Stop talking and start doing

10/07/2015

Allocating time to thinking and doing, in the right proportions, will significantly increase your chances of achieving business and personal growth. However, you must give due consideration to the quality of your thoughts as crisp and clear thinking will drive your plans in the right direction. Spending time thinking how to achieve your goals in stressful conditions creates chaotic thought patterns. This frame of mind adds no value and delivers minimal contribution to business success. You must make provision for Quality Thinking Time (QTT) – space to ponder without interference or distraction. A hectic life style resulting from trying to balance work, family, relationships and career can make QTT a challenging task.

Remember, it is vital for you to avoid over thinking situations, circumstances and options as this will lead to inertia. It will stop you from taking action. A maximum of 20% of your time should be allocated to gaining clarity of thought. The remaining 80% should then be devoted to doing. Individuals that fail to realise their goals can be sometimes be guilty of spending too much time thinking about what they are going to do and never getting on with it. Avoid pontificating about your desires and needs, be sure to get on with it when you have decided just exactly what it is you are going to do. Positive progress is only made when doing follows thinking, Dreams and visions will remain at home in the mind if you don’t push ourselves towards implementation. Failure to move on in business is often down to not grasping the nettle, however when we do the right things a personal momentum builds which manifests into positive outcomes. Think less, do more!

Thoughts + Doing = Results

The difference between success and failure is often down to whether action has been taken or not. The final thoughts are from Christopher Columbus:-

“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his or her chosen destination”


Avoid energy sappers – surround yourself with energisers

03/07/2015

There are two groups of people that you will come across in your quest to grow your business – one group will provide inspiration, the other will drain you of energy and make you question your very being. These groups involve:

Energisers – These are the people that view life as one big opportunity. They are motivated individuals who set ambitious goals and constantly look out for the next big thing. They are people on a mission. Their positive outlook on life is built up on clarity of thought and a desire to genuinely make a difference. They are warm and welcoming to others and they refrain from judging what people do and don’t do. Energisers create a positive environment and their positive mindset is genuinely borne out of a sense to do good. These individuals have a sound reputation because they deliver on what they say they will do and their sense of direction is clear to everyone they come into contact with. Energisers can make the unthinkable a reality.

Sappers – These are the individuals who view life as one big problem. Such people have no sense of personal clarity and their lack of vision makes them quick to judge others that have. They are envious of other people’s success and in the worst case, organisational saboteurs. Sappers are to be avoided at all cost as they can quite easily suppress the desires and motivations of ambitious people. All too often in organisations we experience the work of “sappers” – their behaviour manifests itself as gossip, rumour mongering – they become the architects of bad feeling and their negativity brings an unhealthy atmosphere of discontent. Success is difficult enough without having to deal with such people

It is vital that your desire for success is only communicated to those with a genuine heart felt interest in your success. Energisers should form the most significant part of your own personal network. Whilst energisers are positive in their outlook, they are also pragmatic and can view situations and opportunities with ruthless simplicity. They will tell you how they see it, however this will be communicated with candour and respect – be sure to associate with these individuals.

Energisers are the mental stimulants we need to keep going, they become the booster we so dearly need in tough times. Energy sappers are the disease that eats away at our internal motivation and dreams.

You must become an energiser, because in turn you will attract others, this magnetic effect starts to create a group of people that think in the same way. With sufficient critical mass these individuals start to make massive change within our communities. The Impressionist movement in Paris in the early 1800’s and Motown in the 1950’s both came about by groups of Energisers – energetic individuals with a passion to do something big – Energisers spark off each other, they debate and enthuse. They are the pioneers that work out new possibilities that deliver ground breaking ideas – they help us grow our businesses!

Energisers can change the world, make sure that you are surrounded by them!


Ultimate competitive advantage – Self Improvement for entrepreneurs

23/06/2015

Personal development is the ultimate source of competitive advantage. When you stop learning you run the risk of your business becoming stagnant. Growing a business is one continuous learning journey and every new experience presents itself as an opportunity to acquire more knowledge. Entrepreneurial high achievers I have worked with are lifetime learners combining both formal and informal means of absorbing new information. What is your strategy for learning? Do you have a personal development plan? Are you open to the advice and guidance of the wisdom of others?

The growth of a business takes many twists and turns and growth comes in chapters, each one presenting its own challenges – you need to be prepared. 

