I was recently asked to be a guest speaker by Kirsty James of the Colony Networking Group at her January networking event. Kirsty said….
‘It’s January everybody is talking about goals and plans, can you do something around this subject but make it more interesting and interactive? Everybody has heard the same old stuff and to be honest its boring.’
And yes, I agree, everybody is going on and on about goals and plans at the beginning of the year. Now, I’m a great believer in goals and plans, but quite frankly, it even started to bore me!
As a business mentor I regularly talk with my clients about the value of having goals and more importantly a plan to put the goals into action. Small businesses need to keep moving, we need to keep changing and we need to keep growing. If we don’t, things happen around us and to us and we know where that can lead!
We all know of small businesses who go out of business every week. I don’t want that to happen to your small business, so please have a goal for what you want your business to achieve.
So Kirsty and me got our heads together and asked ourselves the question. ‘How do we make goals and plans more interesting and interactive? What do the Colony networking attendees really need in order to take their business to the next level?’
And we decided that the most important part of drawing up goals and plans was actually putting them into action. That's the hard part!
We all know people who have written a beautiful business plan but in reality most of them are lying in a drawer somewhere gathering dust!
How do we stop this happening? What is the best way to take action and actually do the tasks in the plan. Also how can we find them all together in one place, organised, clear to use, monitor, update them and track progress.
The answer is using a business tool that will help you turn your goals and plans into something real.
There are lots of tools out there, here are some tools that will help you get stuff done asap. I have used all 4 tools at various times and they are all good for different things.
The idea is to find a tool which you like and which suits what you are doing. Because if you don’t like it, I’ll tell you now that the plan is not going to happen.
You need to love the tool you choose and therefore you will love your plan. That way you are more likely to open the tool, look at your plan, update it and more importantly do the tasks in it.
The first 3 tools are all online and are FREE - yes my favourite price!! You just need to Google the name, create an account and off you go…
The 4th tool is nice for those of us who still like pen and paper!
Trello has been around since 2011, I would recommend it for ‘to-do’ lists and simple plans. It's based around boards, each project is a board and on the boards you create cards and add tasks to the cards.
The great thing about Trello is it is visual and everyone can see at a glance how things are going. It is also great if you have to move tasks to different stages.
The tasks open to add lots of information such as description, comments, due dates, emends, colour codes, assign to other people, add attachments to documents.
You can share tasks and even share the whole board (project).
You can move the cards around and drag and drop the tasks onto different cards.
Trello will send you emails to remind you to do a task and also if somebody else updates your board.
Asana in a word is brilliant! I love it because its a proper project management tool.
It was created in 2008 by by facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz to improve productivity at Facebook and stop emails!
Its great for more complicated projects and plans and I also use it as my CRM (customer relationship management).
I find it easier to see the bigger picture (the whole project) than Trello as it has reporting functionality.
You set up different projects in the column on the left, then in the middle are the tasks relating to the project.
You can group tasks by adding heading, allocate people to tasks, add document attachments, due dates, colour codes and subtasks.
ASANA used as a CRM...
Milanote is the new kid on the block, it only came out in 2017 and is yet to have an app.
Like Trello it is also based around a bulletin board and is very visual. I would recommend it for anything with lots of images such as website design, graphic designs or interior design. It would also be good for creating a vision board. I’m using it to plan a holiday later this year.
You can have 1000 notes, images or links for free.
You can have boards within boards and share boards with other people.
You can drag and drop from anywhere including outside of Milanote.
You can add colour codes, lines to join up notes or images and check lists.
4. BULLET JOURNAL
I find that lots of people, including myself still like writing lists with pen and paper and ticking things off. I love that sense of achievement! Bullet journal is a sophisticated to-do list.
Basically its a to-do list with different bullets:
. is a task
o is an event
- is a note
* is an important bullet
x completed task
> means carry task forward
It’s easy to pick up, try it and see how you get on.
