Illustration by Kroszk
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I’m a big believer in taking a holistic approach to business. By this I mean that in order to improve how we work and move forwards we need to make sure we look at the whole picture.
When it comes to running a business, the whole picture doesn’t just mean what happens in the office between the hours of 9am and 5pm. The whole picture also takes in how we’re managing stress outside of those times, how we’re spending our free time, the extra work we’re doing during evenings and weekends, how we’re communicating with our friends and family members, our general emotional wellbeing, and our health.
In other words: our success in business depends on how happy and effective we are in all areas of our life, not just our work.
I work with a wide range of business clients. Their businesses vary hugely in size, experience, industry and style, but these same truths come up for them all over and over again. The happier and healthier you are, the more energy, enthusiasm and creativity you will be able to bring to your business.
It sounds simple, doesn’t it? And yet, so many of us fall into the habit of prioritising short term tasks over our own wellbeing. This may seem like the right thing to do for your business in the short term, but it definitely isn’t in the long term.
Could you be making this common mistake?
Ask yourself if you…
- Skip going to the gym to catch up on emails
- Eat lunch at your desk
- Work late into the evening and miss spending time with your family
- Check emails on your smartphone 24 hours a day
- Take on projects you know will be unnecessarily stressful
- Cancel social events to take on extra work
- Eat unhealthy food because it’s quicker
- Schedule back to back meetings with little time to travel between them or catch your breath
- Fail to give yourself time off
- Worry about work when you should be sleeping
- Forget to drink enough water when you’re at your desk
- Force yourself to work when you’re unwell
- Avoid dealing with stress
- Leave work tasks to the last minute
- Run on caffeine and sugar instead of getting enough sleep
- Don’t accept help that’s offered to you
All these things are key signs that you’re prioritising work tasks over your own wellbeing. You may feel that this is the right thing to do, but over time this approach is likely to lead to burnout, lethargy and a big drop in effectiveness.
Luckily, looking after yourself doesn’t need to be difficult. Small changes can make a really big difference to your health and happiness. And even better? You won’t need to sacrifice hours of your day to make them happen!
Here are a few ideas:
Create better working boundaries
If you find that your working hours are getting longer and longer, it might be a good idea to make a conscious choice to create new boundaries. You could make Sundays totally work free or decide not to check emails after a certain time in the evening.
Set yourself a healthy eating and drinking challenge
How much better might you feel if you were taking more notice of the quality of what you were eating and drinking? Taking the time to make more sensible choices could make a big difference.
Make a choice to take control of your stress
If you struggle with stress, don’t let it spill out into other areas of your life. There are ways you can work to manage this. You could experiment with stress-busting techniques such as mindfulness meditation or yoga… or even just make more time to relax with family and friends. Setting time aside each month to work with a business coach could also help.
Find time to exercise
Thirty minutes a day would make a huge difference to your fitness. What you do with those thirty minutes is up to you! Going to the gym or for a run would be great, but so would taking a walk or practising some yoga.
Have you been sabotaging your business by not looking after yourself? You’re definitely not alone! Why not join me on Facebook for more motivation and inspiration?
There are a lot of things that I love about being a coach. My clients are often on a journey, whether that’s to a more satisfying life or a better business. I feel very privileged to be able to be a part of that journey, especially as I’m often able to facilitate the understanding that makes it happen.
At the end of each client session I want to know that I’ve helped them get a little bit closer to where they need to be. When I first started coaching I started to use these lightbulb moments as an indicator that we were moving in the right direction.
A lightbulb moment is what I call a significant moment of realisation. It’s the point when a client says or hears something that makes them stop, think, and reevaluate.
It could be realising…
… that you don’t like the way you’re living
… that there’s something you really want
… that your personal feelings have been colouring the way you act towards others
… that you’re really great at something
… that you’re not as good at something as you thought you were
… that you’re unintentionally sabotaging yourself
… that you’re working towards the wrong goal
… that your dreams are achievable
… that there’s a better way to do something
… that you’re focusing on the wrong priorities
… that you’ve overlooked something fantastic
These moments are special as they generally drive my clients to make positive changes. Sometimes a seemingly small realisation can give us the confidence to do something that will make a big difference over time: finally accepting that you haven’t got much of a head for numbers could lead you to hiring an accounts expert who will help revolutionise your business. Equally, lightbulb moments can be big and immediately life-changing: reevaluating your priorities could lead to a career change or a house move.
