flawed Ideas About Business Plans

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Business plans are generally useless.

When I tell my clients this, I am usually met with bewilderment and confusion (though sometimes with vocal agreement too). I mean – aren’t plans what are at the core of business coaching? Isn’t that what we do at the strategic planning day?

You see coaching businesses in London over the last nine years has really brought home to me the truth of business planning. It is the process of creating the plan – not the plan itself – that is of real importance for business owners trying to achieve growth.

That is just one of the subtle shifts of thinking that business owners need to continually work on to take their businesses to the next level.

Coaching business owners across a range of sectors, I found three flawed ideas about business plans that come up time and again, which, when corrected, can improve a business owner’s effectiveness dramatically.

Flawed Idea 1: A business plan is just for Christmas

One of the biggest misconceptions organisations have about their business plan is that it is there just to tell shareholders, investors and lenders that the company is headed in a good direction and that business owners have everything under control.

People think a plan can be written at the start of the year and, once it has been seen by everyone who needs to see it, it can be filed away, where it will gather dust until the next stakeholder asks for an update.

This is not actually where the power of the business plan lies. Sure, it is part of their remit, but, as the name suggests, business plans are there to help you plan your future. They offer a key opportunity to explore your business’s objectives, strategies and forecasts in detail, so that you can achieve and stoke growth.

A business plan is not about the finished product – it is about the process of creating it, as this is what enables you to measure and assess your business. In fact, a business plan is never really finished: it should be constantly updated in line with changes in the market, industry or business landscape.

Flawed Idea 2: Keeping it in your head

While it may feel that way on those late nights you’re working at the moment, no successful business owner is an island. Keeping your business plan in your head and not seeing the need to write it down is typical of the kind of business owner who has no stakeholders (or up until recently hasn’t had stakeholders).

However, even if you don’t have stakeholders, most businesses eventually get to a point where they need to have a team. Without a written business plan, your team members cannot have any kind of input on the plan. While it might seem to save yourself time and boost your own efficiency, keeping a business plan in your head can be detrimental to the growth and revenue of the overall business.

According to a survey by the Kauffman Centre of Entrepreneurial Leadership, companies with written business plans achieve 50 per cent more sales growth and 12 per cent higher gross profit margins than companies without them. The reason? Because the written plan gives you, and your team, clarity on where you are headed – which automatically aligns everyone in that direction.

Flawed Idea 3: The blame is all on you

When business owners realise that they have not achieved their growth goals, they often blame themselves. They think that the reason growth has slowed is that their approach is wrong, or that they haven’t been putting in the hours and rolling back the sleeves. They aren’t doing the hard work required to keep the growth up.

The answer then seems to be, to push themselves harder and run faster on that treadmill. They put in more hours than they promised their family they would and they start researching mindset principles.

In the vast majority of cases, though, the reality is that business owners of businesses that have reached a successful level of stagnation have done so through blood, sweat and tears. There isn’t more to put into it. What has actually happened is that they have not created an efficient business plan, or the business plan does not involve the implementation of new systems and techniques to facilitate growth.

Instead of thinking you are the cause of the business’s stagnation, you need to return to your business plan (or write one!) and ensure that you have a focus on creating the systems that will not only keep your business running, but will also facilitate growth.

Of course, there is a lot more “head-trash” around business plans than the three I’ve mentioned. That’s where getting the guidance of a business coach can be really helpful – we’ve seen time and again what kind of business plans help take businesses to consistent and sustainable double-digit growth, and which ones just end up sitting on the shelf all year. And I think you’d prefer the former!

Do You Need a Better Quarterly Plan?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionOur business coaching in London involves quarterly intensives where we roll up our sleeves and work with businesses to develop a clear plan for the next quarter.

You can attend alongside our clients and see how we help them grow and win award after award for their exceptional growth – and learn how to achieve that growth for yourself.


Choosing the Right Office For Your Business

If you’re buying or renting a new house, the phrase “make a house a home” can sometimes feel a bit redundant: you need somewhere to live and although you’d like it to be nice, cost and location generally come first. It’s much the same with an office for a business. That said, there are many types of space available and some will be more suitable than others. Lilli Hender from OfficeGenie.co.uk is here to tell you what you need to know to make the best decision.

Size matters

One of the first major considerations should be the size of the space you’re after. This will involve weighing up plans for expansion, reduction, and retention of the number of employees in the business.

If you’re in your very early days with few employees and no expansion plans yet in the pipeline, finding a shared office can be a great place to start. This involves a company renting out spare desks available in their office, acting as a host to your business.

For smaller teams set to grow, coworking hubs can be the office-space solution: desks come on a per-person basis and, if the property is big enough, will allow for expansion. If there is a large number of staff members to cater for, a serviced or traditional lease will usually be the best option. These are generally bigger offices and the space is rented out solely to one company to occupy.

