5 Steps To Improve Your Quoting Process

5-steps-to-improve-your-quoting-process

If your business is constantly hitting bottlenecks or dead ends when it comes to quoting, it’s time to look at your processes as it will save you daily frustration and hours of wasted time.

In previous posts we spoke about the difference between systems and processes and how to create business systems for a new product launch.

Leads, sales and customers can easily fall through the cracks if we don’t have the right processes and systems in place and your business won’t thrive.

.

Business processes don’t happen by accident. It takes practice to get it right and they need constant tweaking. 

.

INEFFICIENT BUSINESS PROCESSES WILL CAUSE…

  • Bottlenecks
  • Delays
  • Loss of sales
  • Duplication of work
  • Communication breakdowns
  • Dissatisfied customers and staff, and
  • Potential legal issues.

.

“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

~ W. EDWARDS DEMING

.

alicia-menkveld-point-1a

HOW QUOTING IS DONE IN MOST COMPANIES

Let’s say you have a web design, copywriting, photography, virtual assistant or any other services-based company.

You received a request in your inbox from a potential customer who are interested in your services. They want more information and a quote on a specific package.

You need to deal with the request and send out a quote to the customer.

This is an example of what the process flowchart for quoting can look like. Yours can be different as every business operates differently.

.

quoting-process-flowchart

OK let’s look at what happened here:

STEP #1 – WEBSITE

A customer browsed your website and a website form has been completed to start the request process.

There a 2 options:

  1. You have a generic “Contact Us” form on your website where you get a name, email, telephone number and a short generic message OR
    .
  2. You have a form that’s linked to a specific product/service on a specific page with a few additional questions in a drop down box, so you can get the best possible information to prepare a quote with, without having to contact them first.
    .

STEP #2 – PEOPLE

The enquiry is received via email by yourself or a staff member while you’re busy dealing with other important things. A note is made to deal with it later or it’s simply left in the inbox to come back to it later.

.

STEP #3 – POSSIBLE PROBLEMS

  1. The day stays busy and no one deals with the request till the next day or late that night.
  2. If more than 1 person is involved in the process, Person A can assume Person B is dealing with it (or visa versa) and no one deals with it.
  3. Both people involved in the process deal with the request and try to contact the potential customer/ lead.
  4. The request is remembered, but when the potential customer/ lead is called, they are not available so a voicemail is left.

.

STEP #4 – POSSIBLE OUTCOMES

  1. The potential customer/ lead has found another supplier by the time you get back to them.
  2. Nothing is done as everyone assumes the other person dealt with it and now a lead and possible sale is lost OR
  3. Both contacts deal with the request and confuse the potential customer/ lead, especially if the message or pricing differs.
  4. Telephone tag is played for several hours or days until you speak to each other OR
  5. You phone and get hold of the potential customer/ lead, you discuss their needs and promise a quote (with or without a timeframe).

.

STEP #5 – QUOTE = MONEY IN THE BANK, RIGHT?

  1. A quote is prepared.
  2. The quote is sent to the potential customer/ lead within 1-2 days from the first time the request has been received.
    .

2 POSSIBLE OUTCOMES:

  1. You never hear back from the potential customer/ lead.
  2. The quote is accepted.

.

IF YOU DON’T HEAR BACK, 2 THINGS CAN HAPPEN:

  1. Nothing happens – you don’t hear back AND you don’t follow up because you’re too busy or you forget OR
  2. You don’t hear back and you DO follow up.

In the second option, you get another opportunity to answer any questions or objections, make a sale or at the very least you’ll learn why they didn’t accept your quote so you can improve your product or service.

.

STEP #6 – OPERATIONS

IF the quote has been accepted, the following will happen:

  1. Create an account or invoice depending on your business model
  2. Check availability for services and timelines for the requested products from your inventory and communicate any issues
  3. Prepare the order
  4. Deliver the order
  5. Issue the final invoice (if applicable)
  6. Follow up on payment if it’s not received within terms stated.

.

This is where the process stops for most businesses. Be smart and make more money than your competition.

.

alicia-menkveld-point-2a

5 STEPS TO IMPROVE A YOUR QUOTING PROCESS

.

At least this company HAS a process, so that’s a great start!

However, you can clearly see all the inefficiencies in their quoting process like the bottlenecks, delays, potential loss of sales, duplication of work, potential for communications breakdowns and disappointed customers.

So let’s look at how you can improve your quoting process:

.

STEP #1 – WEBSITE
.

Ensure:

  1. The form is linked to a specific Quotes Page VS a generic form on the Contact Us Page. Get a name, email and telephone number at a bare minimum.
    .
  2. You get as much specific information about their needs as possible e.g. which products/services they’re interested in, quantity required, by when it’s need it, budget available and anything else relevant to your business.

Give a preliminary estimation from the info they provided, if possible.

Use the information they provided to be better prepared for the call, by having the right product/service info and pricing available when speaking to the potential customer/ lead.

Include any suggestions of other products your business offers that the potential customer/ lead might need. Think about Amazon’s suggestions “You might also like…”. 

Great questions to include in your website form:

“Where did you hear about us?”

“When is a good time for us to call you?” or have an online calendar link where they can book themselves in for a call with you.

.

STEP #2 + #3 – PEOPLE + PROBLEMS
.

  1. Create an automated email reply to the enquiry form to notify the customer that the enquiry has been received and give them an indication of when they can expect to hear back from you.
    .
  2. If you are the only person dealing with enquiries, set up your email so that all enquiries go directly to a dedicated folder in your inbox. Plan your day to ensure you check this folder at least 3 times a day and have time to deal with enquiries.
    .
  3. If there are more than one person dealing with enquiries use a system that can track who dealt with the enquiry and when it happened, to avoid any duplication. Set it up that if one team member cannot reply within a set time, then the enquiry will be passed on to the next available team member who can respond.
    .
  4. Voicemail – Call but don’t leave messages as they can be can be lost or missed. Instead set a reminder and call back again in 10-20 mins or in the dedicated times you planned for. Never leave it up to a customer to call you back.

.

STEP #4 – POSSIBLE OUTCOMES
.

  1. They already found another supplier: Improve your business’ response time immediately. Ask them politely to share with you the reason why they chose the other supplier. Use any information to improve your products/ services.
    .
  2. You got hold of them and speak to them about their needs: Really listen what they need instead of only trying to sell your stuff. Ask for any details that will help you serve them better e.g. their timelines, etc. Have they also considered XYZ and upsell them on any other items your business offers.
    .
  3. Quote: Get all the details needed to prepare the quote, say by when they can expect the quote and stick to that time.

.

STEP #5 – QUOTE = MONEY, RIGHT?
.

  1. Quote: Always try and send out the quote before the deadline you promised it by, as this sets the tone for the relationship.
    .
  2. Follow-up: Always follow up! Contact the potential customer/ lead the day after the quote was sent to confirm it has been received (emails get lost in junk folders). If they have time to talk, ask if they have any questions or need more information on the products/services, pricing or timelines. Then close the sale.
    .
  3. They aren’t interested: Be brave and ask why not, in a friendly, non-threatening way. What can you do better next time to win their business?
    .
  4. Regardless of the outcome, ask their permission to add them to your mailing list for future promotions, announcements of new products/ services or events as it can lead to future sales. If they’ve had a pleasant experience with you there is no reason why they should object.

.

STEP #6 – OPERATIONS
.

  1. Create Account/ Invoice: If you often have to chase payments start invoicing 50% upfront before any further work is done and then 50% before delivery.
    .
  2. Communicate often. Whether there are problems or not, keep in touch with your customers on a regular basis and let them know how their order or project progresses, what the next step in the process is and manage their expectations. People are far more understanding of delays or mishaps if you’ve been in touch throughout the process.
    .
  3. Orders: Always try and deliver the order before the promised deadline as it’s bound to wow your customer, lead to more sales + better Word-of-Mouth (WOM) for your business. If you run into problems, see point #2 above.
    .
  4. AFTER CARE:* Most businesses don’t give their customers a second thought the moment the order has been delivered. This is your most important time to make an impression and stand out from the crowd.
    .
  5. Add all details to your database and set a follow-up date in the future 2-3 months from now to call them.

.

*AFTER-CARE QUESTIONS TO ASK:

// Was everything as expected?

// Were they happy with the customer service?

// Any suggestions for improvement?

// How likely are they to recommend you to other?

// Who else do you know that you can refer me to?

// Will it be OK with you if I touch base in 2 months’ time?

.

MOST IMPORTANTLY:

// Get their feedback over the phone and use it as a testimonial (with their permission). Record the feedback call and then get it transcribed. Then use the testimonial in your marketing material.

// Always ask for MORE BUSINESS – who else do they know that you can talk to and do they themselves need anything else?

alicia-menkveld-point-3a

 YOUR TURN

.

Create or refine your quoting process in your business.

.

QUESTION:

Do you have a documented quoting process in your business? Leave your comment below.

.

#smallbusinesssuccessskills

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

Bad Business Habits (Part 2) Procrastination

bad-business-habits-procrastination.

We went into business to be our own boss, earn more money and have the lifestyle we only dreamed about while working for someone else. However, most business owners I speak to complain about:

  • working longer hours than they ever imagined
  • always having a fire to fight
  • worrying where the next customer and dollar will come from
  • missing out on events and having very little to no free time.
    .

I find that it’s our bad business habits that get in the way of having a successful business and another bad habit is procrastination – a slow but lethal business and dream-killer.

.
PROCRASTINATION 

.
When it comes to bad business habits, not doing anything or consistently choosing to do the wrong tasks, are just as bad as chasing too many rabbits which was also covered in the bad business habits series.

When we procrastinate on the important but non-urgent tasks in our business, it’s normally because we’re afraid.

Deep down, we know the task will help us get more clients, make more money, set us free or help us to be seen, but:

  • we’re afraid of the consequences of taking the action – fear of failure and fear of success OR
  • we dislike doing the task or find it boring like accounting OR
  • we don’t know how to do the task, so we put it off.
    .

Whether we stay busy with the wrong things, do too many things at once or do nothing… the results are always the same. We’re left disappointed in ourselves for not reaching our goals, growing our business or starting to live our dream.
.