Either way, these realisations and the subsequent changes (big and small!) enable us to move forward and get closer to where we want to be.
Whatever the lightbulb moment, I always know when we’ve reached it. My longer term clients usually recognise their own lightbulb moments now too! Over the years this has become a bit of an in joke with clients and now they’re just as attuned to their significant realisations as I am.
I consider this a real success, not least because I’ve been able to continue to help my clients reach these lightbulb moments. And of course: I’m also always on hand to assist in turning each lightbulb moment into actionable goals for driving real change.
When was the last time you experienced a lightbulb moment? I’d love to hear about it. Why not share your story in the comments?
Business people who have never worked with a coach often have misapprehensions about it. I often hear things like:
I don’t think I can afford it
We don’t have the time to work on our business
I don’t think coaching will suit me
The idea of talking to a stranger makes me nervous
I’d like to take this opportunity to do a bit of myth-busting about coaching. I believe that almost any business could gain a great deal from working with a good coach… and that there’s a coach out there who’s just perfect for almost every business!
Is coaching too expensive?
The price of business coaching can vary wildly depending on the type of coach and programme you choose. When people think about investing in coaching they often think of growth coach programmes that require an up-front investment of thousands of pounds. If this is what is putting you off: don’t worry! In my experience most business coaches don’t work this way. I, and many of my colleagues, operate on a much more flexible per-session basis. You won’t need to set aside a four figure sum to get started and you definitely won’t need to commit to a programme before you know if it’s right for you.
Is coaching too time-consuming?
Almost anything that’s worth having requires work. That said, my Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business programme requires just two hours per month from participants. If you’re serious about moving forwards with your business, you’re going to need to set aside at least a couple of hours a month to work on it. You may find that this is much easier to stick to when you have a standing appointment with a coach. That appointment will become a ring-fenced bit of time that you know you will be dedicating to the future of your business, no matter what else crops up during the week. Because of this, working with a coach can often be more helpful when you’re busy.
Is coaching too prescriptive?
Obviously I can’t speak for all coaches, but trust me when I say that the work I do is never prescriptive. I don’t have one-size-fits-all methods that I trot out for every business client! Instead I focus on getting to know my clients and understanding how their business works in order to facilitate coaching sessions that will drive real valuable change. For me, coaching isn’t about telling people what to do. It’s about providing a safe space to explore all the options and becoming a professional sounding board to discuss which of those options is the right one.
Is coaching too obtrusive?
Sitting down to talk about your business isn’t the same as chatting about it with a stranger. Coaches are usually professional individuals with specialist training and years of experience. We’re well-practised at making our clients feel comfortable and at home during our sessions and we tend to have a knack for knowing when to push and when to step back. If your coach makes you feel nervous or uncomfortable, I suspect you’re working with the wrong one.
Do you have any other misgivings about the coaching process? I’d love to help you address them! You could tweet me @GreenShootCoach or send me a private message via email.
Photo by Moyan Brenn
I’ve talked before about how running a business can feel a bit like performing an incredibly complicated balancing act. With so many things to worry about it can be tempting to prioritise almost everything else above taking care of ourselves emotionally.
Unfortunately, this is usually a bad call in the long run. Your state of mind will have a huge impact on how effective you are as a leader and manager, and if you’re not in good emotional health it’s highly likely that your business will suffer.
It’s because of this that headspace is a very valuable commodity in business. Getting in the right mindset and staying in it is a very effective way for business owners to ensure that they’re able to be at the top of their game.
But how do you get that headspace? Here are five tried-and-tested tips from me.
Take a look at the big picture
The day to day minutiae of running a business can be exhausting. Admin tasks can feel relentless and solving problems with customers and employees can really get you down. Often it can be helpful to step away from those daily processes and get a good look at the bigger picture. If you can find the time to get away from your usual place of work and really look at your successes and the progress you’re making towards your big business goals, I bet you’ll feel a lot better for it.
