Monday, 31 December 2007

Farewell and Welcome

I really couldn't let today, the last day of 2007, go by without writing a few words. In common with many small business owners, I've been using the quiet time of the holidays to catch up with a variety of tasks in my business.

I'm always telling my coaching clients to be sure and take time to recharge their batteries - do I take my own advice? Of course not!! The problem is that I enjoy what I do so much that it doesn't seem like work at all.
So far, I've been figuring out how my new (Christmas present) MP3 Player works (just about there); rehearsing the script for a free audio to put on the website; writing a couple of web pages for all the new stuff that I want to do in January.

Unfortunately, like many people, I've underestimated how much time it's going to take me to launch the new products so, today, I decided to introduce it gradually rather than with one big bang! A bit of a disappointment, but I need to be realistic (if I must!).

2007 has been an interesting year for FrontLine Results - and business has increased in direct proportion to the amount of marketing activity I've put in. I've written some new workshops and started this blog. I even got my first little audio message onto the website!
I've also invested a lot in my own development over the last year, and have very much enjoyed learning new skills to apply to the business.

I'm so looking forward to all the exciting stuff I've got planned for early in 2008. Obviously I hope that it will bring me more clients and more business, but I'm also hoping that it will help me to reach many more people through more affordable programs.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Seasonal slow down

Oh dear, I seem to have been cast in the role of the villain this week with my coaching clients! One of my jobs is to keep them focused and moving forward - they ask me to do that. But, when it comes to holiday time, they're a bit put out when I don't ease off!

What's a coach to do? If I just chatted about this and that, they'd feel as if they hadn't got their money's worth for that session.

When I got back in the office after a client meeting today, I found that I couldn't get hold of many people on the phone! I guess they've already left for the holidays.

I think I'll take the hint and finish up until next week. So, have a lovely Christmas (try and relax!) and my best wishes for a wonderful 2008.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

How could I be so arrogant?

When I first started blogging, I couldn't understand how fellow bloggers could go so long between postings. Now I do! I've been so busy working on new services that I haven't been able to think about anything else. And I had a problem there too, I couldn't get started on a piece of writing - until yesterday when everything fell into place and the words flowed nicely.

On the networking front, I don't have any more breakfast meetings before the new year (thank goodness because it's got very cold in the early mornings), I do have a couple more coaching sessions before Christmas and appointments in next year's diary which is reassuring!

I've been having great fun producing the new products and services that will be launched in the new year (once I got over the writer's block), although I do sometimes wonder if I've bitten off more than I can chew.

Will try and post again before the end of the week - goodness, isn't Christmas getting close!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Business owners need nerves of steel

I've had a couple of days in the office working on a new workshop idea - but please don't tell anyone!

Looks silly written down, doesn't it? The problem with being an entrepreneur and business owner is that you're constantly looking for new angles, new products and services, and ways to stay ahead of the competition. When you think you've found one, you become paranoid! You don't want to even talk about it in case you then read that someone else has got there first.

You have to keep your nerve while you're developing the idea (or at least producing the sales copy). Once you've staked your claim, you can heave a sigh of relief that, if anyone else uses the idea, they're an also ran - because you thought of it first! Sounds incredibly childish but, in business, it's deadly serious and could be the difference between survival and the unthinkable.

Sorry if this is getting a bit melodramatic but all will be revealed very soon. Keep reading.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Is it really still only Monday?

I'm not sure that Monday is a good day for a networking breakfast. I feel as though I've almost worked a full week already! I promised to report on the quality of the breakfast - it was excellent! In fact, so good that I'm going back next week (I've been asked to substitute by someone else - how could I refuse?). The group is great fun and I'd like to get to know some of the members better.

I'm still working on this month's newsletter! I managed to get side-tracked by some exciting ideas for workshops next year and it was only with great difficulty that I re-focused on the job in hand. Does that ever happen to you?

Another reason I can't believe it's still only Monday is because I did some work over the weekend (a life coaching client and dealing with an email backlog), not always a good idea.
I think I'm starting to ramble, so will post again when I'm wider awake.

Before I forget, there's a great video on Alice Seba's blog - watch it right to the end!
Alice Seba's Internet Marketing Sweetie Blog: Silly Sunday: Marketing Rules

Thursday, 29 November 2007

The calm before the storm?

I've been a bit quiet on the networking front this month, until now! I'm booked on 3 events before next Friday (I'll report on the breakfast quality as usual!).

I don't know about you but whenever I work on my website or the social networks or indeed, blogging, suddenly time speeds up to a terrifying rate! A lot of the past week has passed in a bit of blur. I've also been working on the December issue of my newsletter 'Competitive Advantage' (if you're on the list it will be with you in the next couple of days).

As a business coach and entrepreneur, I think it's important to keep moving forward and, if possible, stay one step ahead of my competitors. This year I've worked very hard and spent a lot of money on development training to help both me and my coaching clients. As a result, I've got a few surprises planned for them and newsletter readers next year and am busy getting them finalised I think life's going to be rather exciting in 2008 - and I can't wait!

Tomorrow I'm off to a breakfast meeting (these dark mornings are no fun at all!) and then getting together with a fellow trainer to thrash out what we can collaborate on next year.

Monday, 26 November 2007

When is a Newsletter not a Newsletter?

In the (nearly 10) years since I've been in business, email newsletters or e-zines aimed at small businesses and entrepreneurs have been both a lifeline, and an endless source of information and inspiration to me.

My own newsletters (I used to write three!) have always had the primary intention of sharing knowledge, resources and tips with their readers. Today, 'Competitive Advantage' is aimed at the owners of small business owners and entrepreneurs, many of whom I meet at various networking events.

When working with coaching clients looking to grow their businesses, I encourage them to keep in touch with their clients and prospects via an e-zine. It's a cheap, efficient and easy marketing tool, and can be incredibly effective if used correctly.

Unfortunately many companies confuse the term 'newsletter' and 'promotion'. I get emails that are 100% promotions - for cars, villas or holidays in warmer climates. Not a mention of '10 ways to stay safe if you break down' or 'The 5 questions you must ask before buying your villa abroad', nor even 'How to select the holiday of your dreams'.

You see, I've been spoilt by some excellent newsletters and have based my own on them. I strongly believe that a newsletter imparts information and tips and isn't just a blatant promotion. Of course it's expected that the sender will refer to a product or service - but such promotion should form just a small part of the whole.

What tends to happen is that, after the first or second promotional email, more people will unsubscribe if they're not looking for a new car, villa or holiday at that moment. With an informative newsletter, relevant to their business, this is less likely to happen.

I shall write an article for my own newsletter 'Competitive Advantage' with some suggestions on how to write ezines that get read.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

I love it when a plan comes together!

Today is quite a red-letter day - and not because it's Thanksgiving in the US! No, it's a red-letter day for the FrontLine Results website - we now have an audio welcome message!!!

