Driving the 5 Business Growth Enhancers

Category: Crew (Page 1 of 2)

Let the Chimp out

How often do you find yourself in a situation where the other person in the conversation seems to be ranting, or on an emotional tsunami? Or have you been in a meeting where one or more of the delegates seem to be off message but still transmitting?

Well, there is an explanation and if you know what it is then you can deal with it

Chimp Paradox

It’s called the Chimp and is described in the book the Chimp Paradox by Dr. Steve Peters. He helped guide the British Cycling team to glory at the London Olympics.

In the book he describes the human brain as having 2 key parts. One is you, the real you. Logical, rational. The other is the emotional you. The one that feels rather than thinks, that sees in black and white and has catastrophic thoughts.

Does that sound familiar? If not for you it might explain the behaviour of some of the people you interact with. It is their Chimp that is transmitting, not the real them.

The secret is to let the Chimp have their say no matter how irrational, emotional or off message. Once the rant is over, it calms down and goes to sleep allowing the real person to appear. Sound too simplistic. Maybe, but it works.

Try it next time. Just let them get it off their chest. No interruptions, not engagement, don’t take it personally and remember that it is not the real person talking. Then when they have calmed down, then do the talking. It really works

Coping with the summertime slowdown

sunbizJune is in full swing, and summertime is upon us. Yes, we might look out of the window and see grey skies, or even – dare I say it? – rain! But according to the longer days and impending school holidays, it is definitely summer.

Assuming that your business isn’t seasonal and looking forward to a warm-weather boom, you could face a lull as people start to switch off and get into holiday mode.

So how can you prepare, and what can you do to minimise its impact?

Grow your network (on and offline)

This is a great time to attend as many events as possible and build your network. Attending after-work events on summer evenings is much more appealing than rainy nights when it gets dark early! Be careful though, as some regular events may not take place in summer months, so make sure you check the details before heading out.

Automate what you can

If you and others you work with are going to be away, it’s a better excuse than ever to automate what communications you can. Automate responses to newsletter sign ups, with timed follow-ups if you can, and set out a timetable of social media posts to keep it ticking over while you switch off. Personalised marketing is still essential, but these can be a handy supplement.

Send your staff out for training

This can also be a great time to send staff out for training, and can be a constructive way to keep holiday-headed employees focused while also renewing their enthusiasm.

Take a break

One thing you must do is make sure you take a break yourself, switching off completely. A break where you check your emails and deal with issues is not a break. Make sure you book time off well in advance and make the necessary preparations before you leave to ensure everyone knows you’ll be out of action. This is your reward for being connected for the rest of the year, so don’t feel guilty!

(NB. Make sure your autoresponse message is correct, rather than just setting it off with the same message as your holiday last year, to avoid confusion over when you will return.)

Experiment!

Summer is a brilliant time to try out all of the innovative ideas you have thought of but haven’t had time for. Perhaps it’s a new marketing method or an initiative to increase productivity. Perhaps you want to try an incentive for returning clients. Whatever it is, now is the time to give it a go!

The conversations you need to be having

It’s impossible to be in business without being in conversation. One person, alone in a room, talking to nobody simply isn’t a business (or at least, it’s not a business yet!)

There are a number of conversations you need to be having on a regular basis to ensure that your business runs as effectively as possible.

Outside of your business:

The most important conversations you need to be having outside of your business are with customers. Whether these are existing customers or potential customers, you need to be talking.

The essential thing here is to be engaged in conversation. Writing a blog or delivering a monthly newsletter isn’t effective if there is no engagement. Encourage discussion about the topics you’re talking about and be a vocal part of the business community.

Make sure you are having new conversations as well as maintaining old ones; it’s important to both maintain and strengthen relationships, and create new ones where there is potential waiting to be discovered.

Within your business:

Inside your business, it’s important that the stakeholders are talking regularly. No matter the size of your business, all parties have to know what they are aiming for and what success looks like for the business. Having regular monthly meetings to catch up on all targets and strategies is an essential part of this. Even if you are a sole trader, you will most likely have suppliers, and making your needs known to them and feeding back how you find their service adds value to the relationship.

Around your business:

It is always useful to find out about the experiences of others, so talking to people in the same industry as you can be valuable. Perhaps there is a shared interest which you can combine forces on, or a relationship which might be useful in the future. Don’t be too focussed on personal gain, and at the very least, you will have reached out to another person who now knows about your skills and can judge when they might be needed.

A blog about conversations wouldn’t be complete without starting one. Do you need to have these conversations more often? Or are there other discussions you feel are more important? Leave us a comment below or email alexh@businesscopilot.co.uk with your views!

Get motivated: find your purpose

One of our clients sent us a video about workplace motivation (see the bottom of this page) last week. It got us thinking about what motivates us and those around us to do their best work, and how we can ensure we’re all working towards the ultimate goals of happiness and fulfilment.

