The Difference Between Working In Your Business and On Your Business

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I’m a coach. This means I spend most of my working hours sitting down with clients and helping them work through challenges they’re facing in their businesses, careers, relationships or personal lives (or often all four).

I’m also a business owner. This means I have many other things to do to keep my business, Green Shoots Coaching, happy and growing. This includes things like working on my blog, managing business finances, keeping up with paperwork, investing in marketing and developing my service offering.

What I’ve just described is, very briefly, the difference between working in your business and on your business.

Let’s recap: when you’re working in your business you’re doing the every day customer or client work that brings in a profit. When you’re working on your business you’re investing your energy in less immediately profitable work that will ensure you continue to be able to provide your product or service successfully in the long term.

Both these types of work are absolutely vital within an effective business. If you spend all your time working in your business and not enough on your business, you’ll likely find it hard to grow and improve. If you put too many of your resources towards working on your business, you’ll probably run out of funds before you can make those big plans a reality.

In my experience more business owners tend to fall into the first category. They love doing what they do and spend so much time doing it that there’s very little left over to ensure their business is healthy. Does this sound like you? If it does, don’t worry. It’s easy to get back on track.

Why not start by scheduling an hour this week to evaluate how things are going? I find this works best in a quiet spot with a cup of tea! Start by comparing your current position to your big business dream and asking yourself what you still need to do to get there. Once you know what you’re working towards it will seem much more worthwhile to put in the work.

Once you’ve got a goal in mind, set yourself a weekly target for working on your business. This could be something simple like spending an hour networking online, reaching out to five new prospects, working on a side project, maintaining a weekly blog or newsletter, or investing time to research new products. Whatever you decide to do, make it a priority and you’ll likely see the results.

If you were going to set yourself a weekly target for working on your business, what would it be? I’m on Twitter @GreenShootCoach and I’d love to hear your ideas.

What Big Business Question Are You Asking Yourself… And What Are You Doing About It?

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Almost every business owner I speak to has a big business question bubbling away just beneath the surface. The question is often difficult or uncomfortable to answer, and so they leave it there, putting it off for another day. Big business questions can undoubtedly be tricky to deal with, but ignoring them will mean that you miss out on opportunities.

There are all kinds of big business question that you might be asking yourself, but almost all of them relate in some way to business growth and moving forwards. Here are a few examples of the type of ‘big question’ I hear from my clients every day:

Am I moving forward in the right direction?

Are the relationships in my business healthy?

Is there a product or service missing from my offering?

Does my website need a rebrand?

Am I working with the right sort of clients?

Could this be the time to move to new premises?

Is this the right time to take on another employee?

Should I do more training?

Would my business benefit from a new marketing plan?

Do any of these sound familiar? If so, perhaps it’s time to listen to your big business question and do something about it.

Write it down

There’s something very powerful about sitting down in front of a blank page and writing down your big business question. When you do this you may find you already have some of the answers. Try and listen to your gut feeling when you’re doing this, as that may help you to pin down what’s right for you.

Talk it out

Big business questions often seem daunting when you’re trying to answer them on your own. Talking through the question with someone you trust can be an excellent way to start to make sense of where to go next. A colleague, close friend or family member might be able to help. Alternatively, many business owners find it beneficial to talk to a professional like myself at this stage.

Make a plan

In order to start making progress with your big question, it’s vital that you make a plan for how you’re going to tackle it. Big questions usually involve big solutions, and it can be overwhelming to look at the whole solution all at once. Instead, I suggest splitting your plan into ordered stages. Then, all you’ll need to do is tackle one stage at a time.

Make yourself accountable

Once you’ve brought your big question out into the open, the last thing you’ll want is to let it slip back beneath the surface. It’s a good idea to set things in place to make sure you’re accountable to your plan. There are a few ways you could do this. Some business owners find it helpful to set clear targets for themselves, while others schedule regular meetings with a colleague or business coach to discuss progress.

If there’s a big business question you’ve been asking yourself for a while, why not take fifteen minutes today to start doing something about it? As always, I’m more than happy to chat. You can find me on Twitter and Facebook, or my direct contact details are available here.

Committed to the Business and Each Other: the Series So Far

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Three months ago I launched the Committed to the Business and Each Other interview series. The idea for this series had come to me a long while before, and it had been a bit of a labour of love to bring it to fruition. Business partnerships can be very tricky to navigate, especially those that are made up of couples or family members. Many of the couple and family businesses that I’ve worked with have had a huge amount of wisdom to share from years of trial and error, and I was keen to harness that wisdom and share it with others.