I don't know about you but I find that anything to do with technology (especially the internet) takes me an inordinate amount of time. Before I knew it the day was over! But I am quite pleased with the results and now understand the process a little better.

Today's achievement is all part of a bigger plan to expand and change the business model. After weeks of research and planning, it's all starting to come together - so exciting!

One lesson I've learned from successful business owners is that they are always thinking of ways to work better, smarter, faster. Businesses that continue to plod steadily along the same well-trodden pathways are doomed to be overtaken and could even face extinction unless they change.

Can't wait 'till tomorrow!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Why are business owners so reluctant to delegate?

At a workshop I was running the other week, some of the delegates looked at me as if I’d just said some very naughty words. I had!

You see, ever since reading Marcus Buckingham’s book ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ some years ago, I have practiced the concept of improving what I’m good at and delegating (or, as I don’t have any staff, outsourcing) what I’m not so good at or don’t like doing.

I like the idea of people becoming really brilliant at what they love doing, and not having to worry anymore that, for example, they’re poor at maths. They don’t need to be very good at maths, just good enough to get by.

Owners of small businesses have a very steep learning curve when they first start up. While they certainly do need to learn new skills, they tend to go overboard and ‘major in the minor stuff’.

They do not have to become great book-keepers, go to workshops to learn how to design a brilliant brochure or devote hours to building a wonderful website themselves. These are exactly the sort of activities that can and should be outsourced to people who are already great at them.

It’s like a flash of the blindingly obvious when I point this out in workshops – you can almost see those light bulbs glowing!

And yet…..

Talking to a fellow business owner just last week who had been struggling to get her long-overdue accounts in order, I suggested that she consider using a book-keeper in future to avoid the same situation next year. Her reply surprised me. She said that she’d think about it if she found herself behind in the task in a few months’ time.

It seems as though business owners get very attached to every area of their business. They created it and they’re going to take care of it. I know, I’ve done it myself.

But it really doesn’t need to be such a struggle. It isn’t a sin to take the easy route. In fact, it’s a sin not to! Consider the following questions:

· Have you ever worked out your hourly rate?
(I’ll bet it’s more than the £25 or so that a book-keeper or admin person would charge.)

· How many hours do you spend on such tasks each week?

· Have you worked out how much you are potentially losing (because you’re spending time on non-client or business building work),

Are you starting to think differently about delegating?

(c) Louise Barnes-Johnston, 2007

Louise Barnes-Johnston is “The Business Accelerator”. She provides business coaching and mentoring for entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses. Get a copy of her FREE report “10 Ways to Boost Your Business” at

Friday, 16 November 2007

Do Business Owners Get Lonely?

I've read a couple of blogs and articles recently that suggest they can, but there are steps you can take to overcome the loneliness that working on your own can bring.

The reason I'm thinking about this subject is that, one by one, the meetings I had planned for this week were cancelled or postponed. So frustrating! I've learned from bitter experience to email and confirm an appointment a couple of days beforehand. That still doesn't stop the last minute changes. It's not that I have a problem with people moving a meeting when there is a genuine reason, it's the knock-on effect in my diary caused by having to reschedule that offends my sense of order! Whereas I thought I would be out and about and meeting people this week, I've ended up staying in the office and feeling a bit like a billy no-mates.

I don't think it matters whether your loneliness is caused by working from home, or as the leader of a team, the feeling is very similar.

That's where networking groups, attending seminars, joining mastermind groups all come into their own. I remember when I first started in business nearly 10 years ago, my sanity was saved by going to Chamber of Commerce meetings and finding out to my delight that other business owners were struggling with the exact same issues as I was.

The relationships you form with people you meet are invaluable. You may never do business with some of them, but these business colleagues can be wonderful sounding boards when you meet up for coffee on the occasions when you just have to 'get out of the office before you scream!' Thank goodness I was able to pick up the phone and catch up with a few people before total isolation set in.

Yes business owners do get lonely, but only if they neglect to network and search out like-minded souls.

There's a great lesson from the younger generation on how to network effectively in this blog post. Read and enjoy!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Is it practical and will it be profitable?

Since I 'went public' in yesterday's posting about writing a brand new workshop, my brain has been working overtime! This is typical of most entrepreneurs, we are very attracted to new ideas. We have to guard against being tempted into pursuing ideas that may not be practical, or profitable.

So, I'm going to take this one slowly (at first). I'll admit that I'm very excited at the material and experiences that I already have available to share - but I need to make sure that it will be of interest.

Tomorrow I'm off to a breakfast group and will get some thoughts from people there.

One trait that I've noticed about most business owners is that they generally try to do far too much. They seem to be at every networking event and seminar (and if you watch carefully, you can sometimes see them starting to nod off during the talks because they are so tired). Being so tired is no fun, and it's bad for business because judgement and results are affected. That's one area I know I can help with.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Shall I go for it?

I'm always learning from my coaching clients and workshop delegates. Last week's Time Management workshop showed me that, without getting big-headed, I do have some valuable tips to pass on. I suppose I've spent so long reading and researching that I forget other people haven't read or researched the same sources.

Over the weekend I've been thinking about the workshop and the tools and techniques I pass onto coaching clients. It's as if there's an internal dialogue going on! The question that keeps wanting to be answered is "How about writing a brand new workshop that will help business owners grow their businesses bigger and faster?".

This feels a bit scary because I never know how a new workshop is going to be received (even if I do the research beforehand). But, the idea appeals to me so I'm going to start planning and see what happens.

Watch this space.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Catching up with the week

This week has been very busy - again (and I'm not complaining!). During the first part I spent a lot of time getting ready with a new workshop which I delivered today. Would you believe it was on Time Management?! I was a bit apprehensive, as I always am with a new workshop (you can never be sure what people are expecting), but it went very well. The feedback forms and testimonials are very encouraging and the whole experience gave me a real buzz as I drove back to the office this afternoon. Delivering the workshop showed me just how much I have learned about time management to share with my clients (following the techniques for myself is an entirely different matter).

Tomorrow I'm coaching again, a small business with some big ideas (very exciting) so I'm looking forward to that meeting.

My newsletter is very late going out (something I must remedy). I'm getting some very strange symbols dotted around and have had to spend ages trying to get rid of them. Must crack that tomorrow.

Friday, 2 November 2007

A thought about managing time

Yesterday I promised you something useful for your business, and I hope you find the following fits the bill!

I like to follow up with the delegates from my Business Action System workshop to find out how they're getting on. Because of the diverse nature of their businesses, sometimes the System needs a bit of tweaking and refining to fit in so that it can work effectively.

One delegate I was speaking with today said that he was still having problems fitting everything into his day. It turns out that he was not factoring in one of the tasks that happens everyday. This involves taking phone calls, answering questions and checking production. It's a bit of a moveable feast because it isn't a solid block of time, it can't be planned and it's of variable duration.