Schedule time for activities you love
There are a lot of things that go into building a well-balanced life, but one of the key things is to make sure you have time to do what you enjoy. If your whole life is devoted to the things you feel you ‘have’ to do: running your business, taking care of your family, maintaining your home, etc etc, there may be no time left for purely enjoyable activities. I’m a big believer in the importance of play time for grown ups! Not only are hobbies and fun activities a great way to relax and reduce stress, they can also open up your mind for creative thinking and problem solving.
Experiment with mindfulness meditation
The word ‘meditation’ often has negative connotations. If you’ve never explored it before, you may think that it’s a bit of a hippy thing to do. For many of us, though, mindfulness meditation is a key business tool. I like to think of it as a helpful method for clearing my mind and recharging my emotional batteries ready for the next task. If you’ve never tried meditation before, I’d really recommend headspace.com’s free ten day introductory course.
There’s a reason I run a coaching company and that’s because I believe 100% in the power of working with a good coach! Coaching can be beneficial in a huge number of ways, including finding headspace. My Taking Care of Business, Taking Care of You membership programme is particularly well suited to business owners who are lacking in this area. It’s designed around a monthly one-to-one coaching session that gives business owners like you the space to discuss and address any issues that are holding them back, whether the root is personal, professional or a confusing mix of both!
Take a walk in the fresh air
This one may sound too good to be true, but the simple act of going out for a walk can have a big impact. I find that there’s something about the combination of fresh air and exercise that helps to clear my mind and focus on my priorities. Doing this can be an excellent way to let go of the everyday minor stresses of running a business. In fact, I find this so successful that I often invite my coaching clients to take a walk with me! Some of the biggest client breakthroughs I’ve witnessed have been during these ‘walk and talk’ sessions.
Do you have any more tips for gaining business headspace? I’d love to hear them if you do. Why not leave a comment below?
When was the last time you were able to view your business from any perspective other than your own?
We often forget just how much our thoughts and opinions are informed by our own knowledge and experiences. In other words: the view you get of your business is coloured by all the things you know. Your customers will all have their own personal knowledge and experiences and that will make them see your business in a different way than you do.
This isn’t the only reason why a new perspective can be hugely valuable in business. Running your own business can be isolating (in fact, I’ve blogged about lonely entrepreneurship before) and this isolation can lead us business owners to feel very inverted. If your perspective has shifted inwards in this way it can become even harder to view your business impartially.
When we only look at our business from our own perspective it becomes difficult to make informed decisions about how to move forwards or on what aspects of our provision need more work. Sometimes our own perspective can be very narrow, and this can blind us to issues that need to be addressed.
There is good news here: running your own business doesn’t have to be something you do entirely without help! There are people around you who will be keen to offer support, whether that’s friends and family members or professional coaches and consultants.
Much of the important work I do as a business coach is opening up a new perspective. An experienced and qualified coach can help business owners to look at their business from another angle.
- This means that you’ll be able to:
- Find new solutions to ongoing challenges
- Get a better sense of how customers see your business
- Discover issues that have been going on under your radar
- Be inspired to try new things
- Benefit from different experience and expertise
- Explore new ideas for moving forward
- Consider opportunities that have been in your blind spot
- Talk through options from a new angle
- Understand how your actions as a business owner look from the outside
- Get insight into the customer experience you’re providing
- Correct any assumptions you’ve made about your target market
And all this just from opening up a new perspective on your business!
If you feel that your business is being held back, I think you would really benefit from getting some trusted outside opinions. To get started, why not have a conversation with a friend, family member or a coach like me? You might be surprised how much of a boost some fresh ideas could give your business.
Being in business with a partner or family member can work brilliantly, but it can also be extremely challenging. Family and couple businesses is an area I specialise in, and I’m fascinated how the relationship dynamics can make or break a business.
In my Committed to the Business and Each Other series, I speak to a range of couples and families in business to find out what they feel is the secret to their success.
Today I’m speaking to David & Chiara Stone, a husband and wife team from Ramsgate in England who work together to run two very different businesses.
Elevator pitch time! Please tell us about your business.
