Stressed?  You’re not alone.  Time to seek support.

Stressed? You’re not alone. Time to seek support.

There’s no doubt that the shifting economic sands are eroding resilience among business owners.

Insights from our members show that mental wellbeing has suffered immensely with owners feeling increased stress while running their enterprises. Many business owners are exhausted, anxious and living in a constant state of uncertainty which is undermining mental health. Instead of leading their business, members report they are back working on day-to-day operations, existing on disrupted sleep, taking fewer holidays and increasingly disconnected from their family and friends.

This is not a good state of affairs – and not one that is sustainable in any shape or form. COVID19 has affected everyone in some way and over the last eighteen months we’ve observed some sectors thrive while others have unravelled. Now we are starting to see the longer-term impact of COVID on businesses that have worked long and hard to keep going but with owners who are beginning to feel the heat of rapid change and relentless challenges.

Our regular Pulse Check monitors the wellbeing of business owners and we’ve seen how stressors such as employment issues, skills shortages, rising input prices and shipping delays have increased pressure on the small to medium business sector.

My message to you today is to reach out for support. You can’t take care of your businesses if you don’t take care of yourself. Our members have said they wouldn’t have got through this period without the help of other business owners in The Alternative Board network and they’ve been actively encouraging others to follow their lead and help each other.

Members report that pre-COVID, their confidence was high, they were able to lead their businesses, sleep was regular and they were connected and present when with their families and friends. Today, their state has shifted to feelings of anxiety, they are back working in the business, dealing with constant uncertainty with their sleep disrupted and fearful of the next challenge.

So don’t neglect your own wellbeing – if the business owner isn’t right, the business won’t be right either. We’re in for a long haul yet so get proper support in place. If you have been struggling through on your own – stop. Have an informal chat with us, come and see a board in action and how business owners like you help each other tackle challenges, solve problems and find ways to ease the pressure. You don’t have to do this on your own.

What do a well-managed team and a well-run business have in common?  Plenty as it turns out.

What do a well-managed team and a well-run business have in common? Plenty as it turns out.

Standing on the side-line of my 16-year-old son’s school rugby team last week I was really impressed with what I saw, and I’m not just talking about the rugby.

Choosing to look at the team through a different lens it was the structure and process they have in place that really impressed me. Let me explain.

Firstly,  they had a starting team of fifteen, each of whom played a different position depending on their skill set and what the team required.  They had four subs who they could bring on when fatigue set in, performance dropped, or to cover injury.  They had the right people in the right places with a robust succession plan.

They had a game plan, which was based on the conditions, the opposition, and the style of rugby they wanted to play.  They had a shared vision and a clear goal.

The players prepared well.  There was a lengthy warm-up, they practiced their moves and their set plays.  They had a pre-game team talk where they reinforced the game plan, they spoke about representing their school with pride, playing for each other going into the game with the right attitude.  They were focused, committed, and aligned.

They lined up for the referee who checked their sprigs and mouthguards.  He spoke to the players about his zero tolerance for high tackles or foul play.  Everyone understood the Health and Safety protocols and the consequences of any breaches. 

Every player understood the game plan and the contribution they would need to make in pursuit of victory.  They were given the freedom to make decisions and play what was in front of them.  They had clear expectations, delegated authority, autonomy, and accountability.

They spent time on attack, scoring points through well-executed plays that breached the opposition line.  They were resolute on defence, refusing to have their line crossed.  They played as a team, with resilience and a competitive mindset.

They had a Captain and Vice-Captain who both led through their actions, rather than their words.  They played hard and fair, and the rest of the team followed the example they set.  They had strong, inspirational leadership.    

They played with intensity, heart and to the limit.  If they overstepped the mark however, they were penalised or yellow carded.  Those players let the team down and were held accountable for their actions by the referee.  There was a fair and transparent process for dealing with adverse behaviour.

At the end of the game they shook hands with the referee, the opposition team and then thanked the supporters.   They had values, played with a spirit of fairness, and showed gratitude.

There was a debrief after the game where they spoke of the things that went well and the things that didn’t.  They talked about ‘work ons’ for the next training session.  They celebrated success but always had a mindset of constant improvement.

So why is rugby so successful in this country?  It’s because as Kiwi’s we have an inherent expectation of success on the rugby field, the coaches create a platform for these players to excel and the players are empowered to execute in pursuit of victory.  

If you’re a Business Owner or Leader and you can resonate with this thinking, get in touch with us at The Alternative Board and let’s start developing your game plan.

Discover your working genius to manage rapid growth

Discover your working genius to manage rapid growth

Employment issues were one of the top stressors for business owners identified in our recent Pulse Check and, while we know letting people go is hard, taking people on can be even more difficult, particularly in times of rapid growth.

I recently ran a session for twenty of our members with Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and other business books. We discussed the process of employing others during growth periods and how – in our rush to fill the jobs – we can end up taking on the right people with the wrong skills or, as Patrick described it, the wrong type of ‘working genius’.

To precis his concept, there are six types of working genius we all possess split between two things we are born to do, two things we are capable of, but require us to make considerable effort and two things that leave us completely frustrated. Some are born to ideation, some to activation and others to implementation and, as employers, we need to balance this mix of abilities to get the best from our teams.

During the recruitment process we should turn our attention to what the role needs rather than rushing to get people in the door as we might be putting them in a role that leads them to frustration rather than allowing their personal genius to bloom.