My suggestion to this delegate is that he allocates a block of time each day for this activity - let's say 2 hours (to include a contingency buffer). This means that he will not over-schedule the rest of his day. If the activity takes less than 2 hours, he's ahead of the game and can fit something else in. The important point is that he will now be able to fit in everything he wants and needs to do in his working day.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

A busy week so far - TGIF tomorrow!

This week has been busy, both in terms of working with coaching clients and delivering a workshop on Tuesday. I'm also working on a new part of the business that I'm very excited about, but it's having to be squeezed in after hours at the moment. Keep reading for details as they become available!

Next week, I've been asked to deliver another new workshop, and I have to confess that I haven't written it yet! Still, deadlines are wonderful for focusing the mind. At least I shouldn't have the added stress of the printer saga this time.

The beginning of a new month means a new issue of my newsletter 'Competitive Advantage', which is just about ready to go. I had a lovely compliment from a delegate on Tuesday who told the others that my newsletter was 'really good'. Did I pick up some new subscribers? Definitely.

I've also been working with a marketing consultant on a press release over the last few days, which has been quite exciting. It's all signed off now and will be submitted to several local publications over the next few days. I shall be waiting with bated breath to find out if it gets published.

On re-reading this post, it sounds a bit smug and all about me. I'll try to think of something for all you business owners and entrepreneurs for my next post.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Normal Service has been Restored

You may have gathered that last week was rather fraught due to the computer printer saga! I'm pleased and relieved to report that the new (second replacement) printer is operating beautifully and I've caught up with most of the backlog now. And my blood pressure is settling down nicely.

The workshop I've written for tomorrow evening is all set to go and I'm looking forward (a little nervously) to seeing how it is received. Then, there's another new workshop to write for delivery the following week - no signs of slowing down yet!

The latest post fiasco has decided me to send more virtual Christmas cards this year (and make a larger donation to charity). Most of my business runs on email these days - it's hard to understand how the postal system survives, especially when it's workers take action that can only damage it further. I'm lucky that I've got a really good postman, whom I've taken the time to get to know. However, whenever he's off, it really is pot luck whether I get my mail.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Technology strikes again

Another day has been completely disrupted by my ongoing computer printer problems. The result is that I still do not have a printer that works. It's a long story but I won't bore you with the details. Let's just say that the printer that was delivered yesterday is being sent back because it's faulty. Hopefully the replacement they've promised me will arrive in time for my next workshop deadline.

One thing I'll say about is that they do come up with solutions. Their staff have been authorised to make decisions about actions that will resolve the problem fast. This is great customer service (and made me feel that someone cared - ahhh).

So, once again, not a lot achieved towards my new workshop to be delivered next week. Fortunately I always allow plenty of time to prepare so I'm not panicking - yet!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Trials & tribulations in the office

So far this week has not been as productive as I would have liked. When you haven't got a functional printer, it's amazing how many pages you want to print out. However, I got notification that delivery should be today and arranged to stay in the office.

While waiting, I decided to battle with online technology today, and get linked to the social networking sites such as, digg, reddit etc. After spending far too much time on this, I still can't get the 'buttons' where I want them and feel that now is a good time to stop before I completely lose what's left of my sanity.

Imagine my surprise when, at 4.50 pm, the doorbell went and my neighbour told me that the printer had been delivered to her doorstep and left there (she wasn't in). You can bet that Amazon will be getting a note from me about that! I can understand leaving a couple of books on the doorstep but a higher value item? That reminds me, I'm always asked to sign for books - but obviously this printer doesn't warrant the same standard of delivery care.

My day hadn't quite finished with me. Eagerly opening the printer box and hoping to catch up on some printing jobs, I find that the USB connecting cable does not come as part of the package. No mention of the need to order this as a separate item. So tomorrow, I'll need to visit Staples and buy one. More time spent doing non-productive stuff.

If there isn't steam coming from this post, there should be!

Friday, 19 October 2007

Talks and Workshops

This has been quite a busy week, hence no posts since Tuesday. On Wednesday I gave a talk to a group of business women in Southampton that was very well received. In fact, they want me back again next year! Thanks ladies, I look forward to it.

This lunchtime meeting took place at a large, very busy hotel, Jurys Inn Southampton. I arrived early and was shown to the room by a very helpful young man who took the trouble to ask if I'd like a coffee while I waited and brought it to me straight away. He was also responsible for making sure that lunch was served on time. Nothing was too much trouble for him. Excellent customer service.

The following day I delivered a workshop on my Business Action System. Here's the room all ready for the delegates.

I really love running this workshop. The delegates always go away with a workable plan they can put in place straight away and you can see the light bulbs go on as they discover a particular step that is going to make their time poor day easier. As part of the aftercare, I'll be following up with some phone calls over the next few weeks to see if the System is working for them and answering any questions they might have.

On the technical side, I've ordered a new printer today that should arrive next week (fingers crossed). I'm already feeling as though a limb has been removed through not being able to print stuff out as and when I want to. I just hope the machine (and new cartridges) arrive before my next deadline!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Save me from technology!

My patience has been tried today, and I'm sure my stress levels have been higher than usual! My printer has expired. It was working fine this morning, but after lunch, without so much as a by your leave or asking permission, it has simply given up the ghost. (I tried changing the fuse and then a completely new power cable - both to no avail).

This would normally just be an irritation. However, tomorrow I am addressing a group of business women in Southampton and cannot now provide a handout. And on Thursday I'm presenting my Business Action System workshop - thank goodness I printed out all the workbooks yesterday!

Technology is so wonderful - when it works!

This experience got me thinking. Most of us solo-preneurs are very time poor. We're always working to tight deadlines and trying to fit too much into our days. Something like printer failure or anything to do with computers (!) can suddenly eat away at our precious hours and minutes.

One way to lessen the impact of the unexpected is to factor in some contingency time. We're notoriously bad at this but it really can make the difference between being merely an annoyance and being the cause of cries of anguish.

Tomorrow, on the way back from the lunchtime talk I shall pop into Staples and see what printers they have.

Anyone need a supply of Epson compatible ink cartidges (for a Stylus C62) very reasonable prices?

Friday, 12 October 2007

Motivation can be hard work!

How do you get a small business owner motivated? No it isn't a joke question, unfortunately! I've noticed a distinct lack of motivation in some of my coaching clients lately. They're comfortable with what they're making and they don't feel the urgency to get out there and hustle. It's really difficult for me to find out what their future goals are.

Anthony Robbins talks about needing a 'big enough Why' and he's absolutely right. Unless you have overwhelming reasons to go for something (either in your personal or business life), why should you bother? Far easier to stay in your comfort zone and go with the flow.

At the end of this month I'm running a workshop all about Motivation for Entrepreneurs. Apparently it's sold out already. I think the business owners I'll see there will be looking for ways of rediscovering the motivation they felt when they first started in business. It seems to me that, unless you nurture that motivation, it starts to wilt under the every day pressures of being a business owner. Before long, it's all too much effort (we start to think fondly of being a salaried employee!) and we look for a way out.

