Insights Blog

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

Business Growth Lessons From A Pencil

Today’s work desks are so often filled with the most amazing gizmos and gadgets. Stationery companies are starting to shift sales more towards batteries and printer ink instead of hole punches and erasers.

The humble pencil now usually sits abandoned in the pen pot in favour of the keyboard and fancy gel pens.

But when you stop and pick that hardy old pencil back up, you may find it has a few nuggets of wisdom to teach you…

1. Top performance requires a bit of sharpening

Your pencil regales you with tales of when it was young and how it couldn’t possibly have done anything for anyone until it had been ground through a pencil sharpener.

“It was excruciatingly painful,” it says to you. “But it was through constantly removing unnecessary layers, and honing the most essential part of myself to a sharp point, that I became truly useful.”

The pain of letting things go, of sharpening your core strengths, is how you become the best you can be in life. That pain is worth it.

2. Mistakes are impermanent and natural

“On my back,” your pencil notes in a gravelly, wistful voice, “Was my constant companion, the eraser.”

“It’s inevitable that mistakes happen. But that’s why I was such an incredibly useful piece of equipment. Mistakes are a part of the process of creating something amazing. And you need to be willing to erase your work when you recognise that you’ve done something wrong.”

Failing hard and failing fast is how you succeed. You need to a keep an eye on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it (and what your team is doing through measuring KPIs) so that you can quickly recognise when mistakes have happened and make changes equally quickly.

3. Make your mark on the world

“While mistakes were erasable, there was also always the knowledge that everything I did was making a mark on the world. It was my contribution, visible for everyone to see.”

Your creaky old pencil looks forlorn. “In the end, once I’m done, I’m done. It was therefore always important to keep myself sharp and do the best I can every time my head hit paper.” It looks proud of itself as it goes on to say, “I’ve done the best job I can do – and there, left behind me, is the evidence of it.”

They say that a life well-lived is one that leaves the world a little bit better than when they came into it. Your business can be that ‘little bit better’ – and building it as an asset rather than a job, can be how you leave a legacy behind.

4. The real you is on the inside

“It took me a long time to really accept this one,” your pencil says with a little twinkle in its tip. “I always looked at all those fancy pencils that had lots of colours on the outside, and just felt so drab with my standard yellow and black exterior. I felt inferior for such a long time.”

“But I quickly realised, it wasn’t those colours that people were looking at. It was those little numbers and letters. HB, 2B – that was what people cared about. Not the colours but the quality of the lead that runs through my core. And I knew then, that that was the part that I should be truly proud of – and to nurture.”

It’s easy to show something to the world, but it is the part that’s inside you gives the ultimate results. If you spend your time focused on the surface-level stuff, you probably won’t get far. Shift your focus to what’s inside you and you’ll find yourself sharper and more productive.

As you slowly put the pencil back down in the pen pot, you see him nod to himself. “Yes, time for me to go back to watching you take over the digital world, dear friend. But I hope you remember the lessons from my time with you, and that you’ll carry them through into your future adventures!”

Found yourself talking to your stationery?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionMight be more helpful to discuss your business growth strategies with someone who has helped hundreds of other businesses achieve double-digit growth, right?

Book a free session with us and find out if we can help you write an even more exciting next chapter in your business’s story.

My Morning Rituals

Being driven, being focused, and creating growth in your business isn’t necessarily something you are born with. You can consciously develop this.

In this video, I share with you some of the rituals I do in the morning that help me spark that drive in myself.

Every morning matters. This video explains my personal rituals, but what are the habits you are nurturing to get you going in the morning? What stretches your body and mind and gets you in the mode of growth?

Once you have got it, do it with consistency every morning and watch as you uncover and stoke that fire within yourself.

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

People generally ask me “Shweta what do you do to be so driven and to be so focused?” And yes I would like to believe that I’m a very focused individual. The answer that I share with them is generally so simple and so straightforward that, you know, people have a smile on their face and they say, yeah I kind of get it.

But then what I’m really interested in is not for people to just get it – I want people to actually do it. Do it their way, in a way which works the best for them. There are simple rituals that one can do straight away in the morning which helps the person to be in their top form and to have their head in the game.

At the end of the day business is your reflection, and more importantly, it’s a reflection of your headspace.