So far I’ve been lucky enough to have interviewed Colin Murdoch Studio, a husband and wife photography team, JJ Associates International, a husband and wife information finding service, and The Acorn Gallery, an art gallery owned by a husband and wife. All three of these businesses have fantastic stories and it’s been wonderful to be able to share a few of the secrets behind their successes!

I’ve been particularly pleased with how generous my interviewees have been with their advice. I’ve also been impressed at how much stock the couples have given to considering how well they work together as business partners, not just as spouses! The interviews all contain some excellent insight into how to plan going into business with your partner, how to make sure your skills complement each other, and how to ensure that you still spend time together outside your business.

You’ll be pleased to hear that there’s a lot more to come. I have some really exciting interviews scheduled for the coming months including a look into the working life of a crime writing duo!

If you are in business with your partner or a family member and would be interested in being featured in my Committed to the Business and Each Other series, please get in touch. I’d love to speak to you about how you make it work, share some valuable insight with my readers and, of course, push a bit of publicity your way.

My Committed to the Business and Each Other interviews go live on the first Monday of each month. To make sure you don’t miss out, why not connect with me on Twitter or Facebook?

Four Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Business

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I’m lucky enough to have worked with many small business owners. Though every case is unique, I come across some issues again and again. One of those issues is self-sabotage.

This sounds dramatic, I know, and at first glance you may think it doesn’t apply to you. You’re passionate about your business and want it to succeed: why would you be actively sabotaging it? The thing is, many of us are doing it without realising.

Below I’ve laid out four bad business habits that seem fairly harmless. Unfortunately, if you’re falling foul of any of these on a regular basis, it’s likely to be having a long-term impact on your business.

Procrastination

We all do this occasionally. It can be very easy to find yourself putting off a big or tricky task by focusing on smaller, less important ones. However, if you’re a serial procrastinator it’s likely to be having a big affect on your business. The more time you spend on unimportant busy work, the less time you have to spend on the key tasks that are earning you money and helping you grow. If you were able to get your procrastination under control and jump right into handling your biggest tasks, how much more do you think you’d be able to get done?

Avoidance

No business is perfect and there are always issues that need to be addressed. Maybe for you it’s deciding which direction you are going to grow your business in, addressing a weak area in your service provision or getting your expenses under control. Whatever your business’ issues are, it’s a bad idea to avoid dealing with them! The longer you put your issues off, the bigger they’re likely to become.

Under-confidence

Being in business can be scary. Us business owners have to put ourselves ‘out there’ a lot of the time, and those of us who suffer with a lack of confidence can find this difficult. However, if you are giving into under-confidence and failing to put yourself forward for opportunities; you are causing your business to miss out.

Indecisiveness

One of the great things about owning your own business is the flexibility. However, if you’re being too flexible this could become an issue. Successful business people know what they want and work on moving towards it, one step at a time. If you regularly change your mind about your goals, it’s going to be very difficult for you to achieve them. It might seem frightening to commit to what you want from your business: but the sooner you do it the sooner you’ll be able to start enjoying the rewards.

Sabotaging your business is a lot easier than you might think, and most of us don’t even realise when we’re doing it! Whether your business is being held back by one of these bad habits or by another one entirely, recognising the problem is the first step to being able to solve it.

The Value of Looking at Your Business From the Outside In

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If you were to describe your business to me, you’d probably do so from the inside. You might tell me what you do for your customers, or what challenges there are for you as the owner. It’s completely natural to have this perspective as most of us spend just about all of our time inside our business, looking out.

There is another way to look at your business, however, and it can be a very valuable exercise. Looking at your business from the outside could give you a very different view on things. Think about it this way: when you look at your business from the outside you’ll see the same thing that your customers, prospects and competitors do. Doesn’t that sound useful?!

I’ve helped many of my clients to look at their businesses from the outside, and when they do this they often realise a glaring mistake. On many occasions there has been a very obvious improvement for them to make which wasn’t obvious at all when they were considering their business from an inside perspective.

Some people find it easy to get into the headspace to see their business from the outside, whereas others find it a little trickier. You may be able to find this new viewpoint on your own, or you may need the help of a trusted advisor to get you there. To get started, you could try getting out from behind your desk and talking to some of your customers to see how they experience what you do.

Once you’re looking at your business from the outside, ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Are you presenting what you do in a way that makes sense from the outside?
  • Is there an additional product or service that would fit well with your current range?
  • Are you offering a product or service that doesn’t fit in?
  • Are your processes set up to benefit your customers or to benefit you?
  • Is the service you offer your customers the best it could be?
  • Is there a part of the whole customer experience that’s weaker than the rest?
  • What challenges do your customers have to overcome to work with you?
  • Is there anything your customers need that you haven’t considered before?