“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.” 

~ CHRISTOPHER PARKER

.

Bad Business Habits (Part 2) Procrastination

alicia-menkveld-point-1a

TRACK YOUR TRIGGERS

.
Procrastination can be triggered by any task that scares you on some level e.g.

You may dread:

  • making follow-up calls to potential clients
  • calling a client when a problem arises
  • developing a new product or service
  • preparing quotes
  • doing marketing
  • making sales calls
  • reaching out for help…

So instead of doing the tasks that will grow your business, you do low-level tasks that keep you busy, but also stuck.

Start tracking what triggers your procrastination habits over the next week or month to look for patterns in your behaviour. Once you know this, you can start working on a solution.blog-image-key-ideas1

You can:

  • outsource the task
  • learn the skills needed to perform the task with confidence and ease e.g. enrolling in sales training or engaging a consultant to help you with a specific business area like marketing
  • get accountability to keep you on track – get a buddy or a business coach
  • face the underlying fears that keep you from doing the task e.g work on your mindset to address a fear of failure or success.
    .
Popular go-to procrastination habits are checking email, scrolling social media or having a meeting.

.alicia-menkveld-point-2a

KNOW YOUR EXCUSES

.
Business owners justify their compulsive checking of email and social media feeds by saying “my customers need me”.

Yes, your customers do need you to…

  • communicate a problem on a project
  • communicate an extended deadline
  • send them the quote you said you’ll send ASAP
  • improve your customer service, and
  • improve your products or services.

Over the next 30 days, identify when and how you tend to procrastinate when you’re trying to do important work. Notice the excuses you use to justify your behaviour to yourself or to others.blog-image-key-ideas1

Remember, by not doing the important work in your business, you hurt your confidence and your business.

  • Note the tasks you struggle to get done
  • Pinpoint your go-to procrastination habits when you face these tasks
  • Come up with a few simple steps to help you overcome the urge to procrastinate
  • Schedule enough time to get the tasks done each day
  • Remove all temptations when you sit down to do the work e.g. turn off all notifications during this time.
    .

CLARIFYING QUESTIONS – ASK YOURSELF:

  • Which tasks do I regularly avoid doing on a daily/ weekly basis?
  • What is my go-to procrastination habit when I’m faced with a difficult task?
  • What steps will I put in place to curb this bad habit?

.

QUESTION:
.
What is your Top Tip for overcoming procrastination? Leave your comment below.
.
#smallbusinesssuccessskills

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

How Productive Are You At Work?

track-your-time-at-work

 

We’re notoriously bad at estimating time. We underestimate how long something will take to do and overestimate how much time we have to do it… a deadly mistake.

The livelihood of your business depends on you being able to estimate how much time you and your team spend on work tasks.

.

Most humans can’t estimate their time accurately. This is why enjoyable events seem short and the boring ones seem to last forever.

~ TOGGL.COM

.

THE FACTS

.

A McKinsey&Company study of 1,500 executes (General Managers or above) across the globe have found that only 9% of respondents were ‘very satisfied’ with the way they spent their time.

Close to a third were ‘actively dissatisfied’.

More shockingly, nearly 50% admitted that they weren’t concentrating enough on the strategic direction of the business.

After speaking to hundreds of business owners, I’d say that nearly 8 out of 10 business owners are not paying enough attention to the strategic direction of their business or planning their success each year.

When was the last time you thought about the type of projects you want to spend your time on or how many hours a week you would like to work?

You can’t effectively calculate how many hours you want to work, if you don’t even know how long it takes you and/or your team to complete a task or project.
.

“Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.”

~ PETER DRUCKER

.

Businesses have feast and famine cycles because business owners don’t know how long things take them to do.

They get stuck in the cycle of drumming up business and then having so much work that they can’t keep up… Then they’re left with no time to do marketing, sales and follow-ups calls, until they hit the next bust cycle.

This happens because they:
.

  • don’t know how long it takes to get a new client
  • don’t know how long client projects really take to be completed
  • don’t factor in how long ‘marketing activities take to kick in’ and they wait until clients have dried up
  • don’t schedule weekly time in their diaries to do the important money-making activities in their business.

.
Business owners who start tracking their work hours are normally shocked by how little time they spend on high impact activities that make money or move the business forward.
.

EXAMPLE:

Let’s say you want to sign up 1 new client per week.
.

1. Is that a realistic goal for your business and the industry you work in?

In some industries it can take 8-12 months to sign up a new client which means you’ll need to work this into your strategic planning for the year. On the other hand, you could have a business where 100 customers a week is the norm.
.

2. Do you know which 2-3 activities will bring in a new client/customer each week for your business?

This is not about trends or what works for other people, it’s about what works for you.

Is it: Paid online advertising like Facebook Ads, phone calls, your Instagram account, building relationships with the right suppliers, your online or brick and mortar shop, speaking at events, print advertising or even radio/ TV advertising?
.

3. How much time do you need to devote to these activities every week to be successful?

Well that will depend on how long it takes you from start to finish to sign up new clients – is it 5 hours, 3 days, a week or perhaps 8 months? Your approach would be very different for each.

These are the things you need to know if you want to stop the boom and bust cycles in your business. So where do you spend your time at work – is it on firefighting, admin, managing staff, operations, procrastination or business development?

Let’s find out.

.

Track Your Time At Work 

alicia-menkveld-point-1a

THE EXERCISE
.

Tracking your time for a week but ideally one month will help you understand:

  • how you use your time at work
  • when you’re most productive
  • how ‘dead’ time zones occur and how to fix it.

.
You might think you’re working as productively as you can, but many factors influence the time we take to do something e.g. energy levels, illness, stress, the environment, willpower and of course interruptions.
.

Do you know how long it takes you to:

  • make follow-up calls with potential customers who previously requested information or quotes
  • contact existing clients for referrals
  • prepare and send out a quote or proposal
  • create a marketing email to clients
  • prepare for and have a client meeting?

Make it your mission to find out this week.

.

THIS EXERCISE WILL PRODUCE SURPRISING RESULTS:
.

#1 Start today and have a look at currently scheduled activities in your diary for the day + week.

#2 Edit each calendar entry for the week by adding how long you think the activity will take you to complete e.g. Meeting with Edward (150 min or 2hrs 30min) – include preparation time, travel time + actual meeting time.

#3 Decide how will you track your time e.g. pen + paper, excel spreadsheet or time tracking app. Don’t spend hours researching all the time management apps available, it defeats the purpose!

Keep it simple by downloading our time tracking template (in Excel) or sign up for the free version of Toggl or TrackingTime.

I personally use Toggl and it took me less than 5 minutes to sign up and get started. It tracks activities in real time or if you forgot to start the timer, you can later add the time manually. Both desktop and smart phone versions are available.

#4 Track your time daily for at least one week to get a grip on your time patterns. Work in 30 minute increments.

Don’t get hung up on tracking exact minutes when you do it manually – rough estimates are fine. You might be off by minutes but certainly not hours, which is still better than not tracking your time at all.

#5 At the end of a day compare what you’ve planned to do and the time you’ve allocated for the activity VS what actually happened.

Now we can start making informed decisions and tweak your behavior daily for better results.

 

5-steps-to-track-your-time-at-work/

EXAMPLE TIME TRACKER IN EXCEL

 

alicia-menkveld-point-2a

 PICK UP THE TRENDS

.

Once you tracked your days for about a week it’s easy to spot trends in how you spend your days.
.

CLARIFYING QUESTIONS

.
By looking at your results over the last week:

  • On a scale of 1-10 how happy are you with the way you spent your time?
    (1 = lowest, 10 = highest)
  • Where was time wasted? 
    (note the times + the specific activities)
  • When were you super focused and got a lot done in a short period of time?
    (note the times + the specific activities)
  • How much did you stray from your planned activities?
    (hardly at all, only a few times, all the time)
  • What were the main causes for this to have happened?
    (distractions, firefighting, admin, staff, operations, procrastination)
  • Which activities didn’t get done at all?
    (reasons for this)
  • What will you start doing next week?
    (changes to improve)
  • What will you stop doing next week? 
    (changes to improve)

Answering the above questions will help you become aware of your energy cycles and the tasks you love to do and avoid to do.

This will help you to plan your days around your most productive hours where you do your best work in the shortest period of time and help you start noticing the tasks you dislike doing or procrastinate on doing.

.blog-image-key-ideas1

WHAT TO DO NEXT
.

  • Create blocks of 1-4 hours of uninterrupted work-time every day around your most productive hours.  Use this time to focus on high level business activities that bring in money, tasks that require problem solving or creative output and important meetings.
    .
  • Leave low level activities that require less intensive focus like admin or website updates for low-energy times.
    .
  • Identify major distractions (staff walking in with questions), unplanned crisis (IT failure) and time-wasters (checking social media) and create processes or systems to help you better manage your time.

Once you start recognising and replacing bad habits, you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes to your working week, your levels of happiness and to your bottom line.
.

QUESTION:
.
What was your biggest realization when you started tracking your time? Leave your comment below.
.
#smallbusinesssuccessskills

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

3 Easy Steps To Plan Your Business Goals

3-easy-steps-to-plan-your-business-goals

 

Most small business owners complain about:

  • working longer hours than they ever imagined
  • not being able to consistently reach their goals, and
  • constantly worrying where the next money and clients will come from.

This slowly kills the passion they have for their business and leave them doubting their ability to succeed in creating a lifestyle business. A main reason for this is…
.

… the GAP between PLANNING our business goals and strategy, and what we DO on a daily basis.

.
Recent studies in corporate companies have shown that up to two-thirds of decisions made in annual strategy sessions are never implemented! In my experience, the stats would be very similar for small businesses.

You see it’s easy to sit in a planning session (even only with yourself) and decide on the annual business goals to pursue but it’s 10X harder to execute on those business goals when you’re in the thick of things and:

  • taking customer calls
  • preparing quotes
  • answering emails
  • doing marketing
  • managing a team and many other things on a daily basis.
    .
We get distracted by every squeaky wheel in our business, instead of sticking to our plan.