Now just to break it down for you, there are few rituals that I do first thing in the morning:

  • 15 minutes of my stretches.
  • 5 minutes of meditation. Just sitting down, anchoring myself.
  • 3 simple gratitudes. Could be as simple as the sun is shining today, or I love the sky, or I love the tree, or the family, or people, depending on what are your 3 gratitudes.
  • Then I spend 20 minutes preparing my healthy breakfast in the morning, and at that time I play audible and I’m listening to a book which makes my mind muscle stretch, which makes me think, and is really giving me some good food for thought.

Now if you think about it, 40 minutes, but in that time the mind is stretched, body stretched, meditation is done, and the three gratitudes have happened. And I’m sure you’ve heard of this, that the best source of happiness is the gratitude and the best time to get into the zone is the morning time.

So, look, I’ve shared with you what works for me and you have to decide for yourself what works the best for you. But make sure that you make every morning of yours count, to get in the best form possible for that day, to make the best state possible for yourself.

Would you like more frameworks for success?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionOur business coaching involves working with business owners to find out what blockages are keeping them from growth – not just teaching you tools, but actually helping you find out which tool is right for you.

Book a free session with us and see how we work – and whether our set of tools are the right ones for you.

How Do I Set KPIs In My Business?

I felt the need to write an article about how managing directors and business owners can set better KPIs in their organisation because, even when given examples of KPIs, people so often over-complicate the whole concept and become very unsure.

The truth is, it’s a lot simpler than you think to set effective direction for your team.

What Are KPIs?

KPI stands for “Key Performance Indicator”. While there are thousands of definitions across the Internet for this, I want to make this simple for you.

In a sentence, KPIs are the deliverables – the output that you are expecting from your staff.

That’s it. What do you want your staff to produce? Those are their KPIs.

The key thing here is setting these in such a way that your team continues to remain motivated, actually achieves those KPIs, and ultimately drives the business forward.

Why is Setting KPIs Important?

Let me summarise it in four simple points:

  • The profitability of your business depends on how well your employees consistently perform important (not just urgent!) activities.
  • Employees perform best when they understand how their performance contributes to the success of the business, and how their performance is measured.
  • Small changes in critical areas can have a great impact on the bottom line.
  • What gets measured gets done, and what gets rewarded gets done again.

Here a few guiding principles that have helped my clients effectively set KPIs for their team members:

Principle 1: KPIs Have A Short Lifetime

Your business is a constantly evolving machine. It will not stay the same way for the next year or two years and so, equally, the very specific KPIs or activities for your team will not remain consistent over that time.

When you start any quarter of the year, you will have a set of deliverables that make sense at that point in time.

When you come to review your activity at the end of the quarter, you may realise certain things have not been working well, or that other things have been working much better than you thought. You then should nudge the direction of the business towards what’s working, and therefore also nudge your team’s KPIs to go in that direction. As long as all this nudging happens in concert, your business remains cohesive.

This is part of what happens at our Strategic Growth Intensives with our clients every quarter – reviewing the previous quarter and planning the next 90 days of activity to focus on maximising growth and/or achieving their ultimate goals.

This principle is also especially important when looking at setting KPIs for new staff members, which you should do during a good induction process. Not only is there this need to be flexible to change direction later, but you are probably also not yet aware of the more specific strengths and weaknesses of this new member. You, therefore, do not know in which activities they will produce the best results (and adjust targets accordingly).

In limiting yourself to a shorter time frame, you can also limit the number of KPIs you are assigning – you should be paring it down to just 3 or 5 key deliverables for the quarter. This makes it achievable, and also highly focuses activity on the most important things.

Principle 2: KPIs Should Be More Numbers Than Activities

Numbers are essential in planning and growing your business because your business speaks to you in the language of numbers.

The problem with setting KPIs and asking, “What do I want my team to achieve?” is that most business owners answer with something like, “I want my marketing team to keep our social media channels updated and send out emails once a week.” Or “I want my administration person to keep our calendars in order.” Or “I want the operations manager to give me simplified reports each week.” This is understandable since you are trying to make sure that, as a good manager, you are managing activities rather than people.

Let be very clear here though: activities are not targets. Activities are what help you achieve targets. And targets are what help you achieve growth.