They’re very different businesses, but we work both for and with each other! Chiara runs Hoobynoo World, an acrylic jewellery brand of cute, cartoon fashion accessories and phone-covers that also houses Hoobynoo Pet Shop, a company that produces quirky, illustrated pet tags, bowls and dog hoodies. David is a children’s author who publishes books with Hodder in the UK and Disney & Penguin in the USA, but he spends the lion’s share of his day writing the popular comedy lifestyle blog ‘Bloke Called Dave’.
Thinking right back to the beginning, what prompted you to go into business with your partner?
Chiara worked for me, initially, running my author website and arranging meetings. Then, as her business grew and overtook mine, both financially and as a demand on our time, the roles reversed and I now spend most of my day fulfilling the orders for Hoobynoo World. I then write in the evening and she completes the first edits of my manuscripts.
Did you consider how your relationship would be affected by being in business together?
We thought it would be hard, especially with two small children. Certainly, we were worried about the divide of time, being in such close proximity for entire working days and also how we were going to share the drop off/collection of our children or how we were going to manage them on the days that they weren’t at school or nursery.
What kind of business planning did you do?
Chiara is a meticulous planner, but the business grew at a slow and steady rate. In this sense, we weren’t taken by surprise and could snatch the time to do strategic planning week by week, ahead of any large events that might take place (for us, being a gift company, these include all the ‘special days’ of the year).
Would you say that you and your partner member have similar strengths or different ones?
Completely different. David suffers from depression and freely admits that he needs time alone and has to frequently make the effort to stabilise his mood before shifting through large amounts of orders, whereas I am an inherently happy person who rarely stops smiling and dancing through each day… even as I’m packing!
What has been the biggest challenge to you for working together?
Fitting the day together, and also switching off. David and I both frequently work until midnight and have to make a special effort in order to ‘take time’ for ourselves. Any movie we watch is usually accompanied by the sounds of ripping sticky tape!
What do you consider your biggest achievement so far?
Growing our new business together so significantly while keeping David’s book career on track (he has a new series out with Hodder in the UK during 2016).
Has working together changed your relationship outside of the business?
Definitely. We now consider family time to be the break from work and it often takes both children to be in the house, running around, for us to remember that we are, in fact, a couple and not just a business.
Have you made use of any outside resources e.g. business experts to support you? If so, were they helpful?
We have had success funding, which was a huge boost. We’ve also had a lot of freelance consultancy help and, of course, David has a terrific literary agent.
What advice would you give to other couples/families who are thinking of starting a business?
Really think about it, the good and the bad. It’s great financially if things take off, but in some cases this means you have to be a terrifically strong couple to survive it. We’ve known marriages to survive unsuccessful businesses and a few that has dissolved as a result of successful ones! There’s always a sacrifice to be made.
What’s next for your businesses?
Hoobynoo World is growing at an alarming rate and we now attend events like the London Pet Fair and run online Market nights. We’re always adding new breeds to the list, so our news is basically to keep watching! David’s blog, Bloke Called Dave, now has newspaper syndication and we’re in discussion with all the major publishing houses, including Bonnier, Orion and Hodder, about turning the blog into a book. David has also started vlogging.
If you’d like to find out more about either Hoobynoo World or Bloke Called Dave, you can find them online http://www.hoobynooworld.co.uk Twitter: @hoobynooworld Facebook: hoobynooworld or http://www.blokecalleddave.co.uk Twitter: @davidgrimstone Facebook: blokecalleddaveblog
Last week I spoke about how non-business problems can affect your business. Today I want to talk about the opposite: how problems in your business can have an impact on the rest of your life.
I’ve said it many times before, but it’s important so I’ll say it again: it’s almost impossible to separate our ‘work’ selves from our ‘home’ or ‘family’ selves. We are all three dimensional people with various roles and responsibilities and when something is going wrong with one of those roles, it often has a knock on effect on the others.
Let’s take a look at a couple of scenarios.
What if you… had more work than you could handle on your own
Having too much work is definitely one of the better business problems to have(!) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t tricky to handle. If you’’re racing to stay on top of an unmanageable workload it’s likely that you’ll be arriving home late and leaving early. Any personal tasks are likely to get pushed to the end of your to do list, never mind actually spending quality time with those closest to you.