So our biggest struggle is to link our yearly business goals and plans to what we do day-by-day and hour-by-hour in our business. Here are 3 easy steps to turn your business goals into successful completions.

.

“Vision leads to proper planning and proper planning leads to successful completion.”

~ FARSHAD ASL (The ‘No Excuses’ Mindset Book)

.

 

3 Easy Steps To Plan Your Business Goals

There is a difference between being effective and being efficient. When it comes to executing our plan we want to make sure that we’re as effective as possible.

This means being laser-focused on working on the right things in our business that will move us forward and make the biggest impact.

3-easy-steps-to-plan-your-business-goals

.

alicia-menkveld-point-1a

THINK QUARTERLY

It’s crucial to know what success looks like for you. Effective business owners know what they want to achieve and then set business goals that will help them achieve their vision while taking the daily action to get there.

Let’s say you want to lose weight and you’re not clear on what you want to achieve… you could lose one kilogram and be successful because you lost weight or you could lose 10 kg and fail if you wanted to lose 20 kg.

It’s the same for your business goals e.g. let’s say you want to make an extra $50K this year, there are many ways to reach that goal.

blog-image-key-ideas1

WHAT TO DO NEXT

1. Identify the 1-2 high-impact activities that bring in the most money in your business and that will get you to $50K the quickest

2. Commit to doubling or tripling the amount of time you spend on these 1-2 activities every week

3. Schedule non-negotiable blocks of time in your diary to work on these activities every day.
.

EXAMPLE: PRODUCT LAUNCH
.

One of Your Annual Business Goals:
Generate an extra $50K from an existing product/ service this year to a new client base.
.

Quarterly Business Goals:
You identified one of your high-impact activities as a very profitable and time-efficient online program or physical product or service, and you decide to launch it in 3 months’ time. You estimate you can make an additional $20K from this activity this quarter.
.

Example Main Activities: (not a comprehensive list)

// Research the new market to determine viability
// Adjust your marketing material to suit the market
// Create a marketing plan
// Market the product
// Launch the product

Estimate the amount of time needed to complete each activity and the people needed to complete the activities. Work it into the planning and set milestones to track progress along the way.

Use a software like Trello, Asana or any other project management and workflow software to lay out your project and assign activities to team members.
.

Example Tasks: (not a comprehensive list)

// Create a survey for the new market, send out the survey + analyse the results
// Update website e.g. create a new landing page + shopping cart item
// Plan out social media posts, etc. etc.

Allocate time every day to work on the most important activities to move the project forward and work towards the set milestones. Schedule weekly progress check-ins with yourself + your team.
.

There are many moving parts (activities + sub tasks) that need to be completed to achieve this quarterly goal.

That’s why it’s crucial to stay focused every day and to say No to any other distractions that come your way.

.

alicia-menkveld-point-2a

PLAN WEEKLY
.

Once you’re clear on your business goals and identified the 1-2 high-impact activities that will help you reach that goals, it’s time commit to doing these activities ‘no matter what’.

We’re all busy and life throws us curve balls all the time but unless we see these activities as non-negotiable, I can guarantee you that something else will come up to throw you off course, within a week if not days.

And that’s a hallmark of successful and effective people – their ability to be clear about their goals and their unwavering commitment to making it happen ‘no matter what’.

Let’s go back to our weight loss example:
.

Would you be more motivated to lose weight in situation A or B?

.
A. It would be nice to lose a few kilograms before I going to that wedding next month, or

B. The doctor just told you that unless you lose weight immediately you only have 6 months to live…

Of course your motivation will be higher in situation B, because your life literally depends on it.

And you’ll make time to exercise and eat healthy every day instead of making excuses like, “I didn’t have time today, I’ll do it tomorrow.
.

Unfortunately we don’t always experience this drastic urgency in our business…

.
That’s why it’s sometimes harder for business owners to move from making-a-living into a full lifestyle business.

Because as humans, unless we face a crisis, it can be a real challenge for us to only focus on the important activities while saying No to any other distractions that won’t help us to achieve our goals.

The only way you can ensure it will happen is by planning your weeks and scheduling it in your diary.
.blog-image-key-ideas1

WHAT TO DO NEXT

1. Be clear about what needs to get done this week to reach your quarterly business goals e.g. research the new market to determine viability
.

2. Open your diary and schedule blocks of 1-2 hours of uninterrupted time every day of the next week to work on these activities e.g.

// create survey questions for the new market (1hr) – Me
// create the actual survey in Typeform or SurveyMonkey (30min) – John
// send out the survey (1hr) – John
>>> who will it be sent to?
>>> do you need to create a list of contacts?
>>> will you use ads to promote the survey?
>>> how + when will it be send?
// analyse the results (2hrs) – Me
.

3. Estimate the time each activity will take you to complete. This is a great exercise, as we tend to underestimate how long things take us to do (see example in #2)
.

4. Note the people needed to help you complete the tasks and remember to give them access to the project plans and calendars (see example in #2)
.

5. Outline your success factors – how will you know if you’ve been successful by the end of the week? e.g.

// Week 1: survey has been created, tested and it’s ready to be send out
// Week 2: 50 people completed the survey successfully
// Week 3: all results have been analysed and a decision to either market the product to a new market or not, is made.
.

alicia-menkveld-point-3a

ACT DAILY

.

To act daily on what’s already been decided and planned for, is really the hardest part of everything.

It’s because it’s so easy to be distracted by a hundred little things every day. Studies have shown that on average, we’re interrupted every 3 minutes in the office! 

Between notifications pinging, emails coming in, a team member asking for help, phone calls and social media it’s no wonder that we’re busy all day without much to show for it by the end of a day.

My clients who started planning their weeks, reported feeling much more in control and more organised, but nearly all of them struggled for the first couple of weeks to stick to their blocks of uninterrupted time because of all the distractions.
.

“Planning is easy. Execution is hard.”

~ ALICIA MENKVELD

.
It takes courage and perseverance to stick to your plan every day.

Most of my clients reviewed and tweaked their plans several times before they found a routine that worked for them. Some started their day with a block of uninterrupted time, while others did a block between 11am-2pm or even later afternoon.

Your success in reaching your business goals depends on your ability to constantly review what worked and what hasn’t, and to be able to change direction quickly and daily if needed.
.

WHAT TO DO NEXTblog-image-key-ideas1

At the end of each day take 5 min to review your day and ask yourself and/or your team:

1. How well did I stick to my plan today?

2. Which distractions kept me from working during my uninterrupted block(s) of time?

3. How can I minimise these distractions tomorrow?

4. How long did the actual tasks take vs. my estimations in the planning?

5. Did everyone involved in the activities performed up to standard? If not, what I can do to improve this?

6. Compared to the success factors for this activity, was I successful today?

Reviewing and tweaking as you move towards your business goals, is like a heat-seeking missile adjusting course while trying to lock in on its target.

The missile doesn’t stop trying until it found its target… and neither should you. Continue to review and tweak until you find a way that works well for you and your team.
.

QUESTION:

Which part of sticking to your daily plan do you find most challenging? Leave your comment below.
.
#smallbusinesssuccessskills

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

3 Ways To Be More Confident

What would you try or change in your life right now if you felt more confident?
.

If you believed more in yourself and in your business, would you:
  • increase your prices or be more selective about the clients you work with?
  • speak at a networking event, make a video or publish an article?
  • expand your team or invest in a mentor?
    .

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face…. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

~ ELEANOR ROOSEVELT

.
Alicia Menkveld recording videosIt took me about a year to pluck up the courage to record my first video from the first time I had the idea to make videos to engage with my audience.

It took me at least another six months before I actually posted one of those videos on Facebook. I wasn’t confident that they were good enough.

For some people it’s the easiest thing in the world to record and post videos. I break out in cold sweat and look like a deer caught in the headlights.
.
.

And that’s the thing with confidence… it all depends on the activity we do and how often we’ve done that activity in the past.

.
It’s different for every person – what’s easy for you, could be completely nerve-wracking for me. I find speaking in front of a live crowd easy, but I had to flex my confidence muscle when I recorded videos on green screen in a studio for the first time.

The videos were for the Business Confidence Academy, a 7-week program for business owners ready to streamline their business so it supports the lifestyle they want to live.
.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

.
Confidence, like any other skill can be learned with practice, and it’s crucial to your success in both life and business.

The more you do something you think you cannot do, the more you build an unshakable belief in yourself and your abilities. And it gets easier over time to step out of your comfort zone and be more confident.
.

3-ways-to-be-more-confident

 

3 Ways To Be More Confident
.

alicia-menkveld-point-1a

ASK BETTER QUESTIONS 

.
When we face our fears it’s easy to get lost in a vague paralysing fear that we can’t define, instead of being clear about what exactly could go wrong.

By asking: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” you effectively do an informal risk assessment which forces your mind to come up with realistic scenarios of what could happen when you pursue the opportunity.

By getting a clear picture, we realise that our minds mostly let us chase ghosts that don’t exist, and we discover what’s really holding us back from taking the next step. Now we can plan for success and manage the risks.
.

Case In Point: My Videos

I didn’t want to make videos because my monkey mind told me that:

  • I didn’t have anything interesting to say
  • No one will watch my videos
  • I don’t like how I look in videos
  • People will think my videos suck.

By asking: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” I realised that the worst thing that could happen was that no one watched the video or liked it. There’s no risk in that!
.

So why wasn’t I making the videos?

.
By asking: “What’s so bad about that? I realised that my ego was afraid of being rejected and not liked, and it was afraid that people would laugh at my ‘bad’ video.

The role of the ego is to keep us safe, but that means that new situations with unknown outcomes are perceived as being dangerous. Sometimes situations are dangerous, but 9 times out of 10, there is nothing to fear but a slightly bruised ego.

In my case, none of my fears came true as many people watched and liked my videos, and even made nice comments! And the more videos I made, the more confident I became…

.

alicia-menkveld-point-2a

BE CURIOUS AND LEARN

.
Have you ever caught yourself starting something with great enthusiasm but when you hit road blocks, you start to doubt yourself?

It’s easy to get stuck in the Why-cycle:Why is this happening? Why is it so hard? Why always me?“. From there, it’s a short downward spiral to quitting the project and moving on to the next shiny object with renewed enthusiasm.