The video is an illustrated version of Dan Pink’s talk at RSA which takes us on a quick spin around the subject of one of his pet topics, motivation. Studies have shown that being offered more money to do a better job makes no difference when we are dealing with any tasks which require anything other than manual/physical work. So, motivation for cognitive tasks can’t be linked to more money, and in fact, being offered more money actually leads to poorer performance.

What it is it that we need to do our best work? The video concludes that it’s autonomy, mastery and above all, purpose. But what exactly does ‘purpose’ mean? We (like Dan) think it means doing something which you have a natural talent for, and not always for monetary reward, but also for satisfaction and enjoyment, and the feeling of doing something to help the wider community.

So how do we go about achieving these things? Some choose to do community work, or work for free which advances their field. The digital and tech sectors are particularly well known for their commitment to developing things simply for the love of it rather than commercial gain.

The one thing you need for all of this is a passion for what you are doing, enough to go out there and do it not just when you’re getting paid, but the rest of the time too. Perhaps you could volunteer your services to those who need it, through charities or community initiatives. Perhaps you could work on developing those ideas that pop up during the working day in your spare time. Whatever form your purpose takes, do as much of it as you can.

So here comes the big question; do you love what you do enough to spend your free time on it? And if not, what do you love that much?


This is a talk for RSA given by Dan Pink, author of bestselling books Drive and A Whole New Mind.

Hiring candidates of the highest calibre

careerGrowing businesses will inevitably come up against the need to employ a new member of staff. Whether you are employing your first team member apart from yourself, or are expanding a larger team, there are a few fundamental things you need to decide on if you’re going to get the best person for the job.

We have created this brief checklist to make sure you secure the very best employees for continuing your growth.

What’s the role?
First, you need to know what role your new employee will play. Will it be part time or full time? Are you hiring an employee for their skills which you don’t have, or are you employing another ‘you’ to share workload? Perhaps what you really need is someone who can bring both (if they exist!)

Create a full, clear job description explaining honestly the qualities the candidate needs, all experience the position requires and an overview of the day-to-day tasks they will need to complete. Here is a useful job description template to draw inspiration from.

What’s the salary?
One particularly tough point is deciding how much to pay an employee. Asking what their salary expectations are is one way of setting an appropriate benchmark, and you must take into account what you can afford. Read our blog from the archives about what to pay your staff.

How will you promote the position?
When you’ve crafted a clear and precise job description, you must decide where to publish it. If you know you get a lot of website hits, it may be worth hosting a ‘careers’ page on your site.

Linking to the job description using social media is a great way to spread the word, as is posting it on free listing sites such as Gumtree and Indeed. Maximise your network and send the position out to all contacts, asking if they know anyone who may be suitable. It may also be worth considering specialist sites and messageboards for your industry, especially if you are looking for graduates or specifically qualified candidates.

The Interview
Choosing an interview format can be tough, and asking the right questions is key.
One particularly good question I was once asked at interview was “If I was at the pub with you and your friends and you left the room, if I asked them what one thing they’d change about you, what would they say?”

It took me by surprise and forced honesty. It forced me to see my negative traits through the eyes of people who liked me despite them, and it’s not often that you’re asked to think in that way. It was certainly much better than “tell me about your weaknesses”, a notoriously overplayed and much-anticipated interview question.

It’s a good idea to ask candidates, perhaps those who reach a second level of interview, to complete a short piece of work to demonstrate their ability. This will give an invaluable insight into how they work and the quality of work they produce.

Choosing the right candidate
checkOnce you have narrowed down the selection, choosing the right candidate can be difficult. Do you pick skills, experience or personality, if all three aren’t present in one candidate? Decide which of these is most important to you, and make any deficiencies which may need training clear to the candidate.

Best of luck in your search, and we hope you find the very best there is!

Note: New changes have come into effect from the start of April 2013, regarding how small businesses report their employees’ earnings to HMRC. Click here to read about the changes and what they mean for you.

Useful further reading: How to hire your first employee.

Consultancy is cheap when done early

While browsing the website of a contact we met this week, we saw one quote which really stood out.

“Consultancy is cheap when done early.”

The saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is one that most are familiar with, and consultancy is often seen as a ‘cure’. We choose to see it differently. Enlisting the help of a coach at the beginning of your business can mean avoiding potential pitfalls later on. The key is not to wait for these pitfalls, but to anticipate and circumnavigate them.

While we might wish that we had the benefit of hindsight before a mistake happens, this is usually impossible. But as experienced business coaches, we can give you the benefit of expertise and past experience, which can prove invaluable when faced with a new venture, idea or problem that you’re not sure how to deal with.