What if you… had a difficult business decision to make
There are a lot of decisions to make in business. Where to invest, who to work with, which direction to move in, which expenses to cut… the list is almost endless. If you have a tough choice to make you may find that it takes over all areas of your life. A decision like this can be hugely distracting and may stop you from being able to properly enjoy your much-needed downtime.
What if you… were worried about your business finances
Money worries are never pleasant. If you were trying to deal with stresses and strains associated with this, it would be very hard for you to avoid taking them home with you. Stress can be seriously incapacitating and you may find that your health goes downhill. You might also find it difficult to engage with your family as you usually do and your relationships may suffer as a result.
What if you… had a communication problem with an employee
Employer/employee relations can be hard to navigate. Even a small communication misunderstanding could snowball into a much bigger issue. We spend a great deal of our lives at work and the quality of our relationships with the people we see there can therefore have a big impact on how we feel about ourselves. If you have a communication problem with an employee it could make you feel self-conscious or anxious about how other people in your life see you.
These scenarios represent many of the worries and concerns that I frequently address with my business coaching clients. Do any of them sound familiar? If so, why not reach out? The right coach would be able to help you address problems at work and at home, and therefore empower you to be a more effective business owner.
Photo by Alon
I’ve always been a strong believer in holistic business coaching. Don’t worry: I don’t mean that I’m going to solve all your problems with aromatherapy oil! When I use the word ‘holistic’ I do so in the true sense of the word: the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.
My coaching clients are three dimensional people with many different facets to their lives. They are business people, yes, but they’re also parents and partners and academics and craftsman and highly regarded professionals. If I were to just look at their issues and concerns in one dimension, I wouldn’t be able to address them even half as effectively as I can when I look at the whole three dimensional picture.
The reality is that hardly any of us are able to effectively separate our working lives from our home lives. However efficiently you try to set up systems to keep the two apart, there will inevitably be ‘leakage’ from one to the other.
Don’t believe me? Here are just a few of the ways your life can have a detrimental impact on your business.
What if you… broke your leg
You go out one Saturday to walk the dog with your family and a nasty slip turns into a broken leg. The logistics of how this would affect your business could be huge. Many business owners do a lot of driving and traveling, which would be very difficult to manage. Doctors appointments could eat into business time and it would likely be difficult to concentrate on your business when you’re in a great deal of pain and discomfort.
What if you… had to deal with a family tragedy
None of us want to think about this one, but if you had to deal with a family tragedy such as the loss of a parent, you would undoubtedly have to take time away from your business. Compassionate leave and paid holiday doesn’t exist in self-employment and so you may feel you need to return to work before you’re ready. This would obviously have a huge impact on your state of mind which would affect your effectiveness as a business owner.
What if you… argued with your partner before an important meeting
Our partners are a huge part of our lives and the state of our relationship with them can have a big impact on how we approach things. Something as simple as a disagreement with a loved one over breakfast could affect how we function for the rest of the day. This could be very problematic before an important meeting or a delicate piece of work.
What if you… disagreed socially with a client
When you work with a client for a long time it’s natural for you to develop a social relationship with them. In some cases this can work well, but in others it can lead to unexpected conflicts. This is also true when things happen the other way round and a friend becomes a client. A disagreement with them in a social context would inevitably lead to a loss of trust and would affect your business dealings with them.
What if you… were dealing with a troublesome teenager
Problems at home can really affect our confidence, especially when they make us doubt ourselves. The way we interact with our children can be a hugely emotive issue and if you don’t feel that you’re able to do so effectively it could make you feel seriously self-conscious. This self-consciousness would be likely to spread into other areas of your life and could make you doubt yourself professionally.
It’s because life problems like these can have such an impact on our businesses that I believe in working with my clients as people, not just as business owners. If you’ve struggled with these issues or ones like them in the past, you may benefit from better addressing them in the future. Take my questionnaire Are You Ready for Coaching? to find out more.
Photo by Reyner Media
Many of us dream of starting a business with our spouse or a family member. These types of business can certainly seem idyllic: after all, who better to spend the working day with than a loved one?
Of course, family businesses don’t always run smoothly! Throwing your professional lot in with a family member can also bring up a whole heap of challenges and misconceptions.