When you ask why-me-questions it’s an indicator that you find yourself in victim territory where confidence dies a quick death.
.

KEY IDEAS:blog-image-key-ideas1

Instead of asking “Why“, rather ask:

  • What’s really going on? What’s the real problem?”
  • “Is there an opportunity for me to learn something from this situation?  
  • “What is the one thing I can do differently to change the situation and get the results I want?”

.
This technique replaces our negative thoughts with solution-focused thinking and helps us realise that we are in control and that we can choose what to do next.

.

MY VIDEO EXAMPLE:

With the questions above, I’ve identified that there were no detrimental risks involved in making a video and posting it to Facebook, except maybe a bruised ego.

The opportunity was to learn more about my insecurities and to learn a new skill (making videos). I was able to change my results because I chose to face my fears, record the videos and post them.

Asking what-questions put you back in the driver’s seat and boost your confidence because you know you have the ability to figure things out. It’s powerful to know that you can change the outcome of your situation to whatever you desire.

.

alicia-menkveld-point-3a

 PRACTICE UNTIL YOU BECOME IT 

.
Fake it till you make it” is one of the biggest confidence myths ever!

After studying highly successful people for several years, Malcolm Gladwell in the book Outliers  says that it roughly takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in any field. Mastery and confidence always go hand-in-hand.

There was a direct statistical relationship between the hours of practice and achievement of the people he studied. Especially when it comes to achieving big dreams like becoming a master pianist, a famous performer, TV presenter, a professional speaker or a successful business owner.

The study found that not even natural talent really played a role. There are no shortcuts or ‘naturals’ in life or business – only people who focus, put in the work, take risks and then ‘get lucky’.
.

Maybe she was born with it… no it was NOT Maybelline! It was hard work, focus and not quitting!

.
And that’s what I’ve done with videos in the studio.

I wrote scripts and rewrote them several times until I captured the essence of the message I wanted to get across. Then I practiced the scripts. Over and over and over for a few days.

I’ve learned so much from my experience in the studio. I realised that I’ll need to increase my practice time even more before the next video recordings to improve my delivery efficiency and presentation style, and to save money on fewer studio hire hours!

It’s also encouraging to know that even high profile speakers and TV personalities use scripts, and that they too practice a lot. So hopefully after 10,000 hours of practice, I’ll also sound as polished as Oprah in my videos.

.

KEY IDEAS:blog-image-key-ideas1
  • Practice until what you want to master, comes as natural as breathing to you
    .
  • Use your imagination to practice scenarios before an actual event – e.g. an important meeting with a big client which you feel nervous about.
    • Plan the structure of the meeting and what needs to be said
    • See how well the meeting goes; see yourself smiling, feeling confident and listening to their needs
    • See how your solution can help them, and
    • See the signed contract on the table.
      .
  • Practice your pitch in front of the mirror, with a business partner or a colleague to iron out any kinks and make your vision a reality!
    .

To accomplish great things we must first dream, then visualize, then plan… believe… act!

~ ALFRED A. MONTAPERT

.
QUESTION:

.
What do YOU do to feel more confident when you face a new situation? Leave your comment below.
.
#smallbusinesssuccessskills

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

6 Bad Habits That Kill Your Time Management

6-bad-habits-that-kill-your-time-management

 

As people, we have good intentions but temptations, short attention spans and bad habits get in the way of our time management and overall business and life success.

// Have you ever been a diet but ended up eating a tub of cookies + cream ice-cream (my vice) on the first night?

// Have you ever signed up at the gym and then found a good (normally work-related) ‘reason’ not to go?

I have… and it’s the same in business…
.

We have good intentions BUT bad habits keep us from being productive, more organised and getting things done.

.
And we can only improve our bad habits once we’ve identified our blind spots.

.

“Live less out of habit and more out of intent.”  

~ AMY RUBIN FLETT

.

6 Bad Habits That Kills Your Time Management

The first step to discover which of your bad habits are killing your time management, is to track your time at work for a few days but ideally for 1-2 weeks to pick up trends and repeat offenders in your habits.
.

Use a simple time management tracking system to track your days in 30 minute increments e.g. 

1. pen + paper

2. an excel spreadsheet (download ours on this page) or

3. a time tracking app like Toggl or TrackingTime.

I personally use Toggl; it took me less than 5 minutes to sign up and get started.

It tracks time management activities in real time or if you forgot to start the timer, you can later add the time manually. Both desktop + smart phone versions are available.

For instructions and the full exercise to track your time at work, see the blog post I wrote here.

.

Once you start tracking your time, you’ll quickly discover where you leak time, energy + money… every day.

And like most business owners you might be shocked by how little time you spend on high impact activities that move the business forward.

Here’s an example analysis of a business owner’s day with an explanation of the six most common habits that kill your time management and productivity.
.

bad-habit-analysis-bcc
.

alicia-menkveld-point-1a

BAD HABIT #1 – OVER-SCHEDULING WITH NO BUFFER TIME

In nearly every incident described above, a failure to allow sufficient time to get things done will severely hamper your business’ success, your health, your integrity and client relationships.

No other habit ruins your day and time management quicker than not planning enough time between appointments.

It’s like dominoes falling with a knock-on effect on your day that can’t stop e.g. doctors’ practices running late, and once the first domino fell it’s a run-away train you can’t stop.

Life will happen – from traffic jams, accidents and sick kids to a coffee spill on your shirt. Be prepared and plan your days better to stay in control and keep your stress levels as low.
.

blog-image-key-ideas1

HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT
.

If this happens often, start scheduling buffer time before and after each meeting + activity.

Allowing 30+ minutes before and after appointments will help a great deal with unforeseen circumstances like meetings running over, traffic jams and presentations or computers not working.

Scheduling extra time will significantly lower your stress levels, make you a happier person and help your time management immensely. You’ll move from an overflowing calendar to one with breathing space.

Luckily it’s also easy not to waste any time while waiting for someone else as most applications are cloud-based, so you can:

  • check your email
  • login to accounting or project management software and update tasks
  • listen to a webinar or podcast
  • post to social media
  • do planning or
  • simply sit and enjoy a coffee.

.

alicia-menkveld-point-2a

BAD HABIT #2 – CHECKING EMAIL FIRST

.

It sounds so obvious but checking emails first thing in the morning or when you get to the office, is very bad for your time management.

In this example, the business owner didn’t factor email checking into the initial plan but gave in to the temptation, and they were already running late.

If they didn’t check their email, the staff meeting would’ve started on time and possibly ended on time too.

It also sets a bad example for your team when you seem to care more about your emails than keeping an appointment with them.

.

Remember, what you see in your inbox dictates what you do next NOT what you planned to do.

.

Non-urgent emails are a dangerous distraction and it’s also one of the most difficult temptations to resist once you’re in your inbox.

Low-level emails steal time from high level money-making activities like supporting your team, keeping organised and on time, reducing office stress and solving customer problems you get paid to do.
.
.blog-image-key-ideas1

HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT

.

  • Decide on 2-3 dedicated times to check your email during the day and do not check it in between e.g. 8am, 12pm and 5pm
    .
  • Add a notification to all your outgoing email to inform the sender by when they can expect to hear back from you
    .
  • Include instructions on what to do and who to contact in case of an emergency
    .
  • Learn to delegate email checking to staff or a virtual assistant who can scan your email and only let you deal with the important issues
    .
  • Set up standard email templates so your staff or a virtual assistant can easily answer various email inquiries correctly and up to standard
    .
  • Ruthlessly unsubscribe from and delete non-urgent email.

.alicia-menkveld-point-3a

BAD HABIT #3 – UNPRODUCTIVE MEETINGS

.

In the above example, all the meetings overrun that day which definitely indicates a bad habit, and nothing kills time management and productivity like long and unproductive meetings.

The example meetings could have overrun for a number of reasons:

  • They started late and therefore ended late
  • They didn’t follow an agenda
  • There wasn’t a time limit set at the beginning of the meeting
  • A lack of preparation – things that could have been sorted via email or other means was left for the meeting.
    .

Once you start tracking all the time around a meeting it’s easy to see how expensive meetings are in terms of cost per hour and how little time in a day it leaves for productive work that matters.

This includes: meeting preparation time, the actual time spent in a meeting, travelling time to and back from a meeting and emails around the set up.

.

HOW TO BREAK THIS HABITblog-image-key-ideas1
.

Try the following tips to have more meaningful meetings:

  • Determine the importance of all meetings
    .
  • Determine the duration of the meeting ahead of time
    .
  • Decline ad hoc, last-minute meetings without an agenda and reschedule to a time that suits you better
    .
  • Allocate days of the week to have all your meetings
    .
  • Try ‘walk + talk’ or standing meetings – it keep things short and fresh air is good for creativity and your health.

It’s said that the Queen’s weekly audience with her Prime Ministers throughout the years have always been between 20-30 minutes – if a country’s issues can be discussed in such a short time, I guess the rest of us have no excuse!

.
alicia-menkveld-point-4a

BAD HABIT #4 – NOT GETTING THE RIGHT HELP

.

Spending time on any issue outside of your zone of genius when you’re already running late, is silly and a waste of precious time.

You know yourself better than anyone, so when ‘it’s not your thing’ stop thinking that ‘poking around’ will help to fix the issue.

Immediately ask yourself:

// Do I absolutely need to do this right now?

// Is there another way of solving this?

// Who do I know that can help me?

In this example, preparing for the client meeting without the presentation would have been far more beneficial to the business than wasting 20 minutes, getting stressed out and not doing preparation.

.

Practicing your sales pitch always trumps a having presentation to win and keep business.

.blog-image-key-ideas1

HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT
.

  • Check presentations on different technology at least 4 hours to one day ahead of meetings
    .
  • Get an expert or (tech-savvy) team member to create and load presentations, is a must and a huge time saver
    .
  • If you have to choose between preparation + presentation, ditch the presentation and practice your pitch + listening skills
    .
  • Always delegate specialised issues to experts!

.
alicia-menkveld-point-5a

BAD HABIT #5 – SKIPPING MEALS

.

In this example, no time was lost but running a successful business requires you to be healthy and energetic, which you won’t be if you continue to skip breaks and meals.