I firmly believe that it is possible to reconnect with your motivation - and I'm going to prove it to my workshop delegates! It's all to do with thinking big, very big......

Monday, 8 October 2007

Small Business Coaching just isn’t taken seriously

I don’t know what it is about small business owners but we must be the hardest people to convince to ask for help!

When, at a networking event recently, I described the sort of problems that can be eliminated through business coaching and the results that can be achieved, I saw a lot of nodding heads. But those nodding heads did not translate to leads, or even to enquiries!!

I’ve come to the conclusion that our culture regards asking for help as a sign of weakness or deficiency in some way. It’s that stiff upper lip syndrome. Fortunately there are some enlightened souls who understand that they can get ahead of their competitors by employing a business coach!

Today, I found myself struggling with a sales letter I want to write. Now, I’ve done a lot of research into copy writing - what to do and the steps to take but I still couldn’t put down on paper what I need to say. Then the thought popped into my head “Why don’t you get a specialist Copywriter to do this for you?”.

After arguing (with myself) that I could write the letter myself, I realised that my pride was getting in the way of my business. One phone call later and I feel such a relief knowing that I don’t need to struggle any more.

And it frees me up to do other tasks that are in my area of expertise.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Distance and Perspective

I swear the weeks are speeding up! Today I went along to someone else’s workshop (always a good idea to put a bit of distance between you and your business from time to time) and can’t believe that it’s the weekend tomorrow! I really could do with an extra day this week.

At the workshop, I had a ‘light bulb’ moment, a realisation of something I’ve been doing that is stopping me from being as productive as I could be. I’ve said before that I spend a lot of time researching subjects that can help my coaching clients – and workshop delegates. What seems to be happening is that I don’t know when to stop! I have to learn when enough is enough, so that I can move on to another, equally important, project.

As well as this insight, it was very useful to spend a bit of time looking at my future business plans. Somehow you get a different perspective when you’re out of the office.

Enough rambling, let the weekend commence. Where's that bottle of wine?

Thursday, 4 October 2007

A Cold Caller who ‘Gets It’

I run a workshop that helps business owners sell ‘without being pushy’, something we all dislike. I took a sales call this afternoon which was a wonderful example of not being pushy, rather surprisingly from our old friends BT.

Apart from being asked “How are you today?” (a question definitely to be avoided when calling a complete stranger), overall I was quite impressed. Not often I can say that of a sales call!

What this caller was offering was ‘a great deal on broadband’. However, he first asked did I have broadband (yes), was it a dial up connection (no) and was I satisfied with it (yes, very).

He then said, “Well, if you’re ever thinking of changing your provider, I hope you’ll give us a call.” I was a little taken aback. Usually cold callers have a script they’re determined to follow and they don’t bother listening to the answers you give them. Or they try to persuade you that their service is far superior.

None of that with this caller from BT! He found out the facts, realised he was talking to a happy customer, and ended the call gracefully. As a result, I felt listened to and respected. If only all sales callers were like that.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Learning and Technology

Today has not been brilliant because I didn’t get enough sleep! This was due to a long session in the dentist’s chair yesterday. I won’t go into the gory details but the work he did made it rather painful to lie on one side of my face, so I kept waking myself up.

As I didn’t have any meetings, I decided to have an easy day listening to teleclasses and studying some courses I bought a while ago and hadn’t got around to. The more I study, the more I realise I’ll never know everything I want to learn about.

One very annoying thing that happened today was that, after sending out my monthly newsletter, I got an email from a subscriber to say that the links weren’t working, despite testing them several times. I’m trying to get a few more people along to my Business Action System workshop on 18th October, but I can’t see them signing up if they can’t get to the website details. Technology is wonderful – when it works!! And it certainly tries your patience.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

A bit more about Goal Setting

As you might imagine, I subscribe to lots of blogs and newsletters. I like to make sure I’m on top of the latest coaching techniques and business ideas, so that I can pass them straight on to my business coaching clients.

Yesterday, I wrote about setting goals for the month. I was reminded in a newsletter of the importance of checking that the goals are truly yours. In other words, are you doing this for yourself (because you really, really want to) or could you be doing them for someone else?

You’ll know what the answer is. If the goal is someone else’s, you will feel a bit uncomfortable. You certainly won’t feel excited by it. If, on the other hand, it’s your goal, you will feel very excited and inspired by it.

Are you excited by your goals?

Monday, 1 October 2007

Try a bit of goal setting

Another month, another set of goals! I have to admit that sometimes they seem a bit daunting, but without them, I’d find it harder to stay motivated and on track.

The interesting phenomenon that happens when you write down your goals, is that your subconscious gets to work. Try it and see! Write down some goals that you’d like to achieve for your business (or in your personal life) this month. Put the sheet of paper somewhere safe. At the end of the month, look at what you wrote down. I bet that you will have achieved at least some of the goals you set at the beginning of the month.

Don’t ask me how it works, just believe that it does.

Now, imagine how much more you could achieve if you worked towards those goals consciously as well!

Let me know how you get on.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Networking and Newsletters

I don‘t know where September has gone, but it has certainly whizzed by for me! This week started with 4 breakfast meeting possibilities, of which I attended 2. This morning, I returned to a group I haven’t visited since March, because it’s a bit further afield for an early morning drive. It’s a very friendly group (called Ambassadors) and it was lovely to see everyone again.

I’m busy working on my newsletter which goes out to nearly 400 local business owners (and growing!). My ethos has always been to give lots of useful information and keep self-promotion to an absolute minimum.

This month I’ve got a dilemma because there’s so much new stuff to talk about. E-books for sale on the website, taking payments online, and offering a small number of advertising spaces in the newsletter itself. I hope my readers will forgive me!

What surprises me, amongst the many people I meet at networking events, is how few of them write and issue a newsletter. (If they do, they certainly don’t promote it. A Newsletter is such a valuable marketing tool and I have gained new business coaching clients by keeping in touch and providing useful information. Yes, it does take time to research and write the content each month but it’s definitely worth it.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Why Business Coaching is so special

As the result of an unexpected phone call request this afternoon, I’m busy putting together a special workshop all about motivation for business owners and entrepreneurs. It’s called, rather unoriginally, ‘E-Motivation’ and is going to be full of really effective tips and exercises that really do work. I’m looking forward to it already.

A meeting with a coaching client today highlighted that a business coach has many different roles. Today my client was really not himself. Things were going wrong and he needed to get some frustrations out of his system. While we didn’t get any measurable work done, I think I may just have saved some of his staff an ear-bashing.

When I worked in the corporate world I used to apply for promotions and different jobs on a regular basis. I get bored easily. I’ve been coaching for 7 years now and can honestly say that boredom isn’t an issue. I never know what coaching clients are going to present – which is both exciting and sometimes a little scary! But I love it. I love not knowing what the next coaching session is going to bring. It certainly keeps me on my toes.