Openly speak to mentors, your peer group and trusted colleagues and ask them how they think you can improve. What could you do better? Rate yourself out of 10 in each of these areas:

  1. I have clear business and personal goals, they are pursued with a passion

  2. I am resilient and deal effectively with setbacks when they arise

  3. I take ownership for the decisions I make but I listen carefully to the views of people I trust

  4. I am motivated and just get on with it – success is down to me

  5. I am a strong and effective leader (myself and others)

  6. I work well with others and take a collaborative approach to business

  7.  I am innovative and take a creative approach to business

  8. I am a respected individual within my market

  9. I am an effective connector and communicator

  10. I always aim to excel at what I do

By answering these questions honestly you start to build a picture of where your self-development needs to focus. Drill down into the specifics of each of your answer and define very clearly what things you are going to change. Identify the resources that you will need to move you on. Explore courses, new reading material, self-study or one to one coaching to address the shortfalls. Everyone has a preferred learning style, find one that suits you. However there is lots of wisdom in the Confucius philosophy of:

  • I hear and I forget
  • I see and I remember
  • I do and I understand

The minute you think you know it all – complacency sets in and you could quite well be entering into dangerous territory.

You will not advance or achieve your business goals if you don’t commit to constantly learning.


Courage and its role in growth

11/06/2015

Fear of the unknown can have a massive impact on our ability to realise our business dreams. Virtually anyone who has succeeded in their profession, career or sport has been able to overcome their inner fears. Fear comes in many shapes and forms, it could be:

  • Fear of losing a big contract
  • Fear of being unable to provide for our family
  • Fear of speaking in public
  • Fear of providing personal guarantees to the bank to support growth
  • Fear of taking on that new overseas market
  • Fear of investing in the infrastructure needed to take the business to the next level

In many instances, fear is an emotion we create in our own mind and it often results from negative self-talk. Fear can hold us back from doing what we want to do and what we want to achieve – it acts as a barrier to personal and business progression. The emotional turmoil created by fear stunts our personal growth, creates self-limiting beliefs and leads to a lacklustre performance that will not get you your desired outcome.

By getting into the habit of confronting our fears, we release the internal brakes of the mind. This allows us to move forward with our personal intentions to create the life and career we desire. Mind conditioning is required if we are going to overcome the fears that hold us back. We must get into the habit of listening to those fears but asking ourselves – how real are they? Do away with those fears by:

  • Taking small steps to overcome those fears by forcing yourself to take action
  • Visualise the outcome you want – not the fear factor
  • Ask yourself how real is the fear?
  • Dispel the invisible audience that fear creates in the mind
  • How much do you want success? If you can’t do away with the fear, disappointment will result
  • Exhibit courage

Surrendering to fear will hold you back, don’t fall victim to it. Take positive steps to embrace fear and push through it. Once in the habit, you will never look back – almost anything becomes a possibility.

Courage is one of the most important qualities a leader needs to acquire, without out it you can’t overcome fear, you stand still and accept the status quo. In the words of Aristotle – “you will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind to honour”

Growing a business can be a scary thing to do; it generates lots of fears. Only when you get courageous can you move things forward.


Ambition and hard work – the foundations of success

02/06/2015

Putting in the minimum amount of effort to a task to achieve a satisfactory result is a behaviour associated with people that have little or no ambition. Successful individuals take nothing for granted. They realise that through hard work and loyal commitment to their goals they may from time to time have to put in extra hours or do things that may feel punishing to either their mind or body – quite often both. The reality is that very few people are willing to push themselves physically and emotionally to over deliver. This maybe work a weekend to complete an important project, staying late at the office to help colleagues complete a critical bid or a teacher spending more with a pupil struggling to grasp a learning point. Going the extra mile to please others is an extremely admiral behaviour, you become respected by your peer group and the opportunities for personal progression is enhanced because others become engaged by your level of commitment.

You will place yourself well ahead of the competition when you do more than what was expected of you. It is also extremely rewarding both professionally and personally. The mindset of going the extra mile helps when:

  • You don’t want to let someone down
  • You want to influence a customer or stakeholder
  • You have an ambition to achieve
  • Someone needs your help
  • You see an opportunity others have missed
  • Potential has not been realised

Think deeply about what you want to achieve and accept that by conditioning your mind to embrace the philosophy of doing more you will become evermore successful purely by outperforming others. This mental programming becomes an integral part of your behaviour and winning becomes a habit.

Working long hours does not always mean you are working smart, however if you are setting up a business and trying to get it moving in the right direction – there is often no short cuts – a long shift is vital. Ambition comes in two forms…stated and genuine. Many individuals talk about what they are going to do, I am inspired by those who talk about what they have done.

Growing a business requires genuine gritty hard graft, courage and luck. Its surprising how luckier you become when you put in more hours.