We encourage you to think differently about consultancy. To refer to our flight metaphor, when you are ‘in the hangar’, about to take your first flight, it’s important to do the appropriate checks to ensure that all the components fit for purpose. Having a business coach on board at this stage can ensure that robust foundations are laid (see one example of a business we helped take off).

If you are in flight, but want to gain altitude, consultancy can also help. By assessing all aspects of your business, we can find pinch points and areas which are stopping you from breaking through the clouds. The important thing is that you don’t wait until the engines fail to call in an engineer.

Those kinds of repairs can be extremely costly, but with a little work beforehand, many of them could be avoided. One particularly extreme example of advice not followed was the Challenger disaster. Two of NASA’s engineering consultants from Morton Thiokol had spotted a defect in one of the parts of the shuttle, meaning that launching at a low temperature could cause a catastrophe.

Despite their whistleblowing, they were ignored and NASA chose to launch regardless. The result was catastrophe. Had they taken the advice which was readily available, they could have avoided this disastrous outcome.

We are not suggesting that your business will fall foul of such disaster if you don’t enlist a consultant; but the advice and information is available, and it could be the difference between a good business and a great one.

So, consultancy can be cheap – will you choose to spend less now, or more in the long run?

To book a one-to-one with us to find out how your business can gain altitude, call 0117 317 8147 or email us.

Take the lead in your business

Small business owners often find themselves, seemingly by accident, in the role of leader. Having the responsibility for training, motivating, and getting results from a team can seem like an overwhelming task, but leadership is another aspect of business which, although it may not be your natural strength, must be considered and can definitely be improved upon. Leadership

So, here’s our brief guide to leadership in business. What is it, who does it, and how can you be better at it?

What is leadership?
It’s leading a group of people, and having the responsibility of getting the best out of them. Merriam Webster describes it as “the office or position of a leader; capacity to lead”. The word which will ring alarm bells there is most likely ‘capacity.’

It implies that leaders have an innate, natural ‘capacity’ or aptitude for leadership. While it may be the case that some people possess a better foundation of skills for leadership than others, there are still plenty of ways that you can learn to be the best possible leader you can be.

What makes a great leader?
It is important to recognise that there is no one specific leadership style which is universally accepted as the best or most effective. But there are some leadership traits which have been singled out as being helpful.

One desirable leadership quality is emotional intelligence. Being able to identify with team members through empathy, motivation, self-awareness, self-regulation and social skill are important.

Communication is also key. This article, a very useful one about how previously bad leaders have gone about improving, suggests that effective communication is one of the skills which has the biggest payoff for leadership improvement. It is rarely the case that anybody feels that they or their leaders communicate too much.

teamCan you become a great leader?
Some might believe that leaders are born, not made. Well, that’s simply untrue. There are plenty of articles online offering advice on leadership (see below), and many more leadership training courses which will equip you with the tools and information you need to feel confident as a leader.

How can you learn leadership?
The Growth Accelerator programme not only provides funding towards coaching, but also funding towards leadership and management training. Having formal training sessions dedicated to honing the skill of leadership will help identify what you are already doing right and what needs improvement. Contact us to find out more.

Leadership articles: further reading

Harvard Business Review – How Poor Leaders Became Good Leaders

Business Zone – 4 Common Myths About Leadership 

The Fresh Air Learning Company – Forget the Potholes, Lengthen the Road 

Harvard Business Review – Management is (Still) Not Leadership

View from the Cockpit: Search Star

Dan Fallon is MD at Search Star, a Bath-based Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising company. They employ the largest team of qualified Google Advertising Professionals in the South West and work with clients across the UK. They work with clients of all sizes, from multinational brands to niche start-ups. If you’d like to learn more about how PPC could contribute to your advertising, visit their website.

Search StarSearch Star have recently started sponsoring the Bath & Bristol Marketing Network Group, a local group where marketers have the opportunity to meet and stay up to date with news and advances in marketing, through networking and talks.

We asked Dan some questions about his plans for the future of Search Star:

What is the vision for Search Star?

To keep making our clients happy by delivering great results from online advertising.

MD of Search Star, Dan FallonWhere would you love to see your business go? 

We’ve been going 7.5 years and are starting to gain confidence in our abilities. We’ve nearly doubled in size in the last 12 months and will probably do similarly well over the next 12 months. Our market is incredibly exciting with our plans for 2013 having us expanding from our Search PPC heartland into other forms of online advertising.

We are in the fortunate position that at present 100% of our business comes in by referral. We don’t have a sales team. We get our work by delivering great results to happy clients and long may this continue.

Our challenge is to manage this growth whilst retaining the customer “love” that drove it. We work in a market where customer demand is huge but customer scepticism is also high. Our clients are typically ‘telesaled’ every day by hit-and-run “we’ll get you to #1 on Google” sharks and we need to keep differentiating ourselves.

 What might prevent you from achieving this?

