Pause for Thought

Crabapple Tree in Autumn

When is your best thinking time? There’s a question isn’t it! How many of us actually allow ourselves time to think about the bigger picture for our business?

I find going for a brisk walk works wonders for me. As I write this, walking alongside a local reservoir, some of the sounds I hear are geese taking flight for their migration for the winter. As they take flight, so does my imagination, and I get ideas flying around inside my head. It’s not the first time I’ve experienced this. Communing with nature while exercising my legs is a great way for me to get away from the computer screen, the day-to-day activity, the hurly-burly of the office, and just think freely about the bigger picture. Does it always work? No, but it works more often than not, probably due to the improved physiognomy.

I would suggest that if you find what works for you, with regular training you too can make sure that your brain gets used to it. You can make this a habitual exercise of your brain, to switch on the creative juices whenever you are doing that activity. When might work for you? For some it could be to strap a dictation microphone onto their head when they’re exercising in the gym. (I know other people who use that time to learn, by listening to podcasts and so on, or the audio track of a webinar. That’s fine, it’s more productive use of their time rather than just mindless music. However, maybe that is the appropriate opportunity for you to think.) Perhaps you don’t regularly exercise in the gym, but I would certainly recommend you not only discover what works to help your creative juices flow, but I’d also recommend you do this in relative privacy.

I know that walking along the track around the reservoir is not deserted. While there are other people, they are used to people seemingly talking to themselves, using mobile ‘phone headsets with a microphone dangling down somewhere. So it doesn’t seem so very strange to them, and in any case they’ve gone past in next to no time, so that’s never a problem. Whereas sat in the middle of a crowded commuter train may not be ideal, apart from which capturing your thoughts and ideas may be more of a challenge above the general background noise, mechanical noises and/or announcements that break-in every so often.

Why should you take time out to think like this? If you don’t, how else will you create that space. How else will you have these revelationary insights, about what you should be doing with your business, the goals you wish to set? It doesn’t matter how, if these sessions give you the desired outcome, so you get what you want to see achieved recorded, in some way, shape or form. Refer back to these records/recordings, allow your subconscious mind to work on it and help you find solutions; if only by identifying that someone you meet can help you achieve that desired outcome, because they have a skill set that you don’t, but which, when harnessed with your thinking and your internal know-how will create a positive, lasting result for your business.

Many of us imbued with a strong work ethic may struggle to overcome Presentism, the state of mind which regards being at our place of work for every nominal working hour as mandatory. If that’s you, consider the case of visiting a key customer; you’re away from your desk, in working hours, but that’s alright. It’s not wrong to use the golf course as a sales occasion, during working hours, is it? So why not allow yourself the licence to think up potentially more important opportunities, off-site during working hours?

I’ll tell you what, this thinking lark has a lot going for it. It might be you come up with creative ideas for promotion of your business, or you get ideas for a blog like I just did. Get it recorded, note it, examine it later to assess its value. Sometimes you’ll come up with such off the wall ideas it’s never going to work. Okay, some you win some you lose. But it might just be that the totally off the wall idea today becomes your next major revenue stream in three years time. Wouldn’t that be good? So please don’t dismiss anything; log it, monitor it and then measure it and assess it.

Well now, if we are going to have these thinking sessions, I bring you back to my first question: Where and when do you do your thinking? It does make you think, doesn’t it!

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Premium pricing … priceless?

While thinking about premium pricing, and why many business owners and decision takers shy away from this, it seemed to me that either they aren’t even considering it, or they’re just not thinking it through properly. It never ceases to amaze me how many times people query Value Pricing, as opposed to the Cost Plus basis, or even worse “the market price” cop-out!

I then remembered an experience from many years ago, which illustrates this very well. Do you remember that iconic French car, the Citroen 2CV? Very few Brits remained neutral about them; fans adored them while the majority mocked. Those who drove them for any length of time learned of the gearbox Achilles heel. One of the gear cogs or pinions unscrewed itself from it’s intended location, under certain conditions (the consensus view was that reversing too rapidly caused this).

Please remember two points here; the majority of owners of these cars were keen to DIY maintain their pride & joy out of economic necessity, and garage service rates were about £20 to £25 per hour at the time of this story. The choice was stark when this gearbox issue arose. Allow at least one full day to strip down and rebuild the gearbox yourself, or pay a garage to spend a day doing so for you, at a cost of maybe £120 to £150. Or at least that was it, until a local specialist innovated a quick fix.

Now there’s the key. Innovation. That specialist service centre devised a process which allowed them to fix this very problem in just half an hour! They set a price of £50 for this. That’s a premium of between 4 and 5 times the ‘going rate’ for labour!

This did two things for their business; it yielded additional profit from their unique ability, but it also generated additional work because they were then perceived as the only true experts. So why would owners prepared to pay for servicing take they’re vehicles anywhere else?

Premium pricing for products is more to do with placement and reputation, but if you are a service business, what process(es) have you devised that save(s) the client/customer time and aggravation? Have you priced it/them accordingly?

Consistency demands that I apply this too. And I do have a dramatically quicker proprietary process for resolving Strategy. This not only clears certain ‘road blocks’ out of their way, but means the client business can confidently plan and implement those ideas to grow their profits much sooner. This innovation saves my client their own input time, which is often overlooked, yet is a significant cost (especially the opportunity cost, meaning what else they could achieve if not diverted unnecessarily). Thus it represents great value.

So I urge you to review your business operations, to identify where you have innovated, or could innovate, a process improvement that your clients/customers will value more highly.