Company culture considerations

Many startups want their office to reflect the innovation that has gone into setting up the business. This will more often than not involve envisioning slides, ping pong tables, bean bags and the like. A few coworking hubs will offer this sort of office-based fun (WeWork have beer on tap, for example) but generally this can only come with private offices and a lot of cash!

If you want to be able to customise to suit your brand and culture, you’re in need of a traditional-lease office. Renting this type of space involves outfitting the property yourself: desks, chairs, computers, (slides) and all. You can make it exactly how you want it but it requires time, effort and money.

Serviced offices are the opposite: everything is set up and ready to go. They generally look nice and function well, and coworking hubs and shared offices are thankfully much the same – even if you do lose a bit of artistic license.

If the price is right…

When it comes to the cost of office space, it is both dependent on the type and the whereabouts of the property. I’ll start by saying if you want an office in London, it’s going to cost a small fortune regardless of what kind of space it is.

Serviced offices are generally the most expensive option: they come fully equipped with everything a business could need and often include added extras such as a reception and security personnel. Coworking hubs and shared offices can include similar services but needless to say, the more basic the offering, the cheaper it will be. Desks in London can be anything from £200 per desk per month to in excess of £1,000.

Traditional spaces are usually the most cost-effective option but due to the fact the occupying business is responsible for the initial outfitting, you can feel the pinch when first taking on the property. You will also be responsible for the maintenance of the space which means preparing to fork out cash when faced with unfortunate and unexpected events like leaks or broken windows.

Last but not lease

If you’re after flexibility or a short-term let, coworking will provide you with what you need. Contracts are generally on a rolling, monthly basis. Serviced offices are starting to become more flexible too, with contracts appearing on a one-to-three-month basis.

For longer-term lets, a traditional space is what you’ll want: contracts tend to be anything between three-to-ten years. This marks quite a significant commitment however and you need to be confident in the longevity of your business.

It’s worth adding as a final point that there are plenty of alternative spaces if you’re just starting out or need a quick fix: libraries and cafes will happily host small teams, freelancers, and budding businessmen and businesswomen! One will provide peace and quiet and the other one lots of coffee – it’s really up to you!

When you’re unsure of what the future holds for your business, choosing an office to suit your needs can feel like a difficult task. Rest assured you’ll make the right decision – just take enough time out to consider the various options and what it is want from the space.

Author bio
Lilli Hender writes for OfficeGenie.co.uk: a desk and office space marketplace for every kind of business. She primarily writes about workplace wellbeing, productivity, and making the most of your workspace.

Trying to Expand Your Business?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionIf your business is taking off and you think it’s time to start expanding to bigger offices – or maybe open a whole new one – you might want to make sure you have the right systems and processes in place.

Otherwise, you could end up with more complexity than you bargained for, and that growth can quickly take a downturn.

Book a complimentary strategy session with us to find out if our strategies may be helpful to you…


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.


I Prefer Small Fish

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Someone at an event I was at the other day said to me, “Yeah I have a very small business but we’re in a specific niche. We’re a big fish in our circles,” he stated quite proudly.

And this was the clue that told me why he wasn’t experiencing the kind of growth that I achieve (and guarantee!) for my clients.

You see, to me saying he was a big fish told me, yes, he had a business that was doing well, but he also said he had a small business – and was claiming to be a big fish “in his circles”.

The implication was he was a big fish in a small pond. But a big fish in a small pond is no big fish at all – it’s just a small fish that is keeping its sights small.

What would have been more inspiring to me was if he said, “We’re a growing business. We’re doing well, but there’s a big ocean out there and we’re still small fish.”

What this would have immediately indicated to me is that while they are humbly realistic about their current size (or their perception of thier current size), they are clearly successful, and have direction, ambition, and the desire to grow. That is what is called having a ‘big business’ mindset – and business owners with that mindset are the ones that get the most out the business coaching strategies I use.

The interesting thing is, as a business coach in London over the last 9 years, I have heard business owners label themselves as “small” many times. Often, these “small businesses” actually have the potential to be (or, in fact, already are) very successful and could achieve impressive growth if they implement the right kinds of tools and growth strategies.

Mindset can be a significant and difficult barrier in business. If you think of yourself as a “just a small business” – or even as a “big fish in our pond” – then you are always going to remain that way. To start achieving the growth that you might consider impossible at the moment, you have to take up Adidas’s slogan and start believing that really, impossible is nothing!

Escape the Small Business Mindset

While it has since been disproved that a fish somehow grows to the size of their tank, what we do know is that a fish has the ability to continuing growing throughout their entire lives or be stunted under certain conditions.

Basically, it is the way you care for your fish that affects how large it grows. Your company is very much like a fish in this regard.

If you keep a fish in a small pond, you’re going to provide it with the kind of conditions that end up keeping it to that size of the pond. So if you constantly think of your company as a small company, or that it only can only remain in the small pond it is currently in, you are keeping it in conditions that are stunting its growth.

A reasonably subtle tweak in your mindset – and you could say, the business’s mindset – can change all that. Instead of saying that you are a small business, think of yourself as a growing company that is always learning, adapting and evolving in order to become a bigger business.