Monday, 24 September 2007

The Heat is Off

I think last weekend saw the last of our brief but welcome Indian Summer. It was wet and blustery overnight and this morning and the forecast is for temperatures to drop quite significantly over the next few days. And it was dark when I walked into the village this morning to get my newspaper!

On the whole, I quite like the autumn and don’t mind the days getting shorter. I enjoy shutting out the world and curling up with a good book – and I don’t feel guilty about doing that if the weather isn’t too great.

In terms of business, a lot of people I’ve met at the recently revived post-summer networking groups have set themselves some very ambitious goals. It’s not only January that spurs business owners on to plan, September has that effect too. They both feel like fresh starts.

Goals can be set at any time of year and, importantly, they can be tweaked and adjusted at any time. Some people think that, once you set a goal, it’s set in concrete. But that’s not true. You can change them, because circumstances change, your business needs change. It’s about recognising that the original goal doesn’t quite serve the purpose you want it to and making the necessary changes.

What goals have you made that need revisiting, and possibly changing?

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Business Referrals, Leads and Introductions

I seem to have become a bit over-protective of my list of business contacts! I’ve certainly always been wary of recommending products or services, unless I’ve experienced them personally and know them to be excellent. My reasoning is that if things go horribly wrong between two parties that I referred, it will be my reputation that is damaged and my judgement questioned.

A conversation this afternoon has got me wondering if I need to adjust my thinking on this subject. I was thumping on about not being able to make referrals without experiencing the service first hand, when a slightly hurt voice said “Well I introduced someone to you in good faith.” Oh dear, perhaps they had a point.

So, in addition to referrals (based on personal experience), leads (often based on no previous contact whatsoever), I’m going to add introductions into my mix of contacts. Introductions are without recommendation or personal experience; they are simply contacts I know who may find it mutually useful to connect.

Provided I make the basis of the introduction clear to all parties, there should be no problem. Unless, in the heat of the moment, a scapegoat is being hunted to blame ….

What do you think? Do leave a comment or share your experience of referrals, leads and introductions.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Blogs can really take over your working day!

Yesterday’s workshop was a great success. I really enjoyed myself –the delegates were really great, and they worked so hard! I’m kicking myself a bit though because I took a camera with me and then completely forgot to take any shots (doh).

Today I’ve been catching up and getting ready to market the next workshop. I’ve also to listened to a couple of very interesting teleseminars about business building, including one about internet marketing and blogging. This one caught my attention because, as you might have guessed, I’m really into using a blog as a marketing tool.

As well as writing this blog, I also subscribe to receive and read several blogs I find interesting. Some are about coaching, some about marketing, copywriting, the internet, even about blogging itself – all kinds of information that might be useful for my business coaching clients and that I can share with them.

I’ve set up my iGoogle page so I know when something new has been posted on them. One small problem! Like incoming emails, seeing a new post arrive and then just having to read it, is rather addictive and very time consuming. I’m having to ration my visits to iGoogle so as not to get too distracted.

No wonder there's so much information overload!

Monday, 17 September 2007

Planning ahead for your small business

Have you ever found that when you’ve got a long list of tasks to get through, you just put your head down and get on with them? I find that if I’ve loads of time to get something done, it will take loads of time because I can’t seem to settle down and do it. But, give me some tight deadlines and I surprise myself at just what can be achieved!

Tomorrow is a training day, which I’m looking forward to. And myy local Chamber of Commerce is already trying to book me for some dates next year – give me a chance to buy a new diary!

But they’re right. Even though we’re only half way through September, it’s not too early to start planning for 2008. Also, and I know you’ll hate me for saying this, it’s time to order your Christmas cards and calendars if you’re having them printed.

So often my business owner coaching clients cram their diaries to capacity and then exhaust themselves trying to fulfil an additional surprise order. Planning ahead and leaving some contingency time means that the occasional rush job can be fitted in, without too much burning of the midnight oil.

For me, it's important to plan next year's workshops and get the conference rooms booked. I usually give myself the extra challenge of booking in at least one brand new event. That way I have a very real deadline to work towards and get the new material written!

It's also important to plan ahead for rewards and time off. Yes, I know you've just come back from your summer break! But, get those long weekends and days off scheduled in your diaries. Believe me, once the clocks go back, you'll thank me.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Back on Track – and an A-ha moment!

After my overwhelm ‘blip’ earlier this week, I’m pleased to report that normal service has been resumed in my business.

I’m very relieved because, as I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s vital to keep all the small business plates spinning and not let any drop.

While I was working out what was amiss, I realised something very interesting (my a-ha moment). I’ve always enjoyed writing newsletters (over 6 years now!) – I also write articles to submit to different publications both off and on-line. Sales letters need to be written to publicise my business coaching services and workshops, and, of course there’s this blog.

Because writing is something I enjoy doing, it doesn’t feel like work (although occasionally finding inspiration can be rather frustrating!). So I’ve been trying to fit in all the writing commitments after everything else, cramming them in before cooking dinner. My a-ha moment was that it is OK to write during normal business hours!

My newsletter was sent out so late this month because I didn’t give it a ‘prime time’ slot. That is not going to happen again. I have had people contact me and become coaching clients after reading the newsletter for a while – so it really is an important part of my marketing strategy and deserves to be more than an afterthought at the end of the day! Hooray! I don’t have to feel guilty about writing any more.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Time for a bit of Business Coaching for Myself!

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it hard to get into top gear after the summer break. It’s as if I’ve taken my foot off the accelerator somehow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m working with clients, getting ready for a workshop next week, researching for some new products, doing all sorts of stuff. But ….. there’s something missing.

Some of the business owners I’m working with have reported the same problem. It’s all down to feeling overwhelmed at how much needs doing. They think that, even if they worked solidly for a month (without stopping for sleep!), they still wouldn’t get everything done. And they’re quite possibly right. I think that having a break has highlighted just how much work lies ahead.

In my case (as for many small business owners), I often (wrongly) believe that if I don’t do a certain task myself, it won’t get done ‘properly’. The truth is that it probably won’t get done at all at the rate I’m going! For the first time in nearly 4 years my newsletter is 2 weeks late going out – I feel so ashamed.

Time to take a deep breath and look at what tasks I can delegate or outsource. Also, I need to check that my procedures get tightened up so vital tasks like the newsletter don’t suffer in future.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Investing in your small business

Today I had a most enjoyable day. I attended a workshop run by a couple of friends of mine. I met these ladies through networking 3 or 4 years ago. Some of their work overlaps with mine but we respect each other's intellectual property so it isn't a problem. I'm sorry to say their workshop was very good. It's always good to see what other people are doing and it encourages me to raise the bar on my own work. Thanks guys!

I should mention what this workshop was about - writing an attention getting sales letter (that won't end up in the bin) and following it up with a phone call. Sounds simple but, as today proved, a bit of a scary experience for many of us. We worked through each stage (one step at a time) and, even though the process isn't new to me, I felt very proud when I completed my draft letter!