A good way to use these tools it to pick Trello, Asana or Milanote whichever one you like best. Put your plan in the tool, then use Bullet Journal on a weekly basis for those smaller tasks you want to tick off using pen & paper.
Remember doing lots of small tasks, do all add up and you will reap the benefits and get nearer towards the big goal.
Do you need help putting your plan into a business tool?
If you want to know more about how to use these tools or how to use them for your business plan, I offer 1-1 sessions or group workshops. The sessions are very practical and you will go home with your goals and plans set up in the selected tool, ready for you to take action. All you have to do is make it happen! For an initial chat, get in touch.
Two years ago I read a blog about writing a bragging list at the end of the year. So for the last two years I have written my bragging list and you know what, it is a great cathartic thing to do. It will make you feel great! Particularly if you are a small business owner like myself.
All you do is go through the past year and write down all your achievements. They can be big, medium or small but they are ALL something that has happened because of you. Because of something you did!
Being British we are not particularly good at bragging, at showing off (I did get the idea from an Australian) or boasting about our achievements. But if you do this list, I promise that you will get a lot from it. You don’t need to show it to anybody and you’ll be able to give yourself a big pat on the back.
Starter for 10..
If you are struggling for ideas. Here’s your starter for 10… a list of things you could include in your bragging list…
You can obviously expand this list and include what you have done and what works for you. The main thing is to write YOUR list.
So start writing your list now. Its a great activity to do between Christmas and New Year when you are all relaxed.
And don’t forget to give yourself a bit pat on the back and reward yourself for all your hard work and achievements.
Word of caution! - if you write your bragging list and feel you haven’t got much to brag about, please please don’t get too disheartened. It is a bit of fun and there are still lots of positives: you still have your own business, you are still aiming for those goals and you are NOT your business. There is much more to your life than your business.
Bragging List for 2018 - Starter for 10!
If you want to start your 2018 bragging list early. I have a freebie on the ‘Project Complete’ website called ‘Quarterly Checklist’ https://www.project-complete.com/free-quarterly-checklist.html, which my ‘Monthly Accountability’ clients use.
It makes you look at what you are doing in your business. Recording numbers, like for turnover, clients, social media etc. Each month you fill it in and after a full year you know where you started from and where you got to. If you are not writing things down, how to you know what your goals are and if you have achieved them? The Quarterly Checklist is a good place to start for writing your bragging list.
If you are a small business based in Cheshire, I would love to hear from you. I always work 1-1 and face to face to help local small businesses get to the next level, get more clients and/or get more profit. I am a Business Mentor with over 25 years of experience. To find out more visit my website at www.project-complete.com.
Every week I watch the TV programme ‘The Apprentice’ and every week the same disasters happen. Two project managers are appointed, they are called Project Managers but don’t seem to have any clue about what they are doing or how to work together as a team.
It is always a shambles, we all laugh at their stupidity and everybody thinks they could have done a better job - but it does make compelling TV watching and I love it!!
As I spent many years in the corporate world as a Project Manager, I find it very difficult to see any similarities between ‘The Apprentice’ Project Manager and the actual role of a real Project Manager. The Apprentice ones seem more like team leaders to me but hey ho that’s the title they want to use.
Who am I to object!
Is Project Management rocket science?
For the opposite of ‘The Apprentice’, if you Google ‘Project Management’. You will get a very complicated, complex view of methodologies, templates, processes, skills and experience – it makes your brain hurt! It makes mine hurt!
Which all must be completed in a certain order and involve lots of people and money. Woe betide you if you don’t follow this to the letter then your project will definitely fail.
There must be some middle ground?
If Project Management is such an exact science then how come the majority of projects still don’t complete on time, to budget and to specified quality?
There must be something in the middle between the utter shambles of ‘The Apprentice’ Project Managers and these complex overkill methodologies?
Otherwise how did the Pyramids get built, bridges suspended across huge gorges get constructed and hundreds of miles of canals dug out of the landscape? These all happened without a computer and complicated methodologies! Well, it might not have had a name but they were definitely doing some sort of large-scale organised effort.