Sugar levels and energy levels drop dramatically and it’s normally your clients, your team and family who suffer the most from mood swings and added pressure when you’re off sick.

Looking after yourself is key – factor it into your time management for the day.

.blog-image-key-ideas1

HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT
.

  • Don’t skip meals and breaks – they make you more effective and productive
    .
  • Always keep snacks in your office or car for unforeseen circumstances e.g. raw nuts, protein bars, protein shakes, fruit etc.
    .
  • Stay hydrated with water (not coffee!) to keep your brain in peak functioning condition
    .
  • Take regular breaks – 5-10 minutes for every 50 minutes of work e.g. stand up, stretch, stand outside, walk around the block.

.
alicia-menkveld-point-5a

BAD HABIT #6 – NOT CREATING PROCESSES

.

Things change and we need to stay on top of changes to keep our clients happy and our businesses profitable.

We need a process to help us stay on top of things and in communication with our clients.

// How do you let clients know you’re running late?

// How do you ensure they get the message?

// How do you ensure you or clients don’t miss out on important developments when you’re not in the office or have time to check email?

.

Create a process to keep communication flowing.

.blog-image-key-ideas1

HOW TO BREAK THIS HABIT
.

  • Tell people how you preferred to be contacted (call, email, messenger, text) with a message regarding urgent issues that need immediate attention
    .
  • If they can’t get hold of you, tell them to what to do next e.g. call the office and leave a message with a staff member or an answering service if you don’t have staff. Document the process and leave copies with all relevant people.
    .
  • Use driving or travel time for client calls or call-backs to stay up-to-date and save time. It’s also a great time to catch up with suppliers, family and friends.
    .

Clearly the poor business owner in the example had a terrible day filled with stress, frustration, anxiety and disappointment. By the end of the last call they are completely drained after a long day of stress and no food.

They were rushing all day and didn’t give anyone their best, including themselves. Now the last domino will fall with partner and/ or family demands waiting for them at home.

If this sounds like some of your days, it’s time for a change.

Better planning and the discipline to execute the plan will help you break these bad business habits once and for all.

.

QUESTION:

Which of these six bad habits is the main culprit in killing your time management and productivity? Leave your comment below.

.

#smallbusinesssuccessskills

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

Business Performance Review

business-performance-review

.
On a scale of 1-10*,  how happy are you with consistently reaching your business goals?

*1 = lowest, 10 = highest

.

onefivesevennine

 

 

.
.
More importantly, do you know what to change to improve your results by 1-2 points in the next 90 days?

You can choose at any time to do things differently and start hitting your goals for the quarter. You’ll achieve this through doing a business review which will give you clarity, help you with planning and then it’s about taking daily prioritised action.
.

A Business Review is super important because it:

.

  • Gives You Control + Peace of Mind
    A large percentage of business owners don’t have a clear picture of how well their business performs at any given time. What you don’t know about your business is a blind spot that keeps you from reaching your goals.
    .
    A business review look at the facts and will show you the level of efficiency the business is performing at and if you need to make any adjustments to reach your goals.
  • Helps You to Work ON Your Business
    We all get caught up in the day-to-day running of a business and that’s why you need a chance to lift your head, reconnect with your vision and see the bigger picture. It’s like zooming out on a Google Earth map.
    .
    Zooming out will give you a helicopter view of where you’re at, if you’re moving in the right direction + how far you have to go. Small tweaks on a consistent basis in all business areas are the key to success.

 

business-strategy-flow-diagram

.
The aim of a business review is to perform a health check and take your business’ pulse as it is, right now.

.

alicia-menkveld-point-1a

BUSINESS AUDIT + VISION REVIEW

.
The first section of the review is about assessing your current situation, looking at your vision and deciding how you’ll get there.

Questions To Consider:

  • What’s your 3-year business vision?
  • What is your definition of success?
  • What are your 3-5 main main goals for this year?
  • What worked well for you over the last 6 months?
  • What needs to be improved?
  • What resources do you need to succeed? (staff, training, systems, equipment, cash flow)
    .

alicia-menkveld-point-2a

MARKETS + PRODUCTS REVIEW

.
In this part of the review you’ll look at who you serve, what you offer and how profitable your products/ services are. Then you’ll look at how to improve your results over the next quarter.

Your marketing plan will outline your target markets, positioning, customer demographics, message, offering, marketing strategy + tactics.

Over the years, I’ve found very few business owners who have any marketing plan whatsoever and it’s key to your success.

Without a plan, you’re bound to fall prey to the bright shiny object syndrome, waste money on strategies that won’t work for your business and make other marketing mistakes.

  • How effectively are you matching your products/ services to your customer’s needs?
  • How effective is your marketing? (leads coming in + conversion rates)
  • List your best performing products/ services – what percentage of revenue are they responsible for?
  • Can low performing products/ services be improved or phased out?
  • Products/ services costs – direct costs, overheads, brainstorm ideas to lower costs, negotiate better deals with suppliers
    .
    .

alicia-menkveld-point-3a

MONEY/ FINANCIAL REVIEW

.
If you’re using accounting software like Xero, MYOB, Cashbook Complete or Quickbooks all your financial reports are in one place and it’s easy to print out or view them online. Or contact your bookkeeper for up-to-date information.

Business Numbers To Review:

  • Budget
  • Targets vs Actual Revenue generated
  • Costs/ Expenses – keep costs under constant review
  • Profit
  • Cash Flow
  • Borrowing – credit available, loans
  • Growth/ Investments
    .

alicia-menkveld-point-4a

BUSINESS OPERATIONS REVIEW

.
Operating your business in a short-term reactive way costs you time and money in the longer run and isn’t sustainable when growing the business. A clear strategy will guide you in your overall decision making process and help you avoid costly mistakes.

Technology

  • In which areas of your business do you use computerised systems to be more efficient?
    (cloud applications for storage, remote back-ups, to work from anywhere + increase productivity)

 

Processes/ Systems

  • How do you manage repetitive tasks in the business?
  • Is your marketing + sales process documented?

If not, start the documentation process through outsourcing or record the process on your phone and send the audio file to be transcribed.

Continue to add instructions to the document every time you do the task, even if it’s one sentence at a time.

 

People

  • Do you have the right team (management, staff, suppliers, outside consultants) in place to achieve your goals?
  • Do you personally have the skills you need to succeed e.g. leadership, sales, IT, HR?
  • Are you clear on which tasks to delegate and outsource?

 

Productivity

  • Which tasks are most time consuming?
  • Which tasks generate the highest income?
  • What are the lowest income generating (but necessary) tasks in your business?
  • How productive are you (working only on high level activities) vs busy (working on tasks you’re not good at or where you can hire someone at $20 p/h to do the task)?
    .

Success is a few simple disciplines practiced every day;

while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.

~ JIM ROHN

.
QUESTION:
Which area of your business will you focus on most in the next quarter? Leave your comment below.
#smallbusinesssuccessskills

 

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

3 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE DELEGATION AT WORK

3-steps-to-effective-delegation

 

If you’re rushing every day to get it all done, falling behind on project deadlines and still have an ever-growing to-do list that keep you busy in the office till after dark…

… then it’s time for the D-word that let most business owners break out in cold sweat… DELEGATION!

The biggest problem I see with most business owners I work with is that we’re capable, resourceful control freaks who can do too many things well enough to get by…

It’s is a deadly combination for anyone trying to master delegation, because we’ll look at a task and think:

.

This task will take me at least two to three times as long to explain it properly to someone else, so why not just do it myself? … and I bet the person won’t do nearly as good a job of it as I would!”

.

And this type of thinking is exactly why most business owners work longer hours than they ever have in a job and they end up overwhelmed, frustrated, disillusioned and burnt out.

The ‘let me just do it myself’-mindset enslaves you to your business.

Delegation is one of the hardest things to master in your business but it’s also one of the most rewarding and freeing things you can do for yourself and your business, because it will help the business grow + keep you sane.

Mastering the art of delegation will free up your time and give you space to think, plan, implement and actually spend time on money-making activities instead of low level activities that keep you busy spinning your wheels + stuck in the weeds.

.

“Deciding what NOT to do is as important as deciding what to do.”
~ JESSICA JACKLEY, CO-FOUNDER OF KIVA

.

No one wakes up one morning and start recruiting or outsourcing tasks. Like most things in business, delegation and building a team are processes that take time to develop.

The delegation process involves various decisions, preparation + systems to work effectively before delegating your first task.

In this post, we’ll focus on the preparation needed for effective delegation.

.

3 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE DELEGATION AT WORK

alicia-menkveld-point-1

TRACK + MEASURE

Do you know how you spend your time each day?

I’m NOT talking about the few things you schedule in your diary…

No, I’m talking about all the unaccounted hours where we’re really busy but can’t say what we’ve been busy with at the end of a day or week. Those hours that seem to slip away unnoticed and unaccounted for…

Unless we are super clear about what we spend our time on every day, we’ll won’t know which tasks can be delegated and who we need on our team of in-house and outsourced staff.

When you track your time, for at least a week but ideally a month, you’ll easily be able to spot your time wasters like a few ‘quick’ website fixes or ‘quickly’ designing graphics in Canva.

Perhaps for you it’s ‘quickly’ fixing your IT issues, doing all the marketing yourself or spending hours to find the ‘right’ image for your social media post?alicia-menkveld-key-ideas

.

PREPARATION FOR EFFECTIVE DELEGATION

.

Start today – track + document:

  • Every single task you do in your business for a few weeks including ‘quick’ fixes, meetings, training, planning, client work, etc.
    .
  • The time it takes you to complete each task from travel time, lunch time (or lack thereof), how long meetings + calls took, etc.
    .
  • Via paper, with an Excel spreadsheet or using a free online tool like Toggl. I explained the tracking exercise in detail, here.

Tracking how you spend your time will help you realize how effective you are in your business and whether the bulk of your time is spent on money-making activities or low-level, routine activities that could be automated or delegated.

Assuming you work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with a revenue of about $100K per year, an hour of your time is worth at least $48 p/h.

Ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now, making me money and worth $48p/h?

.