When you are setting key performance indicators (even KPIs for yourself as managing director), you should be looking to set a particular number that is both directly related to the activities they are doing and to the growth of the business. You can then make clearer decisions on which activities should be focused on, according to how much they contribute to that number.

This is perhaps more easily understood using an example. Let’s take your marketing team.

Example: Key Performance Indicators for Marketing

The ultimate goal of marketing is to produce qualified leads that feed into your sales process (and then the sales team’s ultimate goal is to produce clients / customers from those qualified leads). That’s the number that is ultimately contributing to your business’s success (as clients / customers obviously lead to profits!)

Now you sit down with your marketing team and say, “We need to get n number of qualified leads. What channels do we have and how many leads do you think we can get from each channel?”

Then together you decide that you can get X qualified leads from email marketing, Y leads from social media, Z from Adwords and so on.

Those then become the key KPIs that the marketing team are focused on and apply to their dashboard. And those numbers then indicate to your team how much time and effort needs to be put in each channel, and the activities flow easily from there.

There are, of course, exceptions and what I would call “projects” – and these will most commonly come up in your marketing and your administration teams. This is because there are plenty of activities that do not always produce a clear, definitive quantitative result. A good example is something like producing a testimonial video. While the activity itself will not contribute directly to the qualified leads target, it’s a useful piece of media that can be used in other channels (such as pay-per-click advertising, or in the sales process) to eventually produce leads.

So you are allowed to set some KPIs which are ‘project’ based. But you must start with – and prioritise – your number-based targets if you wish to create predictable growth in your business.

Principle 3: KPIs Should be Focused on Reporting

What are the simple reports you need from your team members in order to stay in control and make key decisions about your business? What is the key information you need to know what is working and not working?

That should inform exactly which metrics are the most important for you to be measuring from your team members, and what metrics they should be focused on optimising.

Everything, really, should relate back ultimately to the profit and loss or balance sheet – the metric you are measuring from your team member should impact one of your two critical financial documents in some way. If they aren’t, then you need to think very hard about whether that metric is actually relevant to your business growth, or whether it’s a vanity metric.

Example: Key Performance Indicators for Operations

A typical position where many businesses struggle to measure key performance indicators is in operations. Some of the key performance indicators for an operations manager might have to do with planning, human resources, reporting, communication – things that typically don’t have metrics, right? Well, actually, there are metrics there – and they do directly impact the profits and losses.

For example, planning – a key metric for your operations manager might be something like,  “Ensure the sales and marketing team wins n clients this quarter.” The activities might then be monitoring the marketing and sales team’s trackers, organising internal meetings, and monitoring the important dashboards for those teams – to ensure they are actually moving towards winning that n number of clients.

This makes your operations manager accountable for contributing to the business directly. How they do that is by ensuring that the operations (which are actually other team member’s responsibilities) are focused on producing the correct number of clients. Their direct work is in managing the activities throughout the business, but you direct their ultimate focus to the business goal, through their KPI. They also thus share each win with the other team members, and everyone feels some ownership over each ‘win’.

You also need to think about this from your own time management point of view. Remember that time is one of your most precious resources and you need to use it very wisely. What reports do your team members need to share with you so that you can monitor the activities as swiftly as possible?

Some businesses – and some team members – need daily reporting. For others, weekly is the sufficient balance of giving enough room to breathe while keeping the managing director(s) or business owner(s) informed and able to make decisions. It is rare that monthly reporting is sufficient, as often you will be leaving things too late to pivot effectively and leaving money on the table. Whatever the frequency, it is about consistent and insightful reporting.

If you follow these three principles of keeping KPIs shorter term, mostly numerical and focused on their usefulness in reporting upwards, then you will ensure your KPIs are not just useless data but actual meaningful information that you can apply to create conscious business growth.

Need help creating KPIs in your business?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionBusiness coaching is all about helping you apply systems to your business to create efficiency and best business practice. We don’t monitor your KPIs for you – we help you understand KPIs and measure them yourself and become a better leader and business owner.

Request a free session with us and we can give you some of the knowledge we have and let you decide for yourself if it will be useful to your business and personal growth.