If you’ve ever explored this exercise, I’d love to hear about what you discovered. Why not tell me about it? You can share your story in the comments below, on Twitter or Facebook, or even by sending me a private email.

Don’t Give Up! Refocusing on Your 2015 Business Goals

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We’re entering the second week of February which has big implications for any business goals you may have set for 2015. Many of us set these goals at the start of the year and are full of enthusiasm for them. However, as the weeks go on we tend to get less and less interested, and by now almost a third of us have given up completely.

If this sounds like you, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways that you can refocus your business goals for the year and get them back on track.

Choose one to focus on

When it comes to improving your business, it can be very tempting to set a whole list of goals. I have no doubt there are dozens of changes you’d like to make, but trying to work on them all at once is unlikely to get results. Instead, channel your energy into working on one priority. That way you’re much more likely to succeed.

Make your goal specific

The more specific your big business goal is the more likely you are to achieve it. Instead of ‘increase profit this year’ try turning your goal into ‘increase profit by X%”. Immediately you have a more concrete aim to work towards and it will be much easier to recognise when you’ve achieved it.

Break your goal down into small steps

Almost all business goals look scary when you only look at the end result. Instead, try breaking your goal up into a series of smaller steps. If your goal is to launch a new service, the steps might be carrying out market research, finalising your offerings, creating resources, building a new page on your website and publicising the new service to your mailing list. Once you’ve broken your goal down, you’ll find that it seems far less scary and far more actionable.

Find an accountability partner

One of the best ways to stay on track with a goal is to find an accountability partner to talk about it with. Choose someone you trust who is likely to understand some of the challenges involved in what you’re trying to do. This could be a friend, a fellow business owner, a colleague or even a coach. The important thing is to set regular time aside to talk about how you’re working towards your goal and how it’s going.

The start of the year is a natural time for us to set goals, but it doesn’t have to be the only time. Whenever you choose to start work on a new business goal, these tips will help you stay on track.

Good luck!

Committed to the Business and Each Other: An Interview with Diane & John Wass of The Acorn Gallery, Pocklington

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Being in business with a partner or family member can work brilliantly, but it can also be extremely challenging. I specialise in working with family and couple businesses and Im fascinated by 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 along with some of the lessons theyve learnt along the way.

Today Im speaking to Diane & John Wass, a husband and wife team from Pocklington.

Elevator pitch time! Please tell us about your business.

The Acorn Gallery is a place where we can show off the artwork that we believe is really special. Work that is beautiful and unique. We deliberately look for artists whose work stands apart from the crowd and has a defining style about it. Sometimes they are already well known and collectable but sometimes they are at the very start of their career and we love to give them that boost and see them develop.

Customers know they are always welcome to come in and browse, there is no pressure here. Art was made to be enjoyed and it’s great when people come in to have a look around and see what’s new.

We love helping people find just the right thing to finish their newly decorated room, our Home Approval service is very popular because it allows people to see what the artwork looks like in their home before they decide to buy. Interest free credit also helps you manage to get what you want when you see it so that you don’t miss out.

Thinking right back to the beginning, what prompted you to go into business with each other?

This is our second business and it was always going to be a partnership. It’s what we do, it’s how we work. We are strong together!

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Did you consider how your relationship would be affected by being in business together before you started?

We have been together since 1986 and married since 1990. We’ve worked together since 1993 and for us it really works! We’ve had people ask us how we do it and some have said they’d go mad if they were together 24/7 but for us it’s great! We talk a lot and we bounce off each other really well, so there isn’t much that we can’t do between us!

What kind of business planning did you do?

Diane: Well I’m the figures person so it was me that gathered all the financial information about monthly bills, how much stock we would need and how much we needed to sell to earn enough to make it viable.

John: Together we planned and organised the shop fitting that we needed and drafted in Diane’s dad and brother, both of whom are joiners, to help. This really was a family effort!

Would you say that you both have similar strengths or different ones, how do you implement them in the business?

Diane: Haha! John would tell you he just does as he’s told but for most things we talk about the options and then decide what’s best… then talk about it again just to be sure! I’m quite creative and John’s very practical so we balance each other well. We have learned that sometime’s it just best to just trust the other person and see where it takes us.

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What has been the biggest challenge to you working together?