I call this ‘Project Management Lite’; it’s the difference between being over complicated or doing nothing and winging it!
What is Project Management Lite?
Project Management Lite is about being organised, keeping it simple (stupid!!), using common sense and doing what works for you and your business.
It’s about doing what works and not doing what doesn’t work. Most of it you learn from knowledge and experience. Stuff that you can’t get in a book, stuff that you only get from actually managing projects.
Project Management ‘Lite’ will also work for small businesses
Think about it, as a small business owner do you have goals, a plan, activities, a to-do list, a restricted budget? Do you get stuff done, do you do activities that will get you towards your goals? Do you do what works, do you learn from your mistakes? Project management Lite will give you the techniques that will help you do all these tasks - but quicker, cheaper and with much less stress.
Your goals might be to grow your business, take your business to the next level, get more clients/customers, make more money!!! You’ll get there much faster and reap the rewards with these techniques.
Managing your business like a project
I use my past experience as a project manager in my work as a business mentor for small businesses because those skills, techniques and experience that I learned over 25 years are what works.
Managing your business like a project isn’t difficult but you need to be clear, organised and keep on track. Definitely don’t be like the project managers on ‘The Apprentice’!
If you want to know more about how to run your business like a project? Then download my FREE Project Management Top Tips , try them in your business and see how they help.
They are gathered over my many years of Project Management experience and really work if you want a successful business.
Let me know how you get on...
If you prefer to watch a video, here is a video version of the blog...
For the last couple of years, since I’ve been running my own small business, I’ve been going to networking groups. One thing I have noticed is that they are all very different, no two groups are the same. And you definitely need to find the ones you like and ones which suit you!
You also need to find the one’s which work for you!
I wrote about how you can find the networking groups which suit you in a previous blog called ‘Confessions of a Business Networker’.
Most of the networking groups I attend are women only and I've started to notice some similarities about these women:
The Big Thing
But the big thing that I’ve noticed about these business owners is that they genuinely want to help each other succeed. They want to use each others businesses and they want to recommend each other.
They want other women in the same position to do well!!!
I’ve begun to notice this a lot. So, the other day I had a quick think about how these women buy from each other in one network group that I am a member of.
Within about a minute I had connected the following businesses together. These are business owners who buy each others products or use each others services.
You know who you are??? And there are many many more connections just from this one networking group.
What these women are also doing by using each others business, is shopping local. The more money you keep in the local economy the more money stays in the local economy. Keep doing this and the money goes round in a circle within your local community.
If we buy from big corporate businesses where does the money go? Who knows?
More than likely it goes out of our local communities and doesn’t come back. Gone!!!
Support Local Businesses
So like the women in the Networking group, lets all buy more and more local. Support our small businesses to keep the money in the community and help benefit us all.
The networking group has become the new 'local', so lets keep shopping more and more in our 'local' networking groups.
‘Share the Love’
This networking group definitely works for me and the other business owners in it. Wanting to help each other and keeping it local.
In my business I love helping other businesses to achieve their goals and be successful. If I can make them happy, then it makes me happy. It all has a knock on effect, they win, I win, everybody wins - Yeah!!!
If you want to make more money for your business and help to boost your local community - get in touch.
If you prefer to watch a video, here is a video version of the blog...
Recently I’ve been talking to a couple of my clients about the Rollercoaster effect of running your own business.
One minute everything is going great, its working well, you’re busy, getting new clients and you are on a high at the top of the Rollercoaster.
The next minute you are plummeting down and suddenly things aren't going too well.
Maybe a client hasn't rebooked, maybe you are having a quiet week or maybe things just aren't going to plan? You are feeling down, deflated and a bit depressed at the bottom of the Rollercoaster.
It happens to me and every other business owner I speak to and it can be the smallest thing that moves you to the top and doing a happy dance or crashing to the bottom wondering if its all worth while!
This image I like says it all….