3Cs to Improve Your Conversion Rate

There are a few powerful levers that you can use to achieve sustainable business growth. However, there is one lever we focus on most often during our business coaching sessions, because it’s relatively easier to get results from.

That is, your conversion rate. When it comes to your sales process and improving your conversion, your most important tool is the question. But what questions are the ones that are going to improve your sales?

In this video I go over 3 key elements that every sales person needs to focus on in order to achieve solid improvement in conversion rates.

Questions are a tool, but the best sales people are the ones who know how to wield them expertly. If you start to think more carefully around this 3C framework when developing your sales process, you can build a much more powerful set of questions.

While having a list of killer sales questions will give you a great result already, when you carefully cover Connection, Competence and Control with your questions, you can push your sales up to the next level and achieve business growth in a very real and sustainable way.

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

One of the things we really focus on with our clients is sustainable business growth. And the lever that is usually in focus to achieve that business growth is ‘conversion’ because it’s a relatively easier lever to focus on compared to other levers which also lead to growth.

The 3C Framework

Now there are three key elements which I want to share with you which result in solid conversions in the business, which you might want to jot down and it’s a 3C framework. So the first C is Connection. The second is Competence and the third is Control. In the sales process to achieve the right level of conversions. The salesperson needs to have the right level of connection, needs to show the right level of competence, and, very importantly, needs to have the right control over the sales process.

Your Most Powerful Conversion Tool

We can go a lot deeper into this topic, but I want to again share with you just one simple thing, which is the most powerful tool to ensure there is the right level of connection, competence and control and that powerful tool is questions. Now what I’ve seen very often is that salespeople are either pitching, talking too much, or trying to build lots of connection but are too scared to go into competence zone or control zone or they’re not asking the right level of questions or the right number of questions, of the right nature, to ensure that all these three elements are falling in place without over-doing or under-doing any one of them.

Conversion Questions for ‘Connection’

Generally speaking, the nature of questions to build that connection is more open-ended – is a little bit more relaxed. So it’s like:

  • “Tell me for how long have you been doing this?”
  • “How did you get into this in the first place?”

You’re just trying to understand and they are a little more relaxed and open-ended.

Conversion Questions for ‘Competence’

To show competence, the nature of questioning changes. Here you’re asking a lot more specific questions, the technical questions to understand your client’s operations, their business, or their requirements. And because of the nature of questions, the prospect gets the sense that you know your subject – you understand where you are coming from and where they are coming from.

Here you need to think about the specificity of the questions vs. fluffy questions. Because nobody likes fluffy questions as far as the competence is concerned.

Conversion Questions for ‘Control’

When it comes to control, remember just by asking questions the person is in control, you are in control of the whole sales process whether you’re building connection or you’re building confidence. But again there are certain questions to be asked to make sure that there are no surprises happening for you and your sales process. Things like:

  • “Who are the decision-makers in your business?”
  • “So what’s your procurement process?”
  • “What are the other options that you’re looking at?”
  • “Have you worked with someone like this before?”
  • “What’s that kind of timeline you have in mind?”

So again, just by asking these questions you’re trying to pre-empt all the possible reasons of delay and you’re also staying in control.

So remember one thing. It’s Connection, it’s Competence, and it’s Control. And the best way to get these three elements working for yourself in the sales process is by asking the right kind of questions. Knowing when to be open-ended, knowing when to be very specific, very technical, and knowing when to be in control to pre-empt the possible issues of not being able to close the sale because at the end of the day what we want is a strong conversion rate rather than leaving money on the table. We would want that money to be in the business and a chance for us to serve the potential client through the business.

Is your sales process up to scratch?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionOptimising and improving the sales process is an almost universal element of our business coaching. That’s because it’s one of the best ways to secure sustainable business growth.

Book a free session with us, and we will look at your business and give you specific ideas on how to improve your sales that you can take away – and if you decide it’s not for you, there is absolutely no obligation to do anything else with us.

The 2 Most Dangerous Behaviours of Business Owners

It’s so easy to react from an emotional place when your team member’s mannerisms don’t match the culture you are trying to set in your business.

However, running a business requires a certain level of humility, sensibility, and coachability. In this video, I explain two dangerous behaviours that you should be looking out for if you run a business…

Remember, you are not your business. You set the business culture, you lay out the plan and direction for the business, and you lead from the front – but you must be cautious about letting your ego creep in, and where you might be missing a trick.