All the delegates really worked hard and seemed to get a lot out of the day. What will be interesting is who takes what they've learned and acts on it - in other words, who produces a mailing, follows it up and gains more business. One of the problems with any training or workshop is that, while it is very motivating at the time, once we're back in the office and faced with all the usual stuff, our good intentions of making changes or using what we've learned goes out of the window.

This is where business coaching can make a difference. I was talking to a new client yesterday and I made her laugh when I said that the night before our next session, she would say "Oh no, I'm meeting Louise tomorrow and I haven't done what I said I would - I'd better do it now!" I have that effect on people! Knowing that someone is going to want to know how you're doing really does help keep you focused. End of commercial.

Having made the above comments, I know that I simply have to work on my draft mailing and actually do it! It would be a shame to let all that effort go to waste - not to mention the precious day I took out of my business to invest in it.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Small Businesses are Back to Work!

In case you didn't notice, I took a break from blogging last week in fact I took a break from everything to do with business! The experiment I did to change habits and routines was interesting. I learned that, although it's a bit uncomfortable, it does give you a different perspective and helps to unwind.

However, without my habits and routines in place, I found it difficult yesterday (Monday) to regain the discipline that I personally need to work productively from home. So, back to the pre-holiday routines - and I've achieved a lot today, almost back up to full speed.

I spent a lot of time over the last two weeks exploring social networking and reading lots of different blogs. While I don't pretend to understand the benefits of either in depth, I do know that they are important for small business owners, who can really benefit from being connected in these ways. So, go on, sign up to Ecademy and LinkedIn and write a profile for others to find. You never know, you might get some business!

What's your experience of social networking? Do post a comment, I'd love to hear what you think.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Small Business Owners - take a break without guilt!

After the somewhat lengthy posts of the last couple of days, I'll try to make this one shorter. I'm not doing so well in breaking out of my routines - I've been varying the time I get up, doing non business stuff during the day - but it has still felt like a working week.

However, there have been some real benefits to the last few days. I've got those annoying jobs out of the way, a phone call yesterday has yielded some new business, and this evening I've been invited to give a talk to a new group of small business owners later in the year! I'm a happy bunny this evening.

What's been most interesting is the lack of guilt I've felt about doing various things - like spending some time updating my speaker profile, researching what competitors are up to, making contact with some new people in Ecademy and reading lots of interesting blogs.

Looking at those activities, they all look pretty genuine in terms of business development. Why would I feel guilty about doing them normally? Will have to think about that.

Anyway, to all small business owners out there - make the most of this Bank Holiday weekend (it's even supposed to be nice weather!). The world will not come to an end if you don't check your emails or if you switch off your mobile phone - honest!

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Oops, I did it again!

Well, this is turning into an interesting week. You might remember my posting about the ‘fre*e’ preview calls? I had an email from someone who thinks they may be the subject of that post, not very happy. As indeed I wouldn’t be. However, as I know I tend to suffer from premature vocalisation, and to acknowledge that there are always two sides to every story, I’d like to post an update here.

Our UK based teleconference providers have us over a barrel – and it is so unfair because it is usually they who pocket most of the proceeds and give BT a bad name into the bargain (I didn’t think I’d ever be defending BT). I suppose if I hadn’t dialled into US teleconference numbers in the past for just 2ppm, I wouldn’t know that other, cheaper services do exist.

As I said before, I love learning through teleconferences – I can sit at home, in comfort and soak up some great information. Contrary to the tone of my original rant, I appreciate and acknowledge that teleclass hosts frequently do give away some great and useful nuggets. Indeed, it seems I missed a great event on this occasion. And it is unfair of me to cynically assume that there will be a hard sell, just because the class is a preview.

At this point, I would unreservedly apologise to the person concerned, whoever they might be, for the following assumptions I made and posted:

If someone goes to the trouble of giving away not just 1 or 2, but 5 preview teleclasses, it makes sound business sense that the ‘main event’ is not going to be cheap. I certainly wouldn’t expect it to be. However, I should not have assumed that it would automatically be expensive. (I still haven't got a clue how much it is!)

Accusing anyone of dishonesty is pretty heavy stuff – and I accept that my choice of words was inappropriate here – I have amended the previous posting title to read ‘Please don’t hide the full costs’ I know it’s a pain to have to explain everything to all the penny pinching tyre-kickers but there will probably always be pedants like me who want to know all the details before deciding. Perhaps all this could have been avoided with just the addition of a few words: “plus the cost of your phone call.”

I am informed that the recording of the call is available, totally free of charge, from the website, without having to dial up to those extortionate non-geographic numbers. I should have known that this is what “I will be able to access the recordings” meant.

Unfortunately, my previous blog comments have resulted in me being removed from this person’s list (I’ve never been removed before!). I say unfortunately because I actually admire what they have achieved in their business – indeed I have bought and enjoyed two excellent home study products from them over the last couple of years.

I suppose, in that wonderful state called hindsight, I would get the answers to more of my questions, before making assumptions and having an attack of ‘foot in mouth’ – my personal learning point from this experience.

The culprits remain the teleconference number providers – I’ll be watching my inbox for a response from them!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Thank goodness tomorrow is another day!

A client I've been working with for a couple of months has been an absolute gem. I wrote about her a few days ago - she does all her assignments and really takes to heart the changes she needs to make. As a result she's reaching the goals she set really quickly. I'll have mixed feelings when I finish working with her - pride that I've had a small part to play in her success and sadness that I probably won't work with her again for quite a while. She'll be flying solo and doing it very well. She's also referring people to me for business coaching, as she's so pleased with the quick results.

By contrast, I offered to help someone who was really struggling. I don't often take on pro-bono clients and I certainly won't do it again in a hurry after this experience. I've been working with this person on building their business on and off for over a year. She has been a bit of a nightmare with not wanting to work on assignments and keeping to appointments - which should have warned me. I've shared what I do in my business. In business coaching or any kind of coaching, the relationship is built on trust - which I believe works both ways.

This person has repaid me in the last few days by competing head to head with a workshop I'm running (coming in at a lower price and just a week before my published date). I still can't believe it, even some of the content description was obviously lifted from my web page. I cannot begin to describe how hurt I feel.

The reason I decided to share this experience is, firstly to show the contrast between how wonderful some clients can be, and secondly to call for some good business etiquette and manners! I have plenty of other competitors in my geographical area and we manage to avoid treading on each other's toes (most of the time!).

To finish the story, I emailed this ex-coaching client to express my hurt and disappointment and to terminate the coaching relationship. The reply I received was full of denial (different content, different location, about 20 miles away), it was obvious that she didn't accept that what she was doing was in direct competition. I chose not to reply.

This afternoon, I found a notice that this person is delivering a talk to a group of small business owners (that we both belong to). This talk has the same title and subject as one that I deliver and is being held just 5 miles down the road. If that isn't copy catting, I don't know what is.

Trust is a vital part of my business but sometimes it can leave you feeling a bit battered and bruised. Still, as Scarlett said : "I can't think about it now. I'll go crazy if I do. I'll think about it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day!"