One of those misconceptions is that family businesses don’t need to have formal meetings. I’ve sat down to talk with so many business people who have told me they’ve never bothered organising a board meeting. Why would they when they spend so much time with their husband/wife/partner/brother/sister/father/mother anyway?
If you’ve ever found yourself asking that same question: let me tell you why board meetings are still important for family businesses.
Board meetings can stop ‘bleed’ into family time
One of the biggest challenges for family and couple businesses is learning to separate work from play. If you don’t have formal meetings within office hours to discuss key issues such as development, targets and problems, it’s almost certain that you’ll end up discussing them at home. Setting time aside for those important discussions to take place within a formal board room setting can help to protect quality family time.
It’s important to bring issues up in the correct forum
If you have a problem in your business, is it better to discuss it in the office when everyone is in work mode, or to bring it up in front of the TV after a glass of wine? If you don’t have formal board room meetings, you may find yourselves discussing sensitive issues at inappropriate times. This can be incredibly counter-intuitive as it’s much harder to find a solution if you’re not able to be totally focused on the issue at hand. When you address business problems in a board room environment you’ll be much more productive in reaching a resolution.
Meetings will keep employee chat professional
Once you reach a stage when you and your business partner have employees it becomes even more important to have formal meetings in the workplace. If you’re discussing the progress of your employees that really should be done in a confidential environment: not over the dinner table! Formal meetings will also mean you’re much more likely to produce practical targets that can be shared with your staff.
Professionalism is catching
No matter how small your business, it’s important to appear professional to your clients. The only guaranteed way to appear professional is to be professional! If you’re conducting impromptu business meetings at home with your family member, it may be more difficult to develop that professionalism than if you were organising formal board meetings within office hours.
Have I convinced you? If you think you could benefit from more support like this, take a look at what I offer my business coaching clients.
Photo by Gord Fynes
If there’s one emotional tool that will give you the edge in business, it’s resilience. The more under-confident among us can sometimes feel that being self-employed is an exercise in constant knock-backs. Especially in the early days, it can often feel that you hear the word ‘no’ twice as often as you hear ‘yes’.
When this is a problem for my clients, I talk to them about what I like to call bounce-back-ability. As a business owner, if you’re able to bounce back quickly from knock backs you’ve already got a head start. Business owners who aren’t able to bounce back quite so speedily can very easily become demoralised. In this situation, it’s tempting to think about giving up on parts of your business, if not all of it.
The great thing about bounce-back-ability is that it doesn’t have to be something you’re born with. There are many ways that you can build your resilience levels and doing this is likely to have a big impact on your effectiveness as a business owner.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Remember that it’s not personal
If a potential client turns down your product or service, it’s more than likely because it’s just not a good fit. When you receive a knock back like this, try not to take it personally. Odds are that they wouldn’t have been the right client for you anyway.
Train yourself to look on the bright side
Optimists tend to be more resilient than pessimists. Even if you tend to fall on the pessimistic side of the scale, it is possible to train your brain to look at things more positively. Next time you experience a business set back, try and find a silver lining. Perhaps the client has said they’ll consider you for future projects, or maybe any work you’ve done for them could be adapted for someone else.
Look at knock backs as a learning opportunity
Business owners are always learning. Even the veterans among us need to ensure we continue to develop our craft. When you receive a knock back, look at it as an opportunity to learn. Is there anything you could have done differently? What could you do to avoid this situation in the future? How could you make your business proposition more attractive to other customers?
Develop a sense of humour
Remember the saying about laughter being the best medicine? If you can look on the funny side of bad business experiences, you’ll be much more likely to bounce back from them quickly and effectively.
Give yourself some TLC
Developing bounce-back-ability doesn’t mean that you won’t experience disappointment. This is a very natural emotion and it will never go away altogether. Just as you might celebrate achievements, don’t be afraid to give yourself a bit of TLC when you hit a roadblock. The better you take care of yourself, the better placed you’ll be to recover.
Of course, it can be difficult to build resilience all by yourself, which is one of the reasons why many business owners benefit from the support of an advisor. If you’re working on your bounce-back-ability, make sure you have someone you trust to talk to about it.