Clear out the Clutter – and Bring your Business Joy

Clear out the Clutter – and Bring your Business Joy

Last week at my advisory board meeting I presented a new business opportunity to my peers to get their feedback and ideas. Before I shared it with them, I thought I had analysed the situation reasonably well and had uncovered some concerns on how to proceed. The feedback I got was immensely helpful but also pointed out something that really caught me by surprise. What I had considered a good analysis of the problem, they described as ‘head trash’, advising that my mind was cluttered with negative thinking more likely to steer me towards failure than success.

They pointed out that my focus was on the concerns of the timing of the meeting, the need to hold the meeting on Zoom, the closeness of Christmas and my assumption that the client was not in any rush. I’d got bogged down in ‘negative’ concerns giving me an excuse for failure. My fellow board members suggested that I was failing to highlight that it was an excellent opportunity to deliver a great result for a client or get excited because I knew what their problem was, how I could help solve it – and the client had actively sought my services.

Far better that I go into the meeting – Zoom or otherwise – with a clear mind uncluttered by the negatives that had been creeping in. If I focus on the process of how I can help them solve their problem now and get them excited about it – it will be much better than worrying and making assumptions about timing.

Lockdown has produced huge concerns for many businesses and in developing scenarios to help us survive or simply deal with what’s in front of us, perhaps we should take a moment to ‘declutter’ our thinking and instead, work on some plans to be proactive, spotting the business opportunities ahead of us without getting bogged down with ‘what ifs’ and other concerns.

Thanks to my board members, I was reminded that we should get excited about the opportunities we have. Do that and your teams will get excited about facing the new world with you. And, if you are struggling with ways to reclaim the positive, talk to some other business owners – it really does help clear the clutter and the ‘head trash’, allowing you to see the opportunities.

“Worrying is like a rocking chair …

“Worrying is like a rocking chair …

it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.”

– Erma Bombeck

Business owners like to be creative and think about threats and opportunities in their business. Their brain is trying to help them resolve every issue out there to keep them safe from failure or hurt. The problem is when the worrying becomes overwhelming and prevents us from making a move. It helps to recognise that worry is there to keep us safe, but we have other skills that help us perform. Planning is a good positive one.

Think about what your end goal is and implement a plan that will solve the issue and get you closer to your goal. Use a daily task list or diary appointments to find time in your busy life where you can implement the plan. And remember that if you find other stuff is getting in the way, question whether you have your priorities correct.

Recently a client came to see me a few days after he had been blindsided by a staffing crisis. He had had three sleepless nights caused by numerous issues that he was struggling to deal with. These issues were big and life changing such as cancelling large projects, fifty percent revenue declines, having to sell his lifestyle property and even winding his business up. These threats were real – but they were overwhelming him and preventing him from addressing the issue in front of him.

The issue was – “how can I replace a key staff member in the shortest time frame”?

Not easy in the current employment market. But by putting in a plan in place to focus on strategies and tasks to replace the key staff member it took away the worry on things that hadn’t happened yet. And even if the key staff member took a while to find – the strategy and plan to find and replace the staff member would be appreciated by the bank – applying to a bank for financial assistance they would see you were aware of what you were up against but you had a solution you were working toward. As luck would have it – while we were brainstorming on different ideas of where to get specialist staff – a lightbulb went off in my client’s head. By focusing on the issue and not what might happen – he discovered he had a name that could solve his staffing crisis. By the next day, he had interviewed a qualified person and within a week he had a signed contract in his hands.

If you ever find yourself overwhelmed and can’t take a step forward – find someone to talk to that can get you to take a step back, look at what your key issues are, and help you to find a plan that you can implement to solve it. Sleepless nights can be cured by stopping the worrying – by putting a plan in place that gets you to where you want to go.

Do you plan to not lose, or plan to win?

Do you plan to not lose, or plan to win?

Often in business, we size up a situation and become determined not to be worse off but in so doing we lose focus and miss out on creating successful outcomes.

It comes down to mindset. Are we actively looking objectively at strategies that put us in a position of strength or are we setting minimum standards and fixing mistakes as we go so as not to fail? It takes foresight and effort to plan to win. It is about proactively weighing up strategies that have risk but are calculated to provide a greater benefit. It is about learning and adjusting as we go.

At a recent peer-advisory board a business owner was faced with a $6,000 “expense” that could be eliminated. A wise choice – reducing expenses – because as confirmed in our recent Business Pulse Survey there are dark clouds on the horizon for New Zealand businesses. But during discussion with other business owners on his advisory board – the return on the $6,000 “investment” would add $70,000 p.a. to his net profit and by analysing and taking this path he would become more motivated to grow his business during a downturn. Also, with the opportunity to double the “investment” to $12,000 he could add $140,000 p.a. to his net profit in these troubling times. Sure, this is not a given – he still needs a defined goal, strategy, and action plan to achieve it but that’s what planning to win does – it makes you put in place a plan to take advantage of opportunities. Planning to not lose is reactionary and cautionary and can gradually stunt business growth. It avoids the need to be visionary, create a plan, and be held to account and often the business owner who finds themselves in this reactive position is there because of difficult circumstances and lack of motivation or encouragement. Are you planning to win – or, subconsciously, doing just enough to not lose?

Do you want a solution or clarity on what you need?

Do you want a solution or clarity on what you need?

“The first secret of getting what you want is knowing what you want”

Arthur D. Hlavaty

The call came through one February afternoon during a break at The Alternative Board’s Australasian conference. “Hi, I own a professional services company. I want to grow it but I am having trouble with my sales staff and I need help and advice to sort it out”.

I thanked him for the call and promised to arrange a meeting with him once I got back home.

At the meeting, I asked him what was top of mind, and he repeated he wanted to increase his client list, and that his sales staff were underperforming. But I also uncovered the reasons for wanting to grow his business:

  • he wanted to exit his business in 3 – 5 years,
  • he had a buyer in waiting and
  • he wanted to maximise his return.

That’s great I thought, I’ve signed up a new client who has stated an interest in being a member of The Alternative Board until he sells his business in 3 – 5 years’ time.

In our first coaching session, I said “forget about the fires in front of you, what is your personal vision?” In other words – “in the ideal world what would you be doing?” My new client talked about his community, his mission at his church, his family, and using his Ph.D. to grow things that he was passionate about.

None of this was about his business, so I questioned him a little more. His response was he had been building his business for fifteen years with the goal of semi-retiring at 55 – three years away. And now he had lost the passion for doing it. So, I questioned him  – why was he still running his business? The facts were, he had a buyer that was willing to pay enough for the business to retire on and he owned commercial properties that would see him financially independent for the rest of his life.

A smile slowly came over his face, “What am I doing? It’s not about sorting out what my business needs, it’s about me sorting out what I need!”

I lost a client that day. I coached him for a few more months putting in place the plan for semi-retirement but the value I got was in the satisfaction of helping a fellow business owner find clarity – rather than a mutually beneficial solution.

I’m proud to be an independent business owner within a high CALIBRE* organisation. An organisation that puts its clients’ needs above its own.

*The Alternative Board’s Culture Statement – CALIBRE (Community, Accountability, Lifelong Learning, Innovation, Belief, Respect, Excellence)

Author: Peter Mayall