Diane: One of the biggest challenges has been getting our brand out there so that people know we exist. We always knew we couldn’t just sit back and wait for people to find us: we had to be very active in getting The Acorn Gallery’s name in front of people.

John: Another more personal challenge has been making sure we get ‘together time’ so that not everything we do is work: although we often do end up chatting about work related things but that’s just how we are :)

What do you consider your biggest achievement so far?

Diane: The UK has 5.2 million small businesses and in 2014 we were chosen to represent them as one of 100 Small Business Saturday UK Ambassadors. We attended a reception in Downing Street in December and had a ‘well done’ speech from George Osborne. It gave us the opportunity to meet other small businesses from across the country who are all striving to make their voices heard.

John: It’s a major achievement that we are still open and trading! It can be very difficult to be a small business in a small market town but Pocklington is very special and we are well supported by local people as well as visitors who come back to us in person and via the internet year after year.

Has working together changed your relationship outside of the business?

Not in a bad way, if anything it has made us stronger. If there is ever an issue we have to talk it out, or laugh it out! That’s our way :)

Have you made use of any outside resources to support you? If so, were they helpful?

Diane: We haven’t used any ‘official’ bodies but we love chatting with other businesses and swapping notes. Pocklington is great for that too! We’re members of the York Lifestyle Group too which gives us another forum to work out and share new ideas. We’re always happy to pass on ideas and helpful tools too… in fact someone joked with me yesterday: ‘that was a great chat, thanks, how much do I owe you?’

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What advice would you give to other couples who are thinking of starting a business?

Be good to people and don’t rest on your laurels!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Being a small, independent business is hard work but infinitely rewarding. Support small businesses yourself and you will be part of something bigger than you could ever imagine!

If youd like to find out more about The Acorn Gallery, you can find them online at www.theacorngallery.co.uk . You can also find and connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Im sure they have some fantastic images to share, so be sure to check them out.

Thank you Diane and John for sharing your story with us!

Five Reasons Business Owners Don’t Hire a Coach

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There are many reasons why business owners choose to work with a coach. There are also a lot of reasons why they don’t. Making the decision to look into coaching can be a very personal one and I’ve talked with many business owners about why they don’t feel ready to take that step.

I wanted to explore some of the most common reasons I’ve come across and why they might not be good enough reasons to put off investing in yourself and your business.

One: they think it means they’re failing

This is perhaps one of the most common misconceptions people have about business coaching: that you only need it when things go wrong. In fact, coaching is an incredible tool to use when things are going well, too. A good coach can help you to improve your business, move in a direction that’s a better fit for you, and increase your profits.

Two: they think it’ll be too much of a commitment

Small business owners I speak to are often worried about the commitment of coaching. They’ve heard stories about coaching growth programmes that require huge investment both in terms of money and time. But not all coaches work that way. Many of us, like me, offer a complimentary initial session, accessible prices and flexible contract terms. For us, coaching is about working for you and your business in a way that feels right. Even as little as an hour a month can have a significant impact and add real value.

Three: they’re worried about opening up

This can be a big one. Those of us who are used to being the boss aren’t necessarily in the habit of talking about our challenges. It’s important to remember, however, that having a safe space to be honest about what we’re facing can be extremely beneficial. If you take your time and find a coach that’s a good fit for you, opening up in this way should feel totally natural.

Four: they’re not ready to make changes

Sometimes business owners think they want a better business or a bigger business, but deep down they’re not ready to take that step. And that’s okay. After all, it might not be the right time. But if it is the right time and it’s just fear holding you back, working with a coach could actually give you the confidence to make changes and move forwards.

Five: they don’t think their business is worth it

Be honest: how do you feel about your business? If you’re not sure about spending the money to get the best from it, is it because you don’t think it’s good enough? If it is, I’d say this mindset is definitely holding you back. It may seem like a huge uncomfortable leap forwards, but making the decision to invest in your business will help you to realise that it is good enough and it is worth it.

If you’re on the fence about coaching, I’d be interested to hear if your reasons are similar to the ones mentioned above. You could share your thoughts with me on Twitter, Facebook or even by sending me a private email.  

Guest Post: How to be Successful in Remote Job Interviews

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Today I’m sharing a guest post from The Carling Partnership, an international search and selection company who work within the distillery industry. January is a time when a lot of us start to make changes in our lives. If you’ve decided 2015 is the year you get a new job, the following tips are likely to be really helpful. There’s also some real value here for business owners, as many pitches and client interviews now take place remotely. Read on to find out how to present yourself successfully on the phone or over video link.