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Unfinished Business

If you've been following this blog, you'll know that I'm spending a couple of weeks trying to break out of long established habits - doing a bit of work and having some fun as well, before business gets serious again in September.

Yesterday I blogged that I had found it difficult to break away from some habits. Well, today I managed a bit better, but only a bit. I think I've found the reason why I'm not doing better at this. You see I have some outstanding work from last week, coaching client notes, forms to fill in, etc. It suddenly dawned on me this afternoon that my mind was worrying about this unfinished stuff and didn't want to let go of the 'office' routine until it was out of the way! Simple when you think about it.

So, I've cleared up most of this backlog and will finish the rest tomorrow. Also tomorrow, I'm going to stop being a hermit - even if the weather is still unseasonally cold - and go out.

When I write tomorrow, I'm going to tell you about two very different experiences of human nature that I've had this week.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Not a great start!

Well, I'm near the end of my first day of doing things differently. I guess some habits are quite deeply entrenched because I seem to have kept to quite a few today.

I'd had visions of taking a long walk by the sea - which is only 5 minutes from my office - but chickened out. I don't know if it's just me but, for August, it feels a bit chilly!

What I have done differently is to not buy a newspaper. I found that I was just skimming the headlines and I can do that on the internet. So far, I haven't missed the bad news that seems to dominate the papers - that's got to be a good thing.

I've enjoyed feeling free to take time out in the middle of the day to do stuff totally unrelated to business - I'll definitely be doing more of that. I guess that my main throughts about this first 'unstructured' day is that it seems very strange and I am missing the usual routines.

The local radio traffic news has just reminded me why I love working from home - the road onto the island is at a standstill - I'm so grateful I'm not stuck in it!

Friday, 17 August 2007

A change from the routine

It's one thing knowing what's good for you, but quite another to do it! My work with small business owners often involves talking about 'extreme self-care' or 'taking care of your #1 asset'. Taking time out to relax and recharge those batteries are what I tell my business coaching clients to do - all the time. Do I do it? I'm ashamed to say, not as often as I should.

That's why I'm so pleased about the next couple of weeks. It's been a bit scary but I've completely cleared my diary (had my last meeting today) until September! I haven't done that since I started in business nearly 10 years ago!

Now, I don't know about you but I tend to fall into the habit of doing certain things at the same time each day or in the same way - quite unconsciously. Before you know it, my days start to become rather routine and 'boring'. That's going to change over the next two weeks because I'm going to deliberately change both when I do things and what I do.

If you think your days are getting a bit 'samey' (or to put it another way, you're in a rut!) try doing things differently. Buy a different newspaper, magazines or books. Take a different route to the shops. Try some recipes or foods you haven't tasted before. What else can you think of to do differently?

Have fun - I'm going to!

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Please don't hide the full costs

This makes me so mad!! I signed up for some fr*ee 'preview' phone calls earlier today. Basically these calls (5 in total) are previews of a quite expensive workshop and so, naturally, would contain quite a lot of advertising about the main event. I don't have a problem with that at all. The calls were called 'Masterclasses' which might be stretchng a point, but I could live with that too.

What really gets me is that, after I had signed up (out of curiosity for what the competition was up to!), the confirmation details revealed that I would have to dial an 0871 or 0870 number to access the calls (and the recording). In case you're not aware, these numbers are charged at a national rate of 8p per minute and the proceeds go to whoever has registered the number. So, phoning in for this 'Masterclass' would cost me about £5 an hour. Not a fortune you might say, and what's the woman complaining about but, multiply that by the number of people signing up, and by the number of calls (5 calls @ £25 per person) and someone's got a nice little earner!

I bought an 0870 telephone number several years ago, before I was aware of the facts (incidentally, I was not the recipient of the proceeds, the company I signed up with were!). Once I found out the facts, I did two things. The first was to stop using the 0870 number and use my normal geographic number; the second was to register the 0870 number with a website that is opposed to exactly the sort of practice I'm ranting about!

They are at and you can find the geographic number 'behind' the 0870, 0871 etc. number (if it's been registered). If you have a special package with your telephone provider, you'll find that non-geographic numbers (including 0845 and 0844) aren't covered so you have to pay the full rate for any calls made.

I emailed the provider of these 'Masterclasses' and asked for the geographic number, to be told that there 'wasn't an alternative number' but that I could dial in for the recording. I am not impressed. I do a lot of my learning through teleclasses (they don't interfere with my working day and there is no travel!) and most of these are run on US bridge lines that you can dial into for around 1-2p per minute (if you use a provider like One-Tel and dial a prefix before the international number) - even UK companies are using these US lines to keep costs down for their clients. I call an hour's teleclass for under £2 good value and I'm happy to pay it.

You may have gathered that I feel strongly about these seemingly small extra charges. What I object to is not the charge itself (tell me it's going to cost £5 and I can decide if I want to pay). What I do object to is the 'stealthy' way that I am being charged and someone else is profiting. This is not the first time I've come across this practice.

Needless to say, I will not be dialling in to these so-called fre*e Masterclasses. With regard to this rant, thank you for reading to the end! Normal blogging service will be resumed when I have stopped fuming, which will probably be just after the next glass of wine.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

It's what you do that makes the difference

Yesterday I worked with two very contrasting business coaching clients. The first has been an absolute joy from our very first session. She has taken action with gusto and commitment. The great results she is seeing are tangible proof that what she’s doing is working. This in turn is spurring her on to even greater things and she is singing my praises far and wide!

The second client isn’t making the same progress at all. When we meet (twice so far) there are excuses why actions haven’t been taken (he calls them reasons, I call them excuses). Coaching has been a bit of a disappointment for this client because, despite the pre-coaching briefing, I think he was expecting me to do all the work for him.

I don’t expect this client will continue for much longer and to be honest, I prefer not to work with people who aren’t prepared to put in the effort.

Coaching alone can’t make your business a success. It’s what you do as a result of the coaching that will make your business a success.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Do you or don't you?

The looks I get from some of my business coaching clients or when I'm giving a talk to groups of small business owners are so expressive! They usually say "You have got to be joking!"

You see, what I suggest to them is that they plan their marketing activities in advance, that they write down what needs doing so that it doesn't get forgotten while they're busy fire-fighting. You'd think I was asking them to do something bordering on illegal!

What I've found over the last few years is that there are some small business owners who are very disciplined and organised. Then there are those who love the freedom that running their own business gives them and don't want to be constrained in any way. The remainder fall somewhere between the two extremes.

Now I'm really not trying to be a killjoy. I've personally experienced both the effects of planning vs. not planning and I know which is most effective for my business. Without a written down plan I just drifted through the days doing a bit of networking here, writing an article there. But, once I started to really focus on my marketing and planning what I was going to do each month, things really started to happen. I got more business coaching clients because I was actively marketing for them. My workshops started to fill up because I had a plan to follow.