When you are at the bottom of that Rollercoaster, do you think…
Last week I watched a Marie Forleo video called - ‘How to know whether to quit or commit’ http://bit.ly/2uuN3EL
In the video Marie uses 3 questions to help answer this quandary and I realised that Marie’s 3 questions related very much to how you feel when you are at the bottom of the Rollercoster.
So here are my take on Marie’s 3 questions. Try these next time you are at the bottom of the Rollercoster, to work out if everything is actually ok.
1. Are you measuring?
Often when we are at the bottom of the rollercoaster we FEEL like everything is going badly - but is it???
If you feel you haven't got enough clients or you aren’t making enough profit or simply your Facebook Ads campaign isn't working?
Well, these are all things you can measure i.e. they have a number
Once you are tracking the numbers, you can see, over time if it is working.
It might not feel like those numbers are going in the right direction today but look over a week, a month or even a year and if they are going in the right direction, then you are on track!
2. Why? Yep its that big old question again!!
Why are you doing this?
Are you sure you know?
I want you to dig deeper into the ‘Why’, to probe and then probe some more. Eventually it will emerge and you will get to the real reason why!
Be truthful to yourself and then you will know why you are here doing this thing, whatever it is!
If it’s still worth it, you know you can do it, persevere and carry on.
3. Opportunity Costs
Now you might not have heard of this one and its also something most people don’t consider.
It means - what opportunities am I giving up to do this? We can’t be in 2 places at one time, so when you spend your time doing one thing you give up the opportunity to do something else.
For example - if I work Saturday, I earn money but I give up the opportunity to be with my family.
Thinking about how you are feeling at the bottom of the rollercoaster and the question - Do I give up my business?
Ask yourself is my business worth what I am giving up. Sometimes we have to wonder.
But then ask yourself ‘What opportunities would I have to give up if I worked for somebody else?’
Working for yourself might not seem so bad - it definitely doesn’t for me.
What would happen if you gave up your business, what would the costs be if you took another course of action. Don’t only look at money but also time, clients, family & friends and your wellbeing.
Write down all the Opportunity Costs and see if it’s still worth it.
Once you've done the 3 questions, did it answer those feelings you had at the bottom of the rollercoaster? Is everything actually OKAY?
If you are stuck and need help, get in touch. I know lots of easy and proven ways for you to get more clients, keep clients, make more profit and get your business to where you would like it to be.
Nobody likes being stung whether it is by a bee or a wasp or in this case in business. Recently a client of mine was stung in business (not by me I might add!).
She ordered a piece of work to be done and was expecting an invoice. But what she hadn’t planned for was the surprise she got at the final cost. It was way over what she was expecting to pay.
The cost of the work was significantly higher that expected and my client wasn’t a happy bunny to put it mildly. It left a bad taste in her mouth.
How to avoid unwanted surprises in business
In Project Management, projects are driven by three constraints - scope, time & cost and these will directly effect any changes we are making in our own businesses.
When you are trying to grow your business, if you have a good understanding of these constraints you will be able to get things done quicker and cheaper and more importantly you will never get an unwanted surprise.
What do the 3 constraints mean?
Scope – this is the work you have agreed to have undertaken and should be an exact specification of what you want doing and (just as important) what you don’t want doing!
Time – how long it is going to take for the agreed work to be completed? Does the work have to be done by a specific date (e.g. opening a new shop) or is it more flexible.
Cost – how much it is going to cost for the agreed work or how much have you budgeted for the work.
All 3 constraints should be fully agreed between you and the supplier, or if it is your business, between you and your client before any work is started.
The reason the 3 constraints are shown on a triangle is that 1 cannot change without affecting the others. Project Management is all about balancing these 3 constraints and it is true for small businesses.
If once the work has started, there is a change in 1 of the constraints it will cause changes in the other 2 and you can bet your bottom dollar that this will happen - because that is life!
Coping with changes
For example: you have agreed with a web designer that they will create a 5 page website for your business and that it will be up and running within 21 days at a cost of £600
What happens when….
