3 Steps To Effective Delegation At Work

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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:

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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!”

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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.

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

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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.

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3 STEPS TO EFFECTIVE DELEGATION AT WORK

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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

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PREPARATION FOR EFFECTIVE DELEGATION

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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.
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  • The time it takes you to complete each task from travel time, lunch time (or lack thereof), how long meetings + calls took, etc.
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  • 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?

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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.

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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.

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DOCUMENT IT

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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.

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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.

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PREPARATION FOR EFFECTIVE DELEGATION

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  • If you come across an undocumented process in your business, start today!
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  • Open a Word document, name it + write down the first few steps of the process
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  • 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
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  • If you have a team, nominate the person responsible for completing the document + set a deadline
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  • 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.

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 PEOPLE + TECHNOLOGY

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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PREPARATION FOR EFFECTIVE DELEGATION

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

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QUESTION:

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

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#businessconfidence

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 successful 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 Systems in Practice

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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.

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

(1850 – 1924: American Author)

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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.

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Business Systems in Practice
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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.

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BUSINESS SYSTEMS EXPLAINED

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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.

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STEP 1: PLANNING + COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS
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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
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  • Brainstorm possible issues or delays with your team and put measures in place to minimise the risks
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  • Agree and document the strategic plan, budget, roles + tasks, milestones, marketing, sales and delivery dates
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  • 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.
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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.
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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.

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STEP 2: MANUFACTURING SYSTEMS
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POINTS TO CONSIDER:
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  • Forecasting (the number of units your customers will order)
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  • Timelines (your own and your customers’ timelines) in terms of ordering and shipping of individual ingredients
    (Consider the season, harvesting, packing, customs and shipping)
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  • Labeling requirements including printing and posting of labels
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  • Creating the products in-house within required timelines
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  • Picking*, packing and shipping to your customers
    (*This is getting your products from the shelf or warehouse ready for packing)
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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.

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STEP 3: ORDERING SYSTEMS
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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.

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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.

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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?
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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.

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STEP 6: SHIPPING SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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QUESTION:

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

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#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

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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)

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THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SYSTEMS AND PROCESSES
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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
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SOFTWARE SYSTEMS
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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.
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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.
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TYPES OF PROCESSES
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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.
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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.
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FAMOUS EXAMPLE: AMAZON
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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
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  • Transaction Processing Systems e.g. 1-click purchasing system, secure payment system and a recommendation system
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  • 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.
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It’s clear from this example that effective business systems and processes are the backbone of a successful company.

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

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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.

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QUESTION:

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

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#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

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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
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POOR PLANNING + STRUCTURING OF DAYS
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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.
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NO PROCESS TO STAY FOCUSED
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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.
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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
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  • Turn off your phone, close all internet browsers and remove clutter that might distract you
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  • Let people in the office know how long you’ll be unavailable and appoint a person-in-charge to deal with emergencies
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  • 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.
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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.
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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.
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  • Provide an alternative way of contacting you in the email for real emergencies e.g. a mobile number or calling the office.
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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.
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 LACK OF DISCIPLINE
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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.
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1. Acknowledge That It Will Take Time

Change is not easy because our brains love operating on auto-pilot.
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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.

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

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#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.

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GRAB YOUR SCORECARD NOW.

19 Easy Ways To Make More Sales

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:

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

5x as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one satisfied.”

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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 are obsessed with building a sustainable business model and investing in strategies to keep their customers happy and coming back for more, but it’s most often not the case.

I would like to challenge you this year to focus the bulk of your attention and resources on your existing customers and extending their Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
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Be prepared to be amazed at how quickly your business grows when you actively

search for ways to serve your customers better and wowing their socks off.

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Existing customers already know, like and trust you that’s why they buy from you… but then after the sale most business owners give them NOTHING… not a thank-you card, a follow-up call or an email.

Worse, business owners also don’t bother following up months later to re-do services, offer replacements, upgrades or up-sells but you’ll never run be stuck in the feast-famine cycle again, if you build relationships through small consistent action over time.

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19 EASY WAYS TO MAKE MORE SALES AND WOW YOUR CUSTOMERS

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Let’s look at 2 real life examples to explain how easy it is to get it right… or wrong. 

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How to get it WRONG – a Pest Control company.

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We’ve used a pest control company 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 and I was a happy customer.

Instead, I had to call them in 2016 to organise another treatment. This time they sent out an inexperienced person to apply the treatment who started before all the doors and windows were closed and he was finished in just 15 minutes.

No one called afterwards to hear if I was happy or needed anything else. Two weeks after the treatment I still found new cobwebs and 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 and emails without reply, 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 complained about how tough the economy was.

Are you kidding me?! Of course times will be tough if you don’t deliver a quality service, don’t apologise for incompetent staff or the inconvenience caused and if you let customers chase you.