Put yourself in the whole ocean, not just a pond, and give yourself the room to be even larger than you already are.

Become the Big Business in Training

Instead of calling yourself ‘just a small business’, think along the lines of a ‘big business in training’. By doing so, you will start to see your planning sessions and business decisions in a new light. As you set yourself targets and decide what needs to be done with the mindset of aiming to become a big business, you will likely find that a light now shines on the opportunities to take you there.

And you will attract the kind of training and business mentors that will be looking to help you as you leave the comfort of the anemone and teach you how to take on the big ocean currents.

The fact is, the simple act of preparing for growth can actually cause this expansion to happen. Not only are you then ready to become that larger fish, but you are also the direct cause of your own growth! It’s like the anti-thesis of a vicious cycle.

Achieving growth in London, or any city in this world for that matter, is no mean feat, but you are the person who can make it happen. Your drive took your business to where it is – now it’s time to change up the conditions and drive your business out into the open sea to grow even bigger and stronger!

So, let me give you something to achieve at your next networking event. When someone asks you to tell them about your company, say something along the lines of, “I’m running a big business in training.”

Ghandi told us that thoughts become words and words become actions. Start thinking of yourself as a big business, and start talking about yourself as a big business, and then watch as you start taking the actions to become a fish that rivals even the blue whales of the world!

Ready to swim the ocean?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionWhen you realise that you’re actually a big business in training – a small fish that has such potential to grow – then it can be useful to have someone help you find the right currents to ride. Book a no-obligation strategic review of your business and we’ll help you point out the ways you could be growing bigger than you already are.    

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Did You Miss This Step For Your Last Hire?

How do you figure out if someone can actually do the job that you’re hiring for?

You don’t want to have to wait until after you’ve hired them and put them through their induction before you find out they could talk the talk but not walk the walk, do you?

You might think that the easiest way to filter out for the best candidates is to advertise with a higher salary to indicate a more ‘senior’ position.

Maybe not. Let me explain the simple process my client used to filter out three very strong candidates for his bookkeeping role…

You can see that this applies to literally any job you are hiring for – sales, marketing, operations, business development. Don’t just read the cover letter (I mean, does anyone even read them anyway?) and the CVs… Put them to a good, well-crafted test and you may just find it easier to start hiring some superstars!

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. In fact, I’ve just come out of a coaching session with my client and that was a very interesting one, so I thought I need to share this with you. My client actually has been trying to hire a finance person who could do bookkeeping, can work with sage, can do basic reporting, and just a reconciliation, follow up on, you know, the outstandings and so on and so forth.

Before we started working together he hadn’t seen much success in hiring for this position. So he was like “Shweta there’s this position I need to fill. I’ve not been very successful. And how do I go about this?” So I obviously started asking a few questions just to figure out his process. And at one point I told him, I said “Adam, the issue is that you are not deselecting enough in your selection process.” Like what? What do you mean? Deselecting in selection process? I said yes, in recruitment the main thing that you need to do is to de-select very quickly and very confidently. And he said OK, so yeah I do ask questions but how do you know that someone knows the subject or not because they all claim they do? So that’s very easy.

What I helped him implement is simple interventions, simple. Loop or hoop, whatever you want to call it. So we want to check, for example in this position, can the person speak proper English? That’s easy right? Because they talk. Can they write well right? The email communication, there’s a simple document with four questions which the candidate needs to answer. Very simple, straightforward, tells us about their written English. Then we want to check their technical strength. And in fact Adam very smartly prepared ten multiple choice questions that shouldn’t take more than five to ten minutes for someone who knows the subject to complete very successfully.

I mean questions like– I’ve kept it open here, what tax code do you use on an exempt transaction? And there four choices. What nominal code range are sales normally? And and so on and so forth. I have no idea about the answers, but I’m not supposed to know this. The person whose good will know the answers.

Now once you have these documents in place and you go to the answers, you know who your deselecting and who you’re moving forward for the final round, which is exactly what he has done. He has got three solid candidates who have scored like really high marks on all the tests and now I’m very certain that Adam will be able to successfully fill this position and this person will do a great job.

Now what I want you to understand is that it’s not just for this finance position. Whether it’s marketing, whether it’s sales, whether it’s operations, whether projects, you name it. Any position in your company you need to learn how to de-select people rather than just listening to words and big claims. Make sure you put your candidates to test so that you can assess for yourself if they understand the subject, understand the position or not. And once you’re clear as to who you’re hiring and what they need to know it’s very easy to put those tests in place. But please make sure because remember if you learn how to de-select rigorously then getting superstars on board is relatively easier.

Want a recruitment process that works?

Business Coaching London Recruitment ProcessIn the years of coaching we have done, we have refined a recruitment process that takes up 4-hours of your time if you follow it properly.

Get the entire process – with templates and everything – PLUS a training on how to do it for just £47 + VAT. And with that comes a FREE voucher to use with our recruitment agency to post your job ads worth £50!

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