To higher profits …

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Growth Voucher Scheme

This quick video introduces how to get your Marketing Strategy right, but with funded support, meaning you save money on it from day one :

This government programme helps small businesses get strategic business advice on:

  • finance and cash flow
  • recruiting and developing staff
  • improving leadership and management skills
  • marketing, attracting and keeping customers
  • making the most of digital technology

Some businesses will be randomly chosen to get a voucher of up to £2,000 to help finance strategic business advice.

The voucher can pay for up to half of the cost of the advice. You or the consultant will claim this money back, depending on your agreement.

As an approved Advisor for Marketing Strategy, please get in touch for more information, on 01788 812050.

For the full story, and to apply for a Growth Voucher, please visit www.gov.uk/apply-growth-vouchers

 

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Rural Growth Network

Businesses in rural Warwickshire, as defined by post code, can now access some free help with their quest for growth, thanks to the Rural Growth Network. This scheme is trialling in 5 counties around the UK, and I am delighted to help some different businesses on my doorstep in this way.

The greatest challenge appears to be lack of awareness about this project. The first business I contacted said “Thank you so much for bringing this to us. We hadn’t heard about it before.” So please spread the word to your friends around the county!

The scheme provides 12 hours fully funded assistance, through a combination of coaching and 3 hour workshops. Although geared to established businesses, there is an associated scheme to support rural start-ups.

Qualifying businesses include non-agricultural diversification businesses located on a working farm, as well as industrial premises outside of the main county towns.

To find out more, including if you are eligible, please get in touch with me, on 01788 812050

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How clear is your vision?

Do you remember those weird picture puzzles, the ones that look like a random abstract mess of colours at first glance? Some people were able to focus their sight in such a way as to see through that mess and enjoy the ‘hidden’ picture image behind it all.

These are highly relevant questions, because all too many of us don’t actually take the time to consider what our business ought to look like. Many more cannot see through the jumble of surface blobs and data to what the outside world sees of them. Which is most unhelpful if you wish to portray yourselves as a pride of lions, but the world at large sees a pack of hyenas!

So what’s the solution you ask? Well to my mind, it is in part that old adage that we should spend more time working on our businesses, rather than in them. That time would be well spent focussing upon what image you wish to portray, and how to then share that image first with your staff &/or support network, and then with your market place.

You will have noted that I said in part; this is because some of us have no idea what our business looks like to others, through all the confusing imagery and fluff around us. Honing the ability to focus our vision through those distractions to see the image behind will reap dividends.

But there are other aspects of vision on my mind at this moment. Clarity of how well your business is performing being one. Assuming that you are on top of Cash, and periodic Management Accounts, are you also monitoring those vital “pulse points” that are better predictors of future results? ( I deliberately apply the analogy of “pulse points” rather than the term Key Performance Indicators, because just as health workers monitor our vital signs when we are ill or injured, in order to take appropriate action if we decline, so should we do the same for our businesses, and take remedial action to ensure ongoing success.)

The other form of vision some of us lack is the ability to spot genuine opportunities. How frustrating it is when competitors grasp with both hands those opportunities that we overlook. Worse still for many, is wasting time, money and energy on perceived opportunities that aren’t real!

A visit to an optician helps many of us to read better. So why put up with impaired business vision? There are ways to sharpen up those skills, so vital for sustained success. If you would like to discuss how, please get in touch.

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Limiting beliefs; are they really the villain of the piece?

The other day I realised that what we are normally told is not entirely true. Personal Development people consistently tell us how limiting beliefs hold us back, and get in the way of us ever achieving our full potential. While they may be right about purely personal matters, I now believe that in the business context they are totally wrong.

Let’s just be clear about what the term means, to avoid any misunderstandings here. If a person believes that they cannot do something, or cannot do it well, that is a limiting belief. We all know that Roger Bannister shattered the perceived wisdom of the day, by setting a world record time of under 4 minutes to run a mile. History then shows that new ever faster times came within a few weeks of that momentous day. That is the negative power of the mind at work. Which was readily understood by Henry Ford when he famously said:
“If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

But I suggest that limiting beliefs are far from being the villain of the piece in the business setting, where examples may be “I’m useless at cold calling”, or “I’m not very good at converting a customer to clinch the sale” or even “I’m rubbish at admin paperwork, especially book-keeping”. That is inconvenient possibly, but can be turned to our advantage.

Why did we go into business in the first place? For most of us, because we are good at something, which is the core purpose of that business. Without quality service delivery, no ‘widget fettling’ business could last long, nor could a manufacturer who produced poor product &/or delivered it late. Similarly, no retailer would thrive without having stock to sell. That main purpose largely defines our businesses.

Now why expect to be fantastically brilliant at everything? If we focus our energies on those activities we are best at, and which earn the business revenue, isn’t that the best way for us to achieve success and happiness? This leads us into identifying what activity(ies) we truly ought to be devoting our time to. One technique applied in “Time Management” exercises is to make a list of those activities first, then another that covers what else we might have been doing, and usually not very well. Most of that second list is probably our ‘limiting beliefs’.

Hence I suggest let’s just acknowledge our ‘limiting beliefs’, as a short cut to that second list. Wouldn’t life be so much better if we accepted those limitations, and found other people to do those activities for us? This could either be by delegating to employees with the right aptitude, or by outsourcing to specialists. Which means there are no excuses, whatever the size of your business today.

So I say embrace your business context ‘limiting beliefs’ as your new found best friends, find someone who is good at those tasks, then enjoy your liberated life and watch your business grow!

If this resonates with you, please share your thoughts. If you’d like to discuss how to implement this in your business, please do get in touch.

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