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HOW TO DO IT BETTER

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1. Deliver a quality product or service. This should go without saying but I feel compelled to remind business owners to ensure that they themselves, their staff and suppliers know how to deliver a quality product or service. 

2. Care about your customers
Call customers after a product was sold (if appropriate), or after a project or service has been completed for feedback and to iron out any potential issues. If you did a good job, you might even get a glowing testimonial to use in future marketing material.

3. If your type of product/ service needs replacement or upgrades e.g. software upgrades, water filter seal replacements, patio or pest treatments, schedule reminders to follow up with customers at regular intervals.

To do this, you can use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that links to your calendar or simply schedule reminders straight into your calendar. Capsulecrm.com is a CRM system with a free option for up to 250 contacts and a small monthly fee for more contacts.

It integrates with MailChimp, a marketing automation tool that allows you to send out newsletters and bulk email your customers. MailChimp also has a free version.

4. If a customer complains, fix the problem! Do it as quickly as possible and offer them something for the inconvenience your company caused them e.g. discount voucher or a free product or sample, if applicable. Mostly, people just want to be heard and acknowledged. Use their feedback to train your team and to improve your processes and systems.

5. Make it as easy as possible for customers to get hold of you or someone who can help them to solve their problem. Don’t hide your contact details or force people to complete a contact form. If people can’t get hold of you, they take their business elsewhere.

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How to get it RIGHT – a Mortgage Broker

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We met a lovely broker in 2010 when we built a house in Perth, Western Australia. Nadija was so friendly and knowledgeable – 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 organise a mortgage in a new country, became hassle-free and dare I say… enjoyable?

6. After our business was completed, we received complimentary tickets in the post to the screening of a new movie which was a complete surprise to us and added an extra WOW-factor to her already outstanding service.

7. Thereafter we received the occasional postcard in the post

8. A personalised email on our birthdays

9. A simple email with interest rate updates whenever applicable

10. 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 businesses who bombard you with emails. (I once received 15 emails in 7 days from one company… WTF?!)

11. Let customers know when you expand your product range or services. When she let us know that she’s expanding her services to include real estate sales and property management, we welcomed the news and told our friends.

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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 when buying an investment property?

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You guessed it, and that is the power of nurturing existing customers over a 6-year period – be useful and provide VALUE.

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HOW DO SMART COMPANIES MAKE MORE SALES?

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12. Smart businesses like hair salons, beauty salons, spas, doctors, dentists, restaurants, coaches, consultants and many others all use appointment scheduling software to make it as easy as possible for customers to book appointments 24/7. Most software has a free version to get you going – have a look at 10to8.com, Calendly, SetMore etc. 

13. They also use text reminders 1-2 days before the appointment with the option to text back to confirm or to call them if you need to change the booking. This ensures that they’re nearly always fully booked and give them time to fill a spot if someone cancels.

14. Smart businesses also keep waiting lists of people to call in case of a cancellation 

15. Salons, spas, doctors etc. also tend to book the next appointment at the end of an appointmentThe business who treated our patio locked in a date to re-do the treatment 6 months later on the day they finished the job and the business who installed the water filter lock in a date to replace the water filters every 6 months.

16. Create maintenance packages or retainer services. Our gardening guy mows the lawn every 3 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 unless he employs a team of people! This is a quality problem to have in your business.

17. Up-sell and cross-sell your customers. My husband and I don’t have green fingers and after all the plants in the back yard died AGAIN, our gardening guy asked if we would like a quote to fix up the flower beds. Of course we said Yes.

After he planted new plants and installed reticulation, he suggested we added the maintenance of this area to our existing lawn mowing services. We were super grateful and now have a blossoming garden like our neighbours.

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YOUR TURN

TAKE 10 MIN TO BRAINSTORM IDEAS 
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It takes so little effort to keep existing customers happy and to stay light years ahead of your competition, take 10 minutes right now to brainstorm what you’ll focus on in the next 90 days.
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1. Call your existing customers that bring in 80% of the revenue once every 90 days to touch base and hear where they are at. (if applicable to your business)

2. Send existing customers a personalised email with a heartfelt message once every 90 days or at least on their birthdays (use marketing automation tools if you have a large database)

3. Map out the marketing activities you plan to do to stay top of mind at the beginning of each quarter. This will help you stay focused and be more organised. 

4. Send a handwritten note, postcard or inexpensive novel item to thank customers after a purchase.

5. Consider adding an inexpensive (and unexpected) item in the box of a physical product e.g. chocolate at the bottom of your Nespresso order, a material shoe bag for your leather shoes, toffees with your book order.

Start small and start today. Decide on ONE THING you’ll give attention to over the next 90 days.

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QUESTION:

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

Alicia-MenkveldAuthor: ALICIA MENKVELD  Creator of: BUSINESS CONFIDENCE ACADEMY Alicia Menkveld, an award-winning entrepreneur for the last 17 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. Streamline your business to support your lifestyle.

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