Category: Instruments

Game, Set, Match – get them in the right order

To win a tennis match means winning a series of games. The games won will then turn into sets that will then turn into matches.

Balls win matches

“Isn’t that insulting my intelligence?” I hear you rant at the screen. “I know how to win a game of tennis!” Agreed. How about winning in business though?

I come across a lot of business owners who want to win matches but don’t accumulate enough games to win the match.

They are too busy doing the other things assuming victory is theirs as a right. Using the tennis metaphor they will be writing their victory speech or reflecting on the press conference rather than getting on with the grind of winning games.

In business a game could be completing the marketing collateral, writing the job specs, filling in the expenses, doing the budgets, reviewing client satisfaction ratings. Al the small but essential tasks that need to be done and done well.

Do enough of them and you will see progress. The equivalent of a set perhaps. Persist and the match might be yours. Time for you to grasp the racket and head for the base line.

New balls please …

Keeping cashflow under control: Top 5 tips

Paid InvoiceAccording to a survey carried out by Reuters in April, nearly half of SMEs are concerned about cashflow issues impacting on their business over the next year.

The time between sending out an invoice and receiving payment can sometimes seem like an immeasurable and uncontrollable variant which impacts on many other aspects of the business, but here are some tips to keep problems at bay:

Clear payment terms

Make sure that your payment terms are clearly set out on all invoices. It can be helpful to set a clear time frame, such as ‘within 7 days’, as this allows you to communicate with the client how long they have left before the payment is overdue, or exactly how long overdue it is. Including the due date on the email you send with the invoice also sets a clear precedent for payment time.

Chase early and methodically

Don’t let the payment terms drag on before chasing. Once you have chased once, follow up periodically, reminding the customer how overdue the payment now is. Ensure that your language is formal but polite. Some good templates for invoice chasing messages can be found here.

Communication and clarity

It’s important to communicate about cashflow and payments – people can be reluctant to ask their clients for overdue payments, and this is prudent as relationships can be delicate. But it is important to be open and upfront; everyone understands that cashflow can become an issue, so don’t be afraid to communicate. Being open from the beginning can prevent loss of relationships later on, when you may be forced to withdraw your services, for example.

Spread out payments

Giving clients the option of paying in instalments can prevent the mental block of not wanting a lump sum to leave their account, and aids their cashflow as well as yours. It also helps to have a mix of client payment times, some paying on longer term contracts, and some shorter term.

Know your expense timetable

Every business has expenses which leave the account at a set time each month, and these are just as much a part of the cashflow issue as payments coming into the account. Make sure you account for when payments are leaving and work your invoicing timetable around this wherever possible.

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.

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.

Time is perishable

Price listRack rates, price lists, standard charges, day rates, hourly rates.

You’ll no doubt recognise these terms. Every business needs one or more of them to ensure that work carried out is profitable. It also creates a uniformity that clients respect when various parts of the business are asked to price a service and they align.

But what about those times when work becomes available but it is below the standard price list? Should it automatically be dismissed? Should time be taken to assess the profitability before taking it on? These are good questions to ask. And they will reveal good answers.

Most of the companies we speak to would most likely dismiss them on the basis that:

  • Service levels become variable dependent on the price
  • It sets a precedent
  • Profits are impacted adversely
  • The potential client does not get the value proposition

There are probably more. They do however miss one very key ingredient to the mix. That time is perishable. Once gone, it cannot be recovered.

Our argument therefore is to take every piece of work offered, so long as it obeys these critical rules:

  • It is above the costs for doing the work – never make a loss
  • The client is made aware that service levels will not be the same as the full fat version – get this in writing and stick to it
  • It is a one-off (but it could of course be repeated in the future, at your discretion)
  • Insert the full price on the invoice and then discount it to the agreed price – you will then show the true value of your full fat proposition.

We all want to be famous for something and get paid accordingly. For those times when we are asked to sacrifice profit for perishable time, then our view is go for it but with the above rules in mind. Time cannot be reclaimed, so every minute you aren’t getting paid for is money you won’t ever see.

Cut through information overload

Stack of newspapersOne effect of living with so much electronic information is a continual state of information overload. It’s not possible to take it all in. There’s always more than you can cope with.

Managers today need to discern what is important and what’s not. The simple answer is to read everything, but that’s just not possible. And it gets worse. Information is only the start point. No one is paid to manage information. It’s what they do with it that counts.

When the information is processed, through thinking and reflection, it becomes knowledge, wisdom and insight. And these are the commodities that are highly prized in the commercial world.

Here are some stories to consider from today’s business headlines.

  • UK networks in crunch 4G meeting
  • ‘Flat year’ for UK house prices
  • UK economy ‘grew in last quarter’
  • JPMorgan sued over mortgage bonds
  • Boeing wins $6bn Brazilian order

If you read the articles, there is no question that you’d be more informed. But would you be any more valuable to your organisation?

The key is to ask yourself the question “why am I reading this?”

If you can’t make a convincing argument to read the article or report then stop reading and move on.

Someone once said that information overload is simply the failure of the filter system. Put in place a filter system that works for you and you will be amazed at how much time you can save to then use profitably.

If not, you may fall victim to this adaptation of an old saying: read, and weep!

Business Coaching in Bristol and Bath

It’s Not Enough Just to Know – It’s What You Do that Counts

Business Coaching in Bristol and Bath

Why are you reading this blog?

There are three possible answers to that question:

a) For fun – which I think is unlikely!
b) For practice – which again I think would be highly improbable
c) For knowledge – which, by process of elimination, is the answer most would give

My hunch (and hope) is that you’re looking to gain knowledge on subject matter that is either of interest or importance to you. That’s fine, but perhaps the more important question is: How is gaining the knowledge going to benefit you?

It seems the pursuit of knowledge is something we’re hardwired to do from an early age to improve our opportunities in life; we associate knowledge with power and power with money. One of my favourite gurus, Deepak Chopra, puts it a little more eloquently when he talks about us all having two Goddesses residing in our hearts: the Goddess of Knowledge and the Goddess of Wealth. The more time we focus on the Goddess of Knowledge, the more the Goddess of Wealth vies for our attention by giving us the wealth we desire—a causal reaction, if you like.

Whilst logical enough, for me this doesn’t go far enough, as the gaining of knowledge in itself shouldn’t be the end goal. We can all gain knowledge very quickly and cheaply with the Internet at our fingertips, but what differentiates us is how we use the information.

“Knowledge without action is vanity, and action without knowledge is insanity” – Iman Ghazali

“Without knowledge action is useless and knowledge without action is futile” – Abu Bakr

Applying this thinking to our own business situations, whilst it’s important to know all about our progress via our key performance indicators, website analytics, and management accounts, this knowledge in itself isn’t going to improve performance or help growth without us acting on it. As another of my favourite gurus succinctly puts it:

“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” – Anthony Robbins

There’s therefore a four-step recurring process you should implement and master in your business metrics, which looks something like the cycle pictured here.

A very topical example of this process in action is the SKY racing team’s success in the recent Tour de France. Those running the team realised that by monitoring everything that could be tracked on its own wasn’t enough, as all the other teams also had access to the same or similar data. The differentiator for them was their ability to interpret and react to their findings more quickly and effectively than their competitors. They used “non-cycling” experts in their own specific fields to determine the ideal path to success.

In the same way, business owners could and should set up their own “data utilisation” cycles—either with internal or external experts—to help them collect the most relevant data and realign their strategy/action as a result. As in sport, those who do this faster and better than their rivals gain a critical competitive advantage.

Business Coaching in Bristol and Bath