That’s why it often helps to have an outside perspective to help you take a breath, look at your situation with an objective lens on and help you make decisions that make the most sense for your business – and not just yourself.

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. I wanted to talk about something very insightful that happened today in one of my meetings with a client.

The Team Member Gave Attitude…

He came to the meeting and he informed me that his key team player, who works on projects has actually put in his resignation. So I said, “What happened?”

The client told me that a couple of days back he was in his wider team setting and he asked this key player for something – they had to discuss some business issue – and the body language of this key team player said it all.

There was like big rolling of eyes and the whole kind of like, you know, heaving and saying, “Oh really, I need to discuss this with you?” and just the body language said it all and the client lost his cool.

The Client Reacted

He pretty much asserted himself at that time and said “I want to see you in my office now!” and audible enough for the other team members to know what was happening there. So obviously the key team player went, had a meeting, and pretty much then the next day he resigned.

There was a lot of hurt and a lot of emotions running when I was having this conversation. The client was like, “Shweta, I just can’t tolerate this kind of behaviour. The whole body language, the patronizing behaviour, this is not something that’s acceptable. It’s my business and I run it the way I want to run it. I don’t want to have these kinds of people in the office.”

Just calming him down a little bit and truly, I understand where he was coming from because it’s so easy to react with that kind of a trigger in front of the other team members. It’s so easy. And yes there was a big reaction that happened from the client, he understands that. But now, it was all about saying why he reacted like that?

We Assessed What That Resignation Means for the Business…

At that point, I asked him a question saying “So, tell me one thing, is this person good at what he does?”

And he was like “Yeah, he’s good at what he does. But just the attitude is not right.”

And I said, “OK, so if we let this person go and accept his resignation what does that mean? What’s the implication for the business?”

The client replied, “Yeah, I will get sucked into all kind of operational things and sales will suffer. The growth will suffer. Marketing will suffer, a lot of other things will suffer but I will get sucked into day to day.”

So I asked him another question, “What do you think? Do you think this person is required for the businesses’ sustainability and good growth?”


And by this time, the client’s tone was getting normalized and he was becoming calmer and he was already seeing the perspective here.

The 2 Big Dangerous Things He Needs to Look Out For

At that point what I told him was that there are two big things and very dangerous things in the business which is why I want to share with you with this incident. And please write it down. These are very dangerous things in business and, especially as business owners, you need to be aware of it.

One is the ego – getting the “I” into the picture, and the second is the blind spot – not seeing what you should be seeing.

Your Business Is Not You

Now, I get it. It’s the business owner who is running the business, who is, you know, owning the business. But at the end of the day, the business has got its own entity and the business owner is a separate entity.

There are a few things that we would love to do, but we should not be doing because it’s not the right thing for the business. And equally, there are things that we hate to do that are actually required by the business.

Just having that distinction and knowing that it’s not you who is the business, we then realise we have to do the things which are right for the business. If there are some issues, then finding the solutions is what is required of us, the business owners, most of the time. In fact, all the time, as far as I’m concerned.

The Turnaround

So, I have to compliment my client big time and that’s why I love him so much. Straight away he got the point. The coachability was right there. He was listening to everything and he just told me, “Shweta, I will go back and I’ll do my best to sort this out, to stabilize, to apologize and to make sure that we were working as a stronger team.”

That requires a lot of humility, a lot of maturity and a lot of sensibility. When you’re willing to put your ego aside and say, “I’ll do what’s right for my business.” Keeping the values intact, keeping the constructive feedback intact, and making sure that there is honesty, there’s transparency and you’re working as a stronger team.

So, I hope you find that useful because it is very insightful and whenever you have those occasions where ego is creeping in, just remind yourself that you’re not the business. You’re the owner of the business and the business has got its own requirements, its own needs, and the right things that need to be done for this entity to continue to grow.

Who is watching your plays?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionOne of the most important services we provide to leaders of business is an objective, outsider viewpoint. While you’re busy playing the shots, who is watching your game?

Someone neutral, coming fresh to your business, could be exactly what you need to up-skill and provide that extra nudge you need to breakthrough to your next growth level.

Call Us