More and more HR managers are using phone and video chat technology to carry out interviews each year. If you are about to attend a remote job interview, we have put together a number of solid techniques to help you negotiate your way to success.

Video Chat Job Interview Tips

Download and Install The Software Ahead of Time – The interviewer will often email you instructions on the software to use and where to download it. Options vary from the popular Skype to the Apple own Facetime app and others. If download and configuration is required, do so well ahead of time. Avoid joining the interview late because this process took longer than you expected. Be sure to test the software once installation is complete, in particular check that the speaker and microphone are working.

Time and Place – There are basic conditions that should be met to stage the right environment. You will require a place with stable internet connection, with enough light and with minimal background noise. A boardroom would be ideal, though most candidates don’t have free access to one. Instead, make sure you declutter the part of your home you’ll be using to resemble one.

Have a Backup Device – Most video chat apps are cross device, meaning you can install the app on your PC, Llaptop, tablet and of course, smartphone. It might prove handy to install the app on two devices should your default device crash for any reason.

During The Video Chat – A common mistake candidate make is letting their eyes wonder off to other parts of the screen, away to the window, even to the ceiling. It means that you come across disinterested in what the interviewer has to say and maybe even in the position. Try and retain eye contact with the interviewer. As long as you look directly at the webcam, you are making eye contact. If you are looking at a large screen, say on your PC or laptop, drag the chat window next to the webcam. Now when you look at the interviewer, you are looking at the webcam and therefore making eye contact.

Dealing With Disconnections – It is possible that the interview will be cut short due to a technical problem. If that happens, allow the interviewer to establish connection. Check that your internet is working and that your device has sufficient battery life. If the fault is at your end and you are unable to fix it, email the interviewer and suggest continuing the interview by phone. If you note the steps you have taken to resume the interview, you will come across as a proactive problem solver and recruiters like that in a candidate.

Phone Job Interview Tips

Choose a Device – If possible, you should take the call using landline to avoid breakups and poor signal. If you still intent on using a mobile device, choose a location where you know that mobile reception is good.

Source Location – Unlike video chat job interviews, lighting and background settings won’t matter much, but you should still aim to conduct the interview in a private and quiet area. Prepare a place to sit and have a copy of your CV handy.

During The Interview – Answer the call by giving your name, for example, ‘Hi this is John West speaking’. During the interview avoid eating or smoking, but do have a cup of water ready in case your throat dries up. Don’t stop the interviewer mid sentence. If you have any questions, write them down. When you answer, speak slowly and clearly.

Good luck in your career progress.

Written by The Carling Partnership (CPL), an international search and selection company in the distillery jobs industry. 

Are You Taking Care of Your Personal Self? What About Your Business Self?

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Some of the most common New Year’s resolutions centre around taking care of ourselves. Things like stopping smoking, cutting down on coffee, exercising more and losing weight tend to be very high on the list. This is because we all know how important it is to look after ourselves, even if we don’t always do it in practice.

Often the things we think about when taking care of ourselves are more physical things. However, I’d argue that taking care of our emotional selves is just is important, especially for business owners. I’ve blogged before about how you are your business’ most important asset, and therefore why it’s important to invest in yourself. But it’s easy to prioritise looking after your business over looking after yourself.

In the short term, doing just one more piece of work or winning one more client might seem like the best thing you can do for your bottom line. But if we look at the long term, we’ll see something very different. A stressed, run down business owner is not going to be working at their best. And if you’re not working at your best, your business will suffer.

It can sometimes help to try and imagine yourself as a prized member of staff. Picture this: you’re watching someone who is absolutely vital for your business run themselves right down. Would you keep piling on the work regardless, or would you consider how you could support the staff member to manage their workload to ensure they stay at tip top condition? The second option would certainly be better for your business in the long term, but every day business owners like us take the first option instead. It may be the second week of January, but it’s not too late to make a new resolution, or as I prefer to call them, wise choices, for 2015. The more you take care of yourself this year, the better able you’ll be to build your business.

Once you’ve made this decision, you might find it’s difficult to know where to start. After all, looking after ourselves doesn’t just mean swapping chips for a salad or going out for a jog. It also means finding ways to effectively manage stress, ensuring there’s space in our lives for quality time with our loved ones, setting priorities, managing goals and improving communications with those around us. These are all things I work on with my business coaching clients. In fact, those clients have told me this is so important that I’ve developed a business membership programme to fit their needs: Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business. If this is something you’d like to prioritise in 2015, why not get in touch? I’d be happy to discuss how the programme could work for you and your business, and I even offer a complimentary initial consultation.

How will you be looking after your business self this year?