If you’re spending a huge amount of hours searching for images, going to and fro to set up meeting times or returning phone calls and fix IT issues, it’s a sign that elimination, automation or delegation is needed in your business.

.

KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK:

// Which tasks/ activities can I completely eliminate from my schedule?

// How can I automate routine tasks?

// What can I delegate?

That’s the order: Eliminate, Automate + only then do we Delegate.

.

alicia-menkveld-point-2

DOCUMENT IT

.

We certainly hope for the best, but what happens if the bus hits you on your way to work?

  • Can a team member or any other person walk in + run your business?
  • Are your business processes recorded?
  • Are your business systems clear + easy enough for someone else to follow?

If you answered No to the above questions, it’s time to get things out of your head and onto paper before you can even begin to think about delegation.

Remember, not even the most capable or highest qualified consultant/ employee in the world can read your mind or be expected to do a good job without access to the right information!

That includes clear objectives, super clear instructions, recorded processes + the responsibilities and timelines for each task.

Most business owners are quick to complain about incompetent staff, and yes sometimes we get a bad egg, but in my experience a lack of clear instructions + a lack of systems and/or processes account for up to 80% of project misunderstandings and work that business owners feel are ‘not up to standard’.

Yes it will take a few months to set everything up + train people to do the tasks correctly, but the reward is your freedom… to grow the business, to take a holiday or to spend more time with your partner, your kids or causes close to your heart.

.

EFFECTIVE DELEGATION IS ABOUT:
  • being clear about the task + what the end result looks like for you
  • documenting the way you want the task done and specifying the templates or tools to be used to do the task
  • effectively communicating your expectations + giving clear instructions to the person who will do the task
  • being available to help where it’s needed and to make time to review the work + give feedback.

.alicia-menkveld-key-ideas

PREPARATION FOR EFFECTIVE DELEGATION

.

  • If you come across an undocumented process in your business, start today!
    .
  • Open a Word document, name it + write down the first few steps of the process
    .
  • Schedule a deadline to complete the document if it’s only you in the business OR flesh out the details every time you do the task until it’s complete
    .
  • If you have a team, nominate the person responsible for completing the document + set a deadline
    .
  • As the business owner or manager, schedule a date in your diary to review + tweak the document.

For a detailed blog post about creating business systems, click here.

.alicia-menkveld-point-3

 PEOPLE + TECHNOLOGY

.

Now that we know what to delegate and we’ve put processes + systems in place to assist the delegation process, we can finally look at who we need on our team + what technology we can use to manage our projects better and streamline our communication with the people involved.

.

PEOPLE

Your people needs will largely depend on your  business needs, the stage your business is in + the longer term vision you have for the business.

When tracking your tasks you possibly noticed several hours wasted on trying to fix a website problem or creating a graphic for your social media. Perhaps you noticed that you never get time to do any marketing or planning.

If the time waster you noticed is something that cannot be eliminated or automated, it’s time for delegation.

You can:

  • hire an employee
  • outsource work to an independent contractor like a consultant or virtual assistant
  • or you can use a combination of both options for different types of work.

.

I like to use different experts for specific things in my business e.g. Facebook Ads or Bookkeeping, and I want to be location independent, so I only use independent contractors in my business.

I always outsource to my weaknesses or dislikes:

  • I don’t like bookkeeping, so I outsource it
  • I’m not great at doing my taxes, so I have an accountant
  • I can spend hours wondering what to post on social media, so I outsource it
  • I cannot design logos, so I get a graphic designer
  • I dislike cleaning but love a clean organized home, so I get a cleaning company to do it for me.

If you’re not sure, remember to ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now, making me money and worth $XXp/h?” (whatever you earn per hour). If the answer is No, it’s time to delegate.

Although none of the people I mentioned above work exclusively for me, I still refer to them as ‘my team’ because they know my business, perform tasks the way I do it in my business and add tremendous value to me and my business.

.

TECHNOLOGY

Technology will greatly simplify the delegation process and help to streamline communication between team members.

These days, technology can be used for nearly everything from file sharing, online appointment scheduling, project management and online training platforms to bookkeeping, invoicing and databases or CRMs (Customer Relationship Management Systems).

Technology will assure that each team member, whether in-house or remotely, has access to the same information in real time.

Here’s only a handful of example options of online software:

  • Accounting Software like Xero / MYOB
  • File Sharing like Dropbox / Google Drive
  • Appointment Scheduling like Acuity Scheduling / Appoint.ly / 10to8.com
  • Project Management like Asana
  • CRMs like Insightly / Capsule CRM / Zoho / Infusionsoft

Technology will drastically improve clear, consistent communication, effective delegation + help you build a team culture of collaboration and open sharing of information, even if team members are in different locations.

.
alicia-menkveld-key-ideas

PREPARATION FOR EFFECTIVE DELEGATION

.

  • Analyze the time + task tracking exercise to see in which areas of your business you need delegation right now
    .
  • Work out if you need in-house staff or independent contractors
    .
  • Get clear on the tasks to delegate or outsource that will deliver the highest ROI (return on investment) in the next 3 months
    .
  • Choose the technology options that are right for your business to help you manage your tasks + teams effectively.

.

QUESTION:

Which three tasks will you delegate first if you had someone ready to take them over right now? Leave your comment below.

.

#businessconfidence

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld, an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 16 years, loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to successful business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and effectiveness for individuals and teams. Design your business to live the life YOU want.

business-performance-scorecard-preview

ON A SCALE OF 1-10* HOW HAPPY ARE YOU WITH YOUR BUSINESS RESULTS?

(* 1 = lowest, 10 = highest)

Score your business against the 7 Signs of a High Performing Business to pinpoint problem areas.

Learn how to optimize your business to improve your revenue + results this quarter.

.

GRAB YOUR SCORECARD NOW.

Business Systems in Practice

business-systems-in-practice

 

Without systems and processes you’ll work longer hours than is necessary and won’t be able to take a holiday lest your empire crumbles.

You’ll have weekly team meetings but still spend a huge amount of time explaining things, discussing issues that keep cropping up and solving problems that could have been prevented.

In short, without systems and processes you’ll feel as if your business runs you and not the other way around.

.

“A good system shortens the road to the goal.”  ~ ORISON SWETT MARDEN

(1850 – 1924: American Author)

.

I wrote a full post about the difference between a system and a process here. Effective business systems and processes are the backbone of a successful company.

.

Business Systems in Practice
.

alicia-menkveld-point-1a

THE EXAMPLE

organic-skincareYou run a skincare brand that boasts organic ingredients.

The final products are assembled in-house.

Some ingredients are sourced overseas and labeling is produced by another vendor.

You have a new product you want to get to the market by a specific date.

Which systems and processes do you need to ensure your launch will go according to plan?

Think about the actions needed in each system, sub-system or process to reach the end goal.

.

alicia-menkveld-point-2a

BUSINESS SYSTEMS EXPLAINED

.

To achieve the goal of getting a skincare product ready for the market you’ll need all the core business systems and processes.

From a Marketing System, an eCommerce System to take payment to Admin Systems, Operations, Supply Chain Management Systems, etc.

In this explanation we’ll do a BRIEF OVERVIEW of the systems and processes needed to launch a new skincare product and it’s not intended to be a complete list. All the systems and processes needed will comprise of several detailed documents and checklists, which cannot be covered in a single blog post.

.

STEP 1: PLANNING + COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS
.

From a planning perspective you’ll take your planned delivery date and work backwards to identify by which date your orders need to be placed, when products need to be created and shipped.

  • What information is needed, from whom + by when? e.g. vendors + shipping companies
    .
  • Brainstorm possible issues or delays with your team and put measures in place to minimise the risks
    .
  • Agree and document the strategic plan, budget, roles + tasks, milestones, marketing, sales and delivery dates
    .
  • Consider your wholesalers’ timelines – they have to ship products they receive from you on to their own customers. Work these times into your overall timeline.
    .

Ask: What turnaround times are needed, if they need to repack + ship the products to their customers by an agreed date?

Share the documented processes with all parties involved e.g. staff, vendors + wholesalers via email, project management software or shared files in Dropbox or Google Drive to avoid confusion and delays.

Cloud-based project software systems like Trello or Asana are ideal to:

  • allocate tasks and job roles to various parties
  • keep track of all tasks, changes and deadlines in real time in one central location
  • schedule reminders and follow-ups, and
  • generally stay on top of the project.
    .

Unless you need specialised project management software, consider a low-cost options like Asana or Trello with free versions for small teams.

Keep all customer and supplier details in one central (ideally cloud-based) CRM system e.g. Capsule CRM where you can store up to 250 contacts for free.

.

STEP 2: MANUFACTURING SYSTEMS
.

POINTS TO CONSIDER:
.
  • Forecasting (the number of units your customers will order)
    .
  • Timelines (your own and your customers’ timelines) in terms of ordering and shipping of individual ingredients
    (Consider the season, harvesting, packing, customs and shipping)
    .
  • Labeling requirements including printing and posting of labels
    .
  • Creating the products in-house within required timelines
    .
  • Picking*, packing and shipping to your customers
    (*This is getting your products from the shelf or warehouse ready for packing)
    .

Remember to have regular calls with vendors to check on progress and discuss any potential problems in the manufacturing process.

Continuously build strong relationships with vendors to ensure cooperation if you have delays and need help to stay on track.

.

STEP 3: ORDERING SYSTEMS
.

Ensure to order the correct quantities of everything needed (ingredients, labeling + packaging) to produce a finished product well in advance and account for delays in delivery.

Once orders have been placed with vendors, use some form of project software (Step 1) and weekly update meetings (online or in person) to review progress, resolve any issues and ensure everyone stays on track.

.

STEP 4: MANUFACTURING/ ASSEMBLY PROCESS

On delivery, ensure that orders can be picked, packed and shipped to your customers as quickly and efficiently as possible.

This will ensure enough time to prepare sub-orders at the end of the chain and to minimize any losses if your product is perishable.

.

STEP 5: PACKING AND QUALITY CONTROL

Put a process in place to do the picking and packing of the products before they are sent out.