Rapid growth in business can be hard to manage – US company research indicated that 50% of bankruptcies follow a year of strongest growth. Rapid growth comes with cash flow pressures and employment issues as the business owner tries to meet demand.

Following on from the session with Patrick, we mapped out jobs and opportunities that have emerged through this ongoing COVID19 period and the types of ‘genius’ that would help develop growth and maximise the opportunities. We also looked at how the wrong people in the job would lead to the business getting stuck and, from this, decided that in some cases it is better to leave the post vacant than have the wrong person in the role.

The lesson learnt for us all was to pause and reflect, particularly during our growth periods. This might seem to contradict accepted business norms which have been inclined towards increasing staff numbers but biggest isn’t always best. What’s best is to understand what’s needed, what we want from the role, define that and then find the right genius for the job.

Motivation flagging?  Take your lead from the All Blacks

Motivation flagging? Take your lead from the All Blacks

We all know the All Blacks epitomize great team play and great team support – even on those rare occasions when they lose a game or, even more infrequently, lose a couple. We also know the mainstream media outcry that accompanies these events. Headlines chorus ‘where has it all gone wrong’ and opinion pieces call for the coach to be sacked – if the media coverage was taken at face value an observer might think the All Blacks had never won a game.

So too with media stories about business. Our Autumn Pulse Check showed that mainstream media stories continue to undermine business confidence, which although still high, has started to fray. Motivation for some business owners was also failing while others reported they were actively looking for support. How then can a business owner keep an eye on the environment and current affairs and not be overwhelmed by the gloomy headlines?

The first thing to remember is that conflict and controversy are the drivers of mainstream media stories. For the most part they are designed to trigger emotions as part of the art of hooking the reader in – a bit like getting the ball out of the scrum – so if you are constantly scanning headlines life will seem worse than it actually is.

Next, stay focused on your business. Remember what you do well and don’t let the noise around you affect the way you regard your business and your employees. When the All Blacks take a roasting the coaches know they must focus on the wellbeing of the players and, when everyone is seemingly under attack, support each other through the stormy coverage.

Of course there is still ongoing coverage of the pandemic – and rightly so. This now includes commentary about moving into a ‘new normal’ but we are not there yet. We are still operating in an environment of unexpected events triggered by the ongoing pandemic which means as business owners, looking after our staff, our customers, our families and communities, we too need to put ourselves in a supportive environment.

Over the last twelve months, many of our boards have become that safe haven with members able to help each other, sharing the lessons learnt so far and, together, working through solutions to deal with the unexpected and rapid change. Onboard a plane, the emergency drill always instructs passengers to put their oxygen mask on first before helping others. In business we should follow that advice but seldom do.  Find that supportive environment, take time to shut out the noise of headlines, take a break in the day to focus on your own wellbeing so dealing with the increasing stressors becomes easier and manageable.

Confidence and motivation fraying for some SMEs, survey shows

Confidence and motivation fraying for some SMEs, survey shows

Article by Marta Steeman – Senior Reporter – Stuff Limited

The stresses and strains of handling Covid-19 disruption is taking its toll on the confidence and motivation of a good chunk of small businesses, a new survey shows.

The Alternative Board’s Pulse Check Autumn 2021 shows business confidence is still high among 46 per cent of the 271 member and associates who responded to the survey but a substantial chunk, 39 per cent, are “just ok” and have no room for more lockdowns.

The Alternative Board is a business development, coaching and mentoring organisation for small to medium-sized businesses and has about 300 members here. There are about 15 franchise operators around the country.

The Alternative Board North Canterbury managing director Steve Wilkinson​ said the Covid aftershocks of shipping delays, higher prices and difficulty finding suitable staff seemed to be fraying the high levels of confidence reported in the summer.

Continue reading on Stuff

Article first published in Stuff 14 May 2021.

Salary caps are not just for the NRL

Salary caps are not just for the NRL

Most fans following the NRL understand the idea of a salary cap – and if you aren’t familiar with NRL it is Australia’s National Rugby League. Like many sporting leagues they have some form of a salary cap which is an agreement or rule that puts a limit on the amount of money that a team can spend on players’ salaries.

You might also think that this sort of policy is reserved for big earners and sports superstars but a salary cap makes sense for businesses too. As a business owner, have you thought about the benefits of a salary cap? Here’s the rundown for you.

What are the benefits of a Salary Cap?

  • It helps to protect your profit margin.
  • It helps you make efficient use of the team you already employ.
  • It helps you recognise and understand the implications of increasing or decreasing staff numbers.

How does it work?

  • Step one – you set a target net profit percentage. Let’s say your revenue is $1,000,000 and your aim is to achieve a 10% net profit of $100,000.
  • Step two – subtract that from your revenue.
  • Step three – deduct all non-labour expenses from your revenue. For this example the amount would be $500,000.
  • What’s left over is your salary cap – in this case $400,000.

How does this help?

  • It creates a clear picture of the labour you can afford.
  • You can track your monthly labour costs.
  • Helps set meaningful forecasts you can work with.
  • As you grow, your costs grow and it is good to control what you can. Labour costs is one of them.

At our Alternative Board meetings we spend time exploring the numbers that help keep our businesses on track. If you would like to discover more about formulas that inform, I’m here to help so get in touch.