We could grow too quickly, recruit sloppily and fail to build solid teams to manage client business. Good PPC is labour intensive and needs numerate, literate and articulate account managers. The current team we have is our best ever. We need to keep them, grow them and build around them.

Additionally, like many businesses in Bath, we are on the hunt for quality city centre premises. We are a team of 11 at present and will need to move this year. The team are young and need to stay in the centre and there doesn’t seem to be enough quality space for c. 20 person firms.

How do you plan to resolve these issues? 

We’ll keep our focus on client service, quality recruitment and staff training and put some time aside to go house hunting!

What should you be doing all day?

“You’re a first-time CEO. You’ve built your team, hired kick-ass employees, brought on strong leaders, so… now what?”  Making the transition from going it alone to having the power to delegate can leave a void of activity in your working day. Ring any bells?

A recent blog by Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Scott Weiss might just give you the direction you need to make the most productive use of your time. He has created a weekly CEO’s checklist to help you make the most of your time:

Sell your vision

You need to be able to talk about the company in a really compelling way, and not just for potential customers. PR firms, employees, investors – these groups all need to be convinced by your passion and vision to really work hard for you. 

Push your team

A few ways which Scott suggests for pushing your team for their very best work are:

  • Setting aggressive goals, and reviewing regularly
  • Giving frequent feedback so employees know what’s expected and how they’re doing
  • Holding weekly staff meetings to keep on track with projects and goals, and give a forum for suggestions

Arbitrate disagreements

Sometimes a wealth of excellent people means a wealth of excellent ideas, some of which will naturally oppose each other. Compromising every time will mean that the biggest and best decisions are never allowed their full potential, so don’t be afraid to back whichever you think is the better idea.

Management by walking around

Self-explanatory, really. Walking around your office gives you the chance to catch up with employees and stay connected with what’s happening in on a day-to-day basis in your business. Sitting in your office won’t tell you half as much about your company as getting amongst it will.

Talk to customers

Customers are the most important people to get feedback from. If you can spend time talking to them about what they like and don’t like, you’ll stay current, relevant, and in touch with their needs – which you really do need to be.

So, if you are a new CEO and are wondering what to do with your day now that you have the provision of delegation, don’t stay in your office, get out there and immerse yourself in your business.

View from the cockpit: Mubaloo

Bristol and Bath are regional hubs of enterprise and excel in areas as diverse as aviation, creative and tourism. We thought it would be a good idea to talk to some of the most prominent business leaders in the area about their own experiences and advice.

Mark Mason seemed like a great person to kick the series off. His company, Mubaloo, is a leading mobile app developer with offices here in Bristol. It has grown considerably since it started in 2009, and continues to do so, recently having acquired the Bristol app development company Always On Message.

As with all success stories, there is a compelling vision that drives the business forward, engages staff and enhances customer experience. Mubaloo’s vision is, in Mark’s own words, “to be the largest and most respected B2B/B2C app development business in the world.”

We asked what might hold them back from achieving these aggressive goals and perhaps more importantly, how they’ll clear the hurdles to growth.

Mark’s view is that Mubaloo’s growth will depend on correctly navigating these 4 things:

  1. Issue: Recruiting and retaining the right people

Solution: Mubaloo succeed in finding really good people. Mubaloo has a policy of never settling for second best when it comes to selection. Having found them the next task is to keep them. Loyalty to Mubaloo is not a given and they work hard to retain their global teams interest in what they are doing.

  1. Issue: Continually refining the proposition

Solution: Continually evolving the proposition to meet the needs of the market. The market is never still and Mubaloo need to ensure they are at the very centre of what is happening in their markets. In a global context this is even more important. Mubaloo needs to be agile and nimble enough to meet the ever demanding needs of the clients.

  1. Issue: Beating the competition

Solution: staying ahead of the competition by continually exceeding the expectations of their clients. The competitors in the global village are working tirelessly to get first mover advantage. Mubaloo needs to be able to respond instantaneously to ensure clients spend their hard earned income on them rather than on the competitors. By developing, evolving and meeting the needs of their clients Mubaloo will stay ahead of the competition.

  1. Issue: Exercising Commercial Control

Solution: keeping the business administration efficient and effective to speed up response times. That demands tight, strict financial and management control but in a way that is embedded in what they do, not just as an afterthought. Mubaloo stay in control by putting in place the right management processes and procedures and maintaining strict financial controls.

Amazing insights from a very successful company. How do you assess the obstacles which might prevent your business vision from becoming reality? What is hampering your growth and how are you going to clear these hurdles? Some food for thought.

Finally, we hope you have enjoyed reading this. You might be able to help us by suggesting business leaders who you think have a similar success story to share? If so, please let us know on 0117 230 3166 or email us on alexh@businesscopilot.co.uk.

« Older posts