Think like Amazon and ask – How will staff know…

  • which product to choose off the shelf for which order?
  • how to pack products correctly?
  • what a finished product should look like e.g. where labels go, etc.?
  • what a finished package should look like e.g. when is it ready to be shipped?
    .

Use checklists for quality control so anyone can do checks exactly as the manager or business owner would have done it themselves.

Create a process for faulty items and include guidelines to deal with it successfully.

.

STEP 6: SHIPPING SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES

.
Identify:

  • who is responsible
  • how many trips/ pick-ups are needed to ship all product
  • procedures for express shipping vs standard shipping
  • procedures to ensure tracking numbers reach customers or suppliers
  • procedures for lost packages, replacements and guarantees.

.

At first glance it looks very complicated to set up the systems and processes for this product launch, and make no mistake, it WILL require thinking, planning, time and patience to set up and get it right…

However, the reward is a huge amount of value added to the business through smooth-running systems and processes that allow the business owner to spend time and energy on higher level money-making activities, like new deals or project collaborations.

Most importantly, once it’s done it will dramatically increase the overall effectiveness and efficiency of future launches while reducing frustrations, headaches and bottlenecks.

This will allow the business owner to step away from their business for a day or a month and still have a thriving business on their return which is priceless.

.

In which business area will a new or reviewed system add the most value (time/ money), in the next 3 months? 

.

Remember, as your business changes so will your systems change. Ideally all systems need to be reviewed at least twice a year if not quarterly. 

If it’s not working for anymore, it’s time for a change. This is a mantra I use for my life as well as my business!

.

QUESTION:

Which system or process will make the biggest impact in your business right now? Leave your comment below.

.

#smallbusinesssuccessskills

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

The Difference Between Systems and Processes

the-difference-between-systems-and-processes

Your business can have solid products + services, clear direction, great branding, strong leadership and dedicated staff, and yet if you miss this piece of the puzzle, time will be wasted and targets won’t be met.

I’m talking about systems and processes…. the glue that holds your business together.

Without systems and processes you’ll work longer hours than is necessary and won’t be able to take a holiday, lest your empire crumbles.

Without systems and processes, you’ll have weekly team meetings but still spend a huge amount of time explaining things, discussing issues that keep cropping up and solving problems that could have been prevented.

In short, without systems and processes you’ll feel as if your business runs you and not the other way around.

“It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.”
~ W. EDWARDS DEMING

(1900-1993: American professor, author + management consultant)

.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES
.

SYSTEMS help you run the business and is made up of several sub-systems, processes and technology.

In fact, your entire business is a system in itself with several core systems that help to make the business work.

Systems can be found in all business areas e.g.

  • Operations systems
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • HR
  • Admin
    .

SOFTWARE SYSTEMS
.

Are mostly, but not always, cloud-based computer programs used to perform a particular function e.g.:

  • Accounting: Xero, MYOB, QuickBooks
  • Admin: Dropbox for file storage + sharing
  • Marketing: Capsule, Infusionsoft, Aweber, MailChimp, Ontraport (Customer Relationship Management systems)
  • eCommerce: Paypal, Stripe, ConvertKit
  • Operations: e.g. SAP is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to help large businesses manage + control sales, delivery, operations, production and inventory.
    .

Think of business systems as the umbrella and business processes as the spokes that hold the umbrella up.

Most of the time you’re not even aware of the actions you take, until you need to explain it to a new employee or a business consultant like me coming in to assist the business.

A process is a series of steps or actions performed to achieve a particular goal and forms part of a larger system.

The steps are linked to each other, where each step affects the efficiency (success or failure) of the next step. The process can be manual or automated and should ideally be documented.

As a visual person, I find it very helpful to map out business processes as a workflow of steps e.g. the steps you follow when someone asks for a quote via your website.
.

TYPES OF PROCESSES
.

Like with systems we find processes in the areas of management, financial, sales, marketing, operations, product/service delivery, customer service, HR – basically in all areas of your business.

Here are only a few examples of business processes:

  • Financial e.g. the invoicing process or credit checking process
  • Operations/ Manufacturing e.g. a planning process, product assembly process or a quality assurance process
  • HR e.g. recruitment process, staff on-boarding process, complaint process, staff exit process, holiday/sick leave request
  • Marketing e.g. customer on-boarding process or follow-up process.
    .

BUSINESS SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES WILL HELP YOU:

  • troubleshoot day-to-day issues
  • streamline daily operations
  • increase efficiency
  • better evaluate client needs, and
  • on-board/ train new staff.
    .

FAMOUS EXAMPLE: AMAZON
.

Famous brands like McDonalds, Amazon, Fedex, Apple, Microsoft, Virgin and Zappos come to mind as companies who make systems and processes look sexy.

Every second, thousands of customers are searching and ordering products on Amazon and depending on the product, delivery will be immediately (think Kindle or audio books) or within days.

All systems and processes need to be reliable, fast and secure e.g.:

  • Information Systems e.g. to collect, filter, process, create and distribute data
    .
  • Transaction Processing Systems e.g. 1-click purchasing system, secure payment system and a recommendation system
    .
  • Supply Chain Management Systems e.g. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system with all customer information, automated communication systems like emails and an order fulfillment system.
    .

It’s clear from this example that effective business systems and processes are the backbone of a successful company.

.

“94% of problems in business are systems-driven and only 6% are people-driven .”
~ W. EDWARDS DEMING

.

Systems and processes become the framework for understanding how you run your business.

Once systems and processes have been outlined + documented, it shows everyone from staff members to stake holders how things are done in the business to get the desired results.

They also increase the value of your business immensely because your business can now finally run without you – nirvana for every entrepreneur on the planet.

.

QUESTION:

Which system or process will make the biggest difference in your business right now? Leave your comment below.

.

#smallbusinesssuccessskills

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld is an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 years who loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to small business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and productivity for individuals and teams. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

3 BARRIERS TO BEING PRODUCTIVE

3-barriers-to-being-productive

 

When you look at your calendar what do you see? I’m sure there are client calls and meetings, project deadlines, perhaps a team meeting, new inquiries to deal with and maybe a few supplier-related activities.

Do you see any dedicated blocks of time scheduled in for the important but non-urgent business activities like strategy, planning, marketing, sales, team training, product development, finance + admin?

It’s so easy to stay busy, fighting fires and ticking things off your to-do list but can you show any real accomplishment that added value to your business by the end of a day or even a week?

Busy work involves switching often between tasks and although it might feel as if you’re getting a lot done, research has shown the exact opposite.

In fact, a study by Professor David Meyer from the University of Michigan’s Brain Cognition and Action Laboratory concluded that by switching tasks often we lose 40% or more of our productive time per day.

The reason we don’t get to the productive work isn’t because we’re not trying or because we don’t have enough time, it boils down to a lack of planning, processes and a lack of discipline.

Let’s look at how we can overcome these three barriers to productivity.

3 BARRIERS TO BEING PRODUCTIVE
.

.

POOR PLANNING + STRUCTURING OF DAYS
.

Better planning and execution is key to being more productive and getting stuff done. I talk about quarterly and weekly planning and execution in more detail here.

Create blocks of 1-4 hours uninterrupted productive time every day to work on what matters.

These various blocks of uninterrupted time should ideally be allocated to the important drivers that will move your business forward, like:

  • client work
  • creative work
  • thinking time
  • planning + strategy
  • marketing + sales
  • staff time e.g. mentoring, progress catch-ups and training
  • admin e.g. finances, emails + phone calls.

By allocating dedicated time blocks for different activities, we won’t worry about missing things and we’d be less tempted to check things as they come in and stay in reactive mode.
.

.

NO PROCESS TO STAY FOCUSED
.

A process is simply a predefined way of doing something, it’s simple with easy-to-follow steps. You have a process for making tea or coffee, or putting the rubbish out.

Now it’s time to create a process to help you stay focused during your blocks of uninterrupted productive time when you work on activities that will move your business forward.

1. Schedule blocks of uninterrupted time

Schedule uninterrupted time in your diary every day and make it a non-negotiable appointment with yourself – see Point #1.
.

2. Remove Bright Shiny Objects

  • Ensure you have everything you need before starting your uninterrupted productive time e.g. note pads, pens, reference guides, financials, client files, refreshments and set an egg timer/ phone alarm to track your time
    .
  • Turn off your phone, close all internet browsers and remove clutter that might distract you
    .
  • Let people in the office know how long you’ll be unavailable and appoint a person-in-charge to deal with emergencies
    .
  • Only have the document(s) you’re working on open in front of you. If you need to check something, make a note and do it after the dedicated time has ended.
    .

3. Be Smart

If you struggle to say no to temptations and notifications, try the SelfControl app on your computer that blocks distraction websites for a set period of time.
.

4. Stop Worrying

  • Set-up a permanent email notification to let people know the times you check your email in a day e.g. 8am, 1pm and 4pm and when they can expect to hear back from you. It’s about setting expectations and communicating clearly.
    .
  • Provide an alternative way of contacting you in the email for real emergencies e.g. a mobile number or calling the office.
    .

When you respect your own time, other people tend to do the same.

Clients don’t have a problem with processes – they have a problem with their expectations not being met and vague communication.

Be clear at the start of a business relationship or new project about how things will work, agree deadlines upfront + provide regular status updates to stay productive and exceed your client’s expectations.
.

.

 LACK OF DISCIPLINE
.

Self-discipline is a learned behavior which requires practice and repetition. It’s like any learned skill e.g. confidence, learning a new language or playing the piano.

The right mindset and the discipline to keep a routine are two of the most important qualities needed for sustainable long term success in all aspects of life + business. They are also two of the hardest things to master.

When we try something new and fail, we tend to beat ourselves up about it. This makes us feel crappy about ourselves and what we’re capable of doing, which in turn could lead to more failure.

Here are a few ideas to help you when establishing new routines.
.

1. Acknowledge That It Will Take Time

Change is not easy because our brains love operating on auto-pilot.
.
Be prepared and know that it will take time for new habits to ‘feel right’ and become natural. Help yourself by creating a process to remove temptations + distractions – see Point #2.

.
.2. Reward Yourself

Keep yourself motivated by scheduling rewards along the way e.g. plan ‘me-time’ into your weekly schedule and stick to it!
.
Do something you love in that time e.g. a hobby, reading a book or sitting next to the river.