Maybe you thought you had £600 but now you’ve realised you only have £500
Then the SCOPE will have to be reduced (the Web Designer can only create 4 pages for the new price) or the TIME will increase (it will take the Web Designer a week longer) or both!
You decide you want a shopping function adding or that you need some training to update the website yourself
This will, either COST you more or take more TIME or both!
You now need the website finished in 2 weeks
This will have a knock on effect of either increasing COST (the Web Designer may need to change priority on work or contract somebody else to do the job) or a decrease in SCOPE (less gets done) or both! e.g. You might get 4 web pages in 14 days!
If you make any changes to the original SCOPE, TIME and/or COST, then make sure they are agreed by both parties and in writing. You’d be surprised how many people don’t do this!! And suffer the consequences.
Hopefully you can now see how TIME, COST and SCOPE are interrelated and how if one changes, it effects the other two?
There is also another constraint in Project Management called ‘Quality’. It’s no good doing the work to agreed TIME, COST and SCOPE, if the quality isn’t good enough. But that’s a whole topic for another day.
Back to my client....
Are you wondering how she coped with her surprise increase in cost on the invoice?
Well she did the right thing; she contacted the supplier and expressed her shock and surprise that this cost was not agreed.
They had a discussion and as the supplier is an honest and genuine person, they came to an agreement on the cost that they are both happy with.
WIN – WIN!!!
It could have turned out very differently for my client.
The moral of this story for both business owner and supplier is make sure that TIME, COST and SCOPE are fully agreed and understood up front.
All business transactions should be a WIN – WIN for both parties involved. If not, I would bet that it is one of the Project Management 3 constraints that have caused the problem.
For a FREE 20 min consultation on how I can help you manage your business, so you don’t get stung, contact me now.
I’ve been reflecting recently about what it takes to run a successful business; maybe it’s with the start of a new year and lots of opportunities but who knows!
Have you ever noticed that while you are looking or thinking about something it pops up in front of you?
A couple of weeks ago Martin Lewis from Moneysupermarket.com was on BBC’s The One Show. Martin was doing some filming giving a synopsis of how he ‘made it’ and his view on business.
Martin did his economics degree at the London School of Economics and in the short film he went back to LSE and gave a talk to some students about what he has learned. He said that you need 4 things to be successful in business:
Some people will do all of the above and fail others will do all of the above and succeed. The only difference is LUCK!!
From my point of view: No. 1 - I think/hope I have, no.2 - yep I can do that, no. 3 - I’m getting better at but no.4???
LUCK? What is Luck?
I’m intrigued if you can do the first 3 to the best of your ability and still fail because you didn’t get any luck? What is the mystical thing called ‘luck’ and how do we get some.
Last time I looked you couldn’t buy it in John Lewis!!!
It’s because there are a lot of things in life that are out of your control.
Imagine that you’ve always wanted to run your own coffee shop (I know a few people who have this as a dream!). You’ve got lots of past retail customer experience, you’ve found your ideal place, you’ve been on all the training, you open your dream shop and work all the hours you can and you love it, but it fails!
Why does it fail? There could be lots of reasons.
It could be that we have an economic downturn and people stop buying expensive coffees or a big multi-national coffee chain opens across the road.
Whatever the reason…
Things happen, things you can’t control – unfortunately that’s life and sometimes there’s not a lot we can do about it.
The thing is, don’t beat yourself up, it’s not that other people are better than you, it’s just that they might have been luckier than you.
Be kind to yourself
And remember that most entrepreneurs including Martin Lewis, tried lots of different things before they found the one that worked.
They didn’t give up but they also knew when the time was right to move on to something else.
They used the first 3 points above i.e. strengthened their talent, focussed on where they could make the most difference and worked hard to make it happen.
Happy New Year and lets hope it’s a fantastic one!! Hope you’ve had a great time, eaten and drunk too much but most of all had a rest and a change of pace.
To be honest I wasn’t planning on writing this blog but I feel I’ve got too, as I’ve started to feel something the last few days and I’ve got to tell you.