The power of escape time – the key to better decision-making

18/05/2015

Growing a business involves continuously making decisions about staff, customers, finance, suppliers, recruitment…the list is never ending. In the early days of growth, the founders have to be all things to the business; the necessity to think quickly and act fast becomes a hard-wired behavior, one that is very hard to shake off.

Start up businesses are characterised by their founders putting in long shifts – working on the tools during the day and ensuring the admin and paperwork is in order at night. Very little time to think about the strategic growth and direction, the ‘doing’ becomes an all-encompassing characteristic of being self employed. Working ‘in the business’ rather than ‘on the business’ becomes the norm. Here lies the dilemma for the ambitious individual who wants to take their business to the next level – how do I find time to think?

My experience shows that those entrepreneurs who make time to get rid of the interference of the day to day and tune into what really matters are the ones who make better decisions and ultimately build better businesses. The challenge is not feeling guilty about taking time to:

  • Step back and think things through
  • Consult with a mentor or adviser to work through a particular challenge
  • Recharge the brains battery
  • Operate at arms length from the business for a short while (energy management)

More often than not entrepreneurs are guilt-ridden if they take any time to pause for thought. That compelling feeling to be first in and last out of the office leaves a massive void in the need for strategic clarity. Neither time nor energy management benefit from such an approach to growing a business. The years of needing to be hands on creates the illusion of being productive and the macho image of the 24/7 life makes us feel good – this firefighting approach to the daily grind often delivers no strategic added value whatsoever.

As your company gets bigger so does the complexity of the decision-making. You cant run a growing business with the exact same mindset of that of a start up. Whilst the need to be innovative and nimble should never leave the culture of a business, escape time becomes the critical success factor for high quality decision-making. A winning business needs the leaders to get the right mix of thinking and doing. Escape time (whatever that means to you) becomes such an important part of the entrepreneur’s personal growth. Without it you become a busy fool – don’t be surprised if you can’t see the wood for the trees. Breakthroughs and inspired new ideas only come during periods of calm, and calm only happens during times of escape.

winning-pitch.co.uk


The North West Fund – Inspire Magazine

07/05/2015

An interview for The North West Fund Inspire Magazine Issue Ten 2015

What would you say has been the greatest achievement for the business?

The strapline to our logo and brand is ‘everything is possible’ and we strongly practice what we preach. The first manifestation of this belief was in 2008 when we secured a £10M contract against international competition to deliver one of Europe’s largest business support contracts. Over three years we helped over 1,000 high growth small and medium sized businesses. At the time we were less than £1M turnover and only 3 years old.

What has been the biggest challenge for you, in building the business?

The challenges in running a business are wide ranging and come in many different forms. The ability to scale has probably been the most daunting for us. It almost feels that we reached ceilings at different points of our journey – these related to breaking the employee barriers of 10, 25, 50 and 100. As we have grown up so has the need to bring in a new breed of managers and leaders, particularly those who can support the inevitable challenges that ambition brings with it. Identifying, recruiting and retaining great talent I suppose has been the biggest challenge.

How did you hear about The North West Fund and what was it that made you apply for funding?

I heard about the North West Fund through a seminar I attend. I felt the fund offered many advantages over more conventional and traditional funding routes. I was particularly attracted to the mix of debt and equity funding made available through Enterprise Ventures. The mezzanine loan was very appealing as it did away with the pressures of personal guarantees required by the high street banks. Just as important as the funding was the expertise that came with the money. We needed higher-level management support as well as funding – this made the North West Fund our preferred funding option.

How is your business changing/growing as a result of receiving funding?

The business has continued to grow at levels we had predicted, without the funding it would have been almost impossible to develop new markets and attract new staff. Testament to our growth is recent research published by market intelligence specialists Plimsoll, its shows that in our market place of 1000 active companies, Winning Pitch was the 6th fastest growing company in 2014. Without help from the North West Fund this would not been achieved.

Are there areas of the business you would like to grow/develop further?

Winning Pitch will continue to grow in adjacent market sectors the most important at the moment being skills. Also high on our agenda for the coming financial year is, developing overseas markets, particular in those economies where there is a desire to improve economic wellbeing through enterprise and entrepreneurial activity. We see promising prospects in emerging and growing international economies.

Having worked with thousands of companies which are looking to grow, do you have any tips for The Fund’s future applicants?

Great companies in my view are the ones who balance innovation and entrepreneurial flair with good housekeeping and discipline. At the heart of entrepreneurial flair is customer centric behavior, trying new things and making sure the customer’s expectations are always exceeded. This needs to be supported with strong management, a firm grip on finances, regular management meetings all wrapped up in a performance culture which ensures the things that matter get done and get measured. Being able to demonstrate a great management team with a well thought through plan with clarity is paramount.