It’s your reward for working hard, making changes + building a great business.
.

3. Forgive Yourself + Move Forward

There will be setbacks. Expect them, notice them + learn from them.

Ask: “What’s the learning opportunity in this?” 

Dissect the hiccup, forgive yourself (you’re still learning), tweak your plan and move on.
.

Busyness is a disease that keeps us from working on the difficult-to-do but high-value activities in our business like planning, creating systems, building a team or doing marketing + sales.

Start saying Yes to being productive and focusing on activities that will move your business forward.
.

QUESTION:
What do you do to overcome busyness and be more productive at work? Leave your comment below.

.

#businessconfidence

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld, an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 16 years, loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to successful business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and effectiveness for individuals and teams. Design your business to live the life YOU want.

business-performance-scorecard-preview

ON A SCALE OF 1-10* HOW HAPPY ARE YOU WITH YOUR BUSINESS RESULTS?

(* 1 = lowest, 10 = highest)

Score your business against the 7 Signs of a High Performing Business to pinpoint problem areas.

Learn how to optimize your business to improve your revenue + results this quarter.

.

GRAB YOUR SCORECARD NOW.

5 STEPS TO SELL MORE TO EXISTING CUSTOMERS

5-steps-to-sell-more-to-existing-customers

 

It astounds my clients when I show them how many sales and money they leave on the table from not servicing their existing customers effectively.

Most businesses are obsessed with getting new leads and pour all their marketing money into lead generation while they literally forget about their existing customers.

I’m sure you’ve heard that it’s easier to sell to an existing customer than to land a new one. In a recent study Gartner said:

.

65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers, and it costs

five times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one satisfied.”

.

Some sources say the cost to attract new customers is anything between 3 – 30 times more expensive than the cost of keeping an existing customer, depending on the business + the industry you’re in.

One would think that business owners will be obsessed with building a sustainable business model and invest in strategies to keep their customers coming back for more, but it hardly ever happens.

I would like to challenge you this year to focus the bulk of your attention + resources on your existing customers.

Actively search for ways to extend your customers’ lifetime value (CLV) by serving them better and WOWing them, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your business grows – mostly through good old fashioned word-of-mouth referrals.

Existing customers already know, like + trust you, that’s why they buy from you but then after the sale… most business owners give them NOTHING…

.

Not a thank-you-for-buying, not a follow-up call or email, nothing to wow them… not even an up-sell!
.

Most business owners don’t bother putting a reminder in their calendar to follow up 6-12 months later to re-do services, offer replacements or upgrades and most certainly don’t do any consistent monthly marketing.

Now I know that not every industry is geared to make a sale every 6-12 months from the same customer e.g. real estate but I’ll show you in my example below how a mortgage broker managed to keep me interested for the last 6 years!

.

You will sell more if you build relationships with your customers through small, consistent action taken over time.

.

It takes a little extra effort to keep existing customers happy and to stay light years ahead of your competition:

// one extra phone call every quarter

// a personalized email with a heartfelt message

// planning your marketing at the beginning of the quarter to stay top of mind

// sending a handwritten note, postcard or inexpensive novel item to thank customers for their purchase

// for physical products, consider adding an unexpected item e.g. mints or toffees in the box.

.

EXAMPLE #1 – PEST CONTROL

.

We used a pest control service in 2015 to remove spiders around the house. They said the treatment would last about 12 months, and it did.

The easiest sell in the world for them would have been to email or call me 10-11 months later and ask me if I wanted to re-do the treatment. The answer would have been yes because they did a great job before and I was a happy customer.

Instead, I had to call them in 2016 to organize another treatment. This time they sent out an inexperienced person to apply the treatment who started spraying the treatment before all the windows were closed and he was “done” in about 15 minutes.

No one called afterwards to hear if I was happy or needed anything else. Two weeks after the treatment it was clear that it wasn’t working as I daily found new cobwebs + spiders inside the house.

Then the huge struggle started to get hold of them to redo the service as it was still under warranty.

It was just before Christmas and after many phone calls + emails with no reaction, I decided to wait till I was back from holiday in January. In January the owner told me they’ve been bought out by a larger company and said how tough the economy was.

Times will be tough if you treat your customers like crap, don’t deliver a quality service and you don’t apologize for incompetent staff or the inconvenience caused.

.

HOW TO DO IT BETTER

.

1. After-care service
Call customers after a project/ service has been completed for feedback and (hopefully) get a glowing testimonial in the process to use in future marketing material.

2. If your product/ service needs replacements or upgrades e.g. hardware/ software/ treatments make a point of using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that can schedule reminders and follow up on the due date.

Capsulecrm.com is such a system and it’s free for up to 250 contacts with only a small monthly fee thereafter. It also integrates with MailChimp, a free bulk emailing system.

3. If a customer complains, really listens to what they say + apologize!
Then go above and beyond to fix the problem as quickly as possible and offer something for the inconvenience your company caused them e.g. discount voucher or a free lower cost product. People mostly just want to be heard + acknowledged.

Use the feedback to train your team better and to improve your processes + systems.

4. Don’t make it ‘mission impossible’ for your customers to get hold of someone who can solve their problem. It makes them angry and lead them to complain to other people or on social media.

.

EXAMPLE #2 – MORTGAGE BROKER

.

We met a lovely broker in 2010 when we built a house in Perth, Western Australia. Nadija was so friendly and knowledgeable, and a real pleasure to work with – if she promised us an email tomorrow, we received it today.

What could have been a frustrating process to organize a mortgage in a new country, became hassle-free and dare I say… enjoyable?

After our business was completed, we’ve received complimentary tickets to the screening of a new movie in the post which was a complete surprise + added to the WOW-factor of her outstanding service.

Thereafter we received the occasional postcard in the post, an email on our birthdays, a simple email with interest rate updates when applicable and a quarterly newsletter with actual useful information (gasp!) for six years in a row.

Because her marketing was always well timed and useful, I never felt the need to unsubscribe from her newsletter, unlike many other newsletters who bombard you with emails. (I once received 20 emails in 2 weeks from one company… WTF?!)

When she called us to let us know that she’s expanding her services to include real estate sales + rentals, we were happy to hear it as we were looking at moving at the time.

.

Do you think we recommend her to everyone who wants to buy or sell a house? Hell yes!

And who do you think is the only person we use to sell a house or buy an investment property? Yes, Nadija!

.

That’s the power of nurturing existing customers over a 6-year period! Be useful, provide VALUE + don’t be annoying.

.

HOW SMART COMPANIES DO BUSINESS

.

My hair salon, beauty salon, spa and dentist all use text reminders 2 days before an appointment with the option to confirm or to call back if you need to change a booking. This ensures that they’re nearly always fully booked and give them time to fill a spot if someone cancels.

They keep waiting lists of people to call in case of a cancellation and they all tend to book the next appointment at the end of your existing appointment.

The business who treated our patio locked in a date to re-do the treatment in 6 months on the day they finished the job and the business who supplied the water filter will come back to replace the filters.

Our gardening company set up a standing lawn mowing arrangement for every 4 weeks, come rain or shine. We’ve now used him for 4 years and he’s so busy with existing client work that he doesn’t have capacity to take on new clients!

He was clever to approach us to fix up our back yard flower beds too as my husband and I don’t have green fingers. After he fixed it all up and installed reticulation, he now maintains that area too on a regular basis for an additional fee.

As you can see there are plenty opportunities to be fully booked or sold out if you choose to focus the bulk of your attention + marketing budget on your existing customers.

 

5 STEPS TO SELL MORE TO EXISTING CUSTOMERS

.

HERE’S HOW TO GET GOING

Sit down and work through the following items to see how you can grow your business by nurturing your existing customers.

.

1. List all the products/ services you offer + all the target markets you service, then ask:

// Which existing products/ services can you up-sell to existing customers e.g. gardener asking if he can fix up the back yard too?
// Which new products/ services can you develop quickly + cost effectively to offer to existing customers?
// Where can you bring in retainer agreements to lock customers in on a longer term basis?
// Can you lock in future replacements or upgrades at a lower rate when you finish the work the 1st time round?
.

2. Define your value and how you’ll keep your customers’ attention over a 6-12 month period in your marketing plan.

3. List 3 low-cost ways to WOW your customers and surprise them.
.

4. Map out your sales process. Read this blog post on how to create a sales process including an after-care process.

// Decide how (call/ email/ postcard) + how often you’ll communicate with customers after they purchased?
// Which system will you use to schedule follow-up reminders + who will be responsible for doing follow-ups?
// Document when in the process you’ll ask happy customers for referrals + how you’ll train staff to do the same.
// Document when + how you’ll ask customers for testimonials to use in future marketing material.
.

For appointments + meetings:

// Which reminder system will you use to save yourself time + money?
// Can you do more meetings/ appointments online e.g. Zoom or Skype to save travel time + money?
// Can you keep a waiting list?
// Can you charge for last minute cancellations?
.

5. Decide how you’ll reward word-of-mouth referrals + encourage repeat business from existing customers e.g.

// special discounts
// special offers not available to anyone else
// something free e.g. buy 10 coffees and get the 11th free.
.

Once you worked out how much one hour of your time really costs you, you’ll quickly find ways to save time because saving time IS saving money.

Start small and start today. Decide on ONE THING you’ll give attention to over the next couple of days.

.

QUESTION:

What will you focus on first to start selling more to your existing customers? Leave your comment below.

.

#businessconfidence

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld, an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 16 years, loves to travel and lived on three continents to date. She is an international speaker, author and a trusted adviser to successful business owners and leaders. Alicia is an authority on business strategy, mindset and effectiveness for individuals and teams. Design your business to live the life YOU want.

business-performance-scorecard-preview

ON A SCALE OF 1-10* HOW HAPPY ARE YOU WITH YOUR BUSINESS RESULTS?

(* 1 = lowest, 10 = highest)

Score your business against the 7 Signs of a High Performing Business to pinpoint problem areas.

Learn how to optimize your business to improve your revenue + results this quarter.

.

GRAB YOUR SCORECARD NOW.