Aren’t you lucky!!!
I’m bored, really bored…..
Bored of reading about resolutions, goals, plans, quotes, inspirations, perfect lives... etc. etc.
And does it help? No, well not for me anyway.
It just makes me feel meh, inadequate and maybe even a bit of a failure.
It’s not that we haven’t heard any of it before, heard it all this time last year and you can bet you’ll be hearing about it all this time next year.
It’s my own fault for spending far too much time on social media and I realise that my own posts are adding to the issue.
Yes, this is me talking! If reading about goals is boring to me ‘the goal queen’ what does it do to everybody else?
So what if you haven’t done any goals, plans or resolutions. Does it really matter?
I have always thought that January is a bad time to start anything. If it works for you, that’s fine but if you feel more up for it at other times of the year, well that’s fine as well.
Whatever works for you?
My suggestion is, lets get all this social media rubbish about everybody’s perfect life into proportion and spend your time concentrating on what works for you and your business.
What I am though, is feeling up for it, ready to go and in the starting blocks!
Are you up for it? Is your business going to be the best it can be in 2017?
Do you know anybody who could do with some help in their business?
As well as small businesses, I’m also on the look out to help larger businesses that really want to expand and grow but haven’t got the time to make it happen. I want to get involved, help them get ‘to where they want to be’, spend more time with them, feel part of their business. Work together.
If you feel I’ve been ranting, I’m sorry but it’s always good to be open and honest. So lets stop all this trying to be helpful nonsense and lets just get on with it.
In the words of Nike: ‘Just do it’!!!
Do you watch the BBC show – The Apprentice? I do and I’m a big fan. Every week I am fascinated by how the project managers try and do the task, manage the team, don’t listen and break every rule in the book!
But I’ve started to notice something else in this series, it’s probably always been there but maybe I’m just more aware, now I run my own business. The thing is, everybody seems to be nasty and especially nasty when it comes to how you treat people and getting sales.
Every week, the Apprentice makes me think, ‘can’t you be nice in business?'
When I definitely know you can.
I know that if I was nasty in business, I would not get many clients and any that I did, certainly wouldn’t be around for long!
What's the alternative to being ‘nasty’? Is it being ‘nice’?
‘Nice’ people are often thought of being people pleasers who don’t like confrontation and can be treated as doormats.
You don’t have to be ruthless and you don’t have to be a doormat. I think there is another way and that is to be kind in business.
I also realise that my best, most happy, most successful and long-term relationships are ones where I am kind but not necessarily nice.
Do you think being nasty in business works? Or that being kind is a better option?
Let me know….
I must confess I love the Martini slogan .....
If you are a small business owner, at some time or other you will attend - networking events.
I made a conscious decision earlier this year that I needed to get out more, press the flesh and meet like-minded business owners. What I didn’t expect was how many networking events there are – you could go to one everyday! – and how different they all are!
But what I have realised is, that you need to find ones you like and ones which suit you.
Last week I went to two very different types of networking events. The 1st was a Business Expo, which is like a trade show but instead of all the businesses being the same type or on a theme say, The Catering Industry, these were any type of business. So in 30 stands we had a wine seller, telecoms, business magazine, indoor golf for events and graphic designers, to name a few.
The 2nd event was a ladies only networking group with a workshop called ‘Martini Networking – anytime, anyplace, anywhere!’
These two events were worlds apart when it comes to learning about networking, so here’s a (hopefully) light hearted, tongue-in-cheek look at what I learned at the two events.
Depends on why you are at the networking event and what you are trying to achieve? Ask yourself these two questions before you next attend an event.
Going to networking events can be a bizarre experience and you never know quite what to expect. But my recommendation, is to find the one’s you like, stick with them, keep rocking up, meet interesting like-minded people and don’t take it too seriously.
You never know you might build relationships, which will lead to work, and referrals both ways.
Let me know your experiences of networking events and what you think works and what’s a no no!!!
All blogs are written by Karen @ Project Complete.