“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?

Brave Small Businesses Buck The Trend

Brave Small Businesses Buck The Trend

Confident and determined to get through – that’s the verdict from members this August when we checked in to see how you were all doing

Contrary to ongoing ‘doom-and-gloom’ commentary, there’s a strong, steady pulse beating in our small business sector with business owners like you displaying remarkable resilience, high confidence and a pragmatic approach to the challenges of COVID19.

Our August Business Pulse revealed 95% of small-to-medium size enterprises are confident they’ll get through.  More than a third of small businesses have benefited from government support with only a small percentage anticipating job losses once the wage subsidy ends. Banks have been understanding, helping where necessary or carrying on with business as usual, and jobs are holding steady.

Sales and orders remain buoyant with supply lines and international transportation links for exporters seemingly intact.

“Given we are awash with negative commentary, the results were heartening” says managing director  Stephen James. “I think, in part, the focus has been on the hit taken by more visible sectors like tourism and hospitality but our members are involved in many other activities and their perspective hasn’t necessarily been reflected to date.

“The strong Pulse Check was even more remarkable as the change to Alert Level Three for Auckland and Alert Level Two for the rest of New Zealand occurred during the consultation period.”

On the down side, mainstream media is reducing confidence levels and the wish-list of things that would help business owners get through the remainder of 2020 includes more customers, more government support – and a rest, as business owners report they’re feeling exhausted.

“It is understandable that business owners are exhausted. Although confidence is high and business steady, they’ve worked extremely hard to achieve stability in our tumultuous times. I would anticipate this pace will continue as they adapt and adopt new approaches or innovations. While things may change and outlooks darken, business owners are pragmatic in their determination – the Kiwi ‘can do’ approach to adversity and an unwillingness to be beaten is certainly in evidence. They are ‘COVID courageous’ and I think their confidence level reflects this.”

Keeping in mind our members and associates are primarily involved in industries that make, supply, service, fix, invent or build things and the results may reflect that this group has been under-represented to date, with focus falling on hospitality, retail and tourism in other surveys.

Throughout all the upheaval we’ve seen in 2020, one constant has been the support of The Alternative Board, for and among its members. The majority of members who took part in August’s survey said they had looked to and received support from us and, rest assured, we continue to make sure we can deliver the support and resources you need.

The August Pulse Check survey of 275 of its members and associates was conducted between August 7 – 19 with a confidence level of 90% and a 5% margin of error.  You can download a copy of the results in full here and September’s Pulse Check will be opened to members on September 9 when we’ll check in to see how things are going.

The Alternative Board conducted the August Pulse Check survey of 275 of its members and associates between August 7 – 19 with a confidence level of 90% and a 5% margin of error.

We’ve Done It Before – We Can Do It Again

We’ve Done It Before – We Can Do It Again

A sudden slip into Alert Level Three, the blast of the emergency ‘COVID’ warning through our phones and once again we’re into the balancing act of keeping our businesses moving in exceptional circumstances.

Last month our Pulse Check results told us how adaptable and flexible New Zealand’s small business are, with business owners altering operations and changing practice in order to survive the challenges that 2020 has thrown at us all. Just as we have rolled out our August Pulse Check – which you can access here if you would like to participate – the beat has changed again and, in Auckland, we are facing at least three days at Level 3, probably more, with the rest of New Zealand parked up at Level 2 for the time being.

We asked our Auckland team for their thoughts on the current situation and their advice was simple — we’ve been here before, rely on past experience and know that it will pass.

The Alternative Board’s managing director Stephen James said: “Knowing it will pass, spend some time addressing a few scenarios. For example, if Level 3 lasts, as announced, for three days what do you need to do? Or, if it remains in place for two weeks or if Level 4 is declared and we have full lockdown for an indefinite period — what then? Develop plans of action for each scenario and communicate these to your staff and stakeholders.”

Scenarios are very helpful when it comes to managing uncertainty as Alfredo Puche explained in his recent blog post. Other helpful advice is to be found in Gordon Stuart’s tips on surviving a recession and Karen Van Eden’s thought-provoking piece on thriving in times of uncertainty.

Whatever your approach, remember that The Alternative Board is here to help you, the business owner, manage and grow your business regardless of circumstances — and we are all here, ready to help you.

As Karen says: “We’ve done this before – together we can do it again. Stay safe, stay well.”

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)

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