Business success is very rarely accidental, it is usually the result of planning and action - exactly as I've been trying to tell my clients!

Friday, 10 August 2007

Why are the things you really want just out of reach?

I've been lucky enough to work with literally hundreds of business coaching clients over the last few years. And there's a recurring theme with nearly all of them.

The business owners who know what they want from their business face a really tough choice. You see, just about all the 'good stuff' - the extra sales, the increased revenue and profit that they want - is just out of reach. Just outside their comfort zone. Their choice is whether or not they go for it.

Whether they pick up the phone to speak to prospective clients, whether they arrange to meet these same scary people, and whether they ask for the business!!

I struggled for a long time to reach outside my own comfort zone and do the things I knew I needed to do to grow my business. The best moment for me was what happened when I finally did find the courage. I got more clients! Nobody was nasty to me, and it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd built it up to be.

If the good stuff - what you really want - is just out of reach so you have to stretch to get to it, and move outside your comfort zone, two things are absolutely certain. One, you will have to really, really want it in order to make the effort and put yourself through the discomfort to reach it. And two, you are definitely going to appreciate the fruits of your labours!

Go for it - and celebrate your achievements. What have you got by going beyond your comfort zone?

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

The Good Things about August

August can be a rather frustrating month when you're a small business owner. Often the people you want to talk to are away on holiday - or rushed off their feet if their business relies on seasonal sales. So, you can't get hold of anyone - but you can relax about following up, just for a little while.

On the other hand, August is often a time when people take stock of their business and their lives and decide to make changes. In previous years I've gained several new business coaching clients because of this.

Many networking groups take a break during August, giving us all a chance to recover from our Networking 'Fatigue' (see previous posts). And in the case of networking breakfasts, we don't have to get up in the middle of the night to be there.

For the most part, rush hour traffic is blessedly light in August, making driving almost the pleasure it used to be in the days before there were so many cars on the road (do you remember them?). There's always an exception however. I live on the South Coast and have to battle with tourists and caravans (locally known as 'grockles', haven't got a clue why!) at this time of year. It's a case of go out before 'they're' up and about or stay off the roads as much as possible!

This is one of only two months of the year (the other being December) that I can indulge guilt-free in my love of writing! Whether it's this blog, new information products, new workshops, new marketing literature - I can scribble or tap away to my heart's content without worrying that I should be out and about. There's little point, there's hardly anyone 'out there'!

Friday, 3 August 2007

Information Overwhelm – or how you can have too much of a good thing!

Over the last few months, I’ve encountered an increasing number of overwhelmed small business owners. Next time you’re at a networking event, see if you can spot one. A dead cert give away sign is the overflowing organiser or folio/bag. This contains all the literature they’ve picked up (just in case), all the notes they’ve taken, or been given, at the multitude of seminars and workshops attended (usually the free ones), yet more handwritten or scribbled notes, this time from the various meetings they’ve had with the numerous specialists who offer free initial consultations (as I do myself!).

Other obvious signs to look out for are the furrowed brow and slightly cross-eyed, glazed expression. These physical manifestations are the result of being given too much advice and information.

At a lot of events, these small business owners are given the opportunity to talk about their business challenges (commonly called ‘wicked issues’ – and avoided by seasoned networkers). Everyone around the table pipes up sharing their experiences and solutions – more information, more advice, more overwhelm.

At first glance, all this information and advice seems very helpful. The problem is that you can have too much of a good thing and end up in the condition known as ‘analysis paralysis’.

This can be avoided if all the information that has been obtained is processed (for relevance), understood and then – most importantly – acted upon. What generally happens, however, is that most of the notes and scraps of information don’t make it into any sort of system, let alone get translated into action. One of the main reasons clients come to me for business coaching is because they want to find clarity and focus to move their business forward.

The overwhelmed business owner can be seen frantically gathering yet more information and arranging still further introductory meetings, in the hope that the next piece of advice will provide the elusive answer and make sense of everything else they’ve been told. And so the cycle continues.

Next time you spot an overwhelmed business owner, do them a favour, by all means buy them a coffee – just don’t give them any extra information!

© Louise Barnes-Johnston, 2005-2007

Thursday, 2 August 2007

A Bit of (Late) Spring Cleaning

It happens to me at this time of year, every year. I decide to overhaul the business and set new goals for the next 12 months. The trouble is that often my goals get a bit too big to be practical! Now, as a life and business coach, I always encourage people to make big goals, but - they do need to pass the reality test!

Anyway, this year I think that my goals for the coming year are big, bold, exciting - and realistic.

To make room for the new stuff I need to do some 'spring cleaning'. That's going to mean letting go of some well-loved, old friends. I've been running some of my workshops for a few years now and, while the content is still great and just as useful as it ever was, I feel they're in need of a good dust and polish. To me that means pulling the whole thing apart and starting again from scratch.

To paraphrase a well-known saying, the main difference between where you are now and in a few years' time is the people you've met and the books you've read. Well, since I originally developed and wrote what have proved to be very popular workshops, I've met lots of very interesting people and read piles or great books! Once I learn new techniques and try them out, I like to share them with the small business owners who are my main clients, as soon as possible. Hence the spring cleaning and rewriting.

Watch out for some really bright, shiny, and new workshops coming to a venue near you, very soon!! In the meantime (shameless plug!) don't miss the last Win More Sales workshop on 18th September.

Monday, 30 July 2007

Mondays can be interesting

Today has been a very different sort of Monday. I visited my holistic therapy client today and have really got her thinking about how she can make more money by working less hours. She treated me to a very relaxing Reflexology session, I was so glad I didn't have any heavy coaching to do in the afternoon, it was bad enough having to drive home!

Got back to the office around 4.30 - and delighted to see another booking for my Win More Sales workshop in September!

Had word that last Monday's small business workshop was well received and they're thinking of holding another one - great news.

Tomorrow I'm having coffee with a colleague I haven't got together with for ages in the morning, meeting with a potential new business coaching client in the afternoon and coaching a very long-standing client in the evening. Should be quite a packed day.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Where did last week go?

I had meant to post on Friday - but last week seems to have hurtled past at double speed! I don't make a habit of working on a Sunday but writing for this blog can't really be classified as work!

Last Monday evening saw the first delivery of a specially commissioned workshop and it was OK and the evaluation forms positive. I always think of things to improve on or do differently next time. I'd definitely order better weather - the rain was relentless - again!

Now I'm gearing up the marketing for my next 'open' workshop called 'Win More Sales' in September (details at and hoping for a good number of delegates as I probably won't run it again in its current format.

I don't understand when I hear business owners say 'things go quiet over the summer'. For the last 3 years at least, I've actually got busier with new coaching clients over July and August! That said, a lot of the networking groups take a break during August so I'm hoping to get some much needed business development projects finished and ready to launch in September.

Tomorrow I'm off to visit a good friend and client with a thriving holistic therapy business. She's now reached the point where she's ready to take her business to the next level - working less hours for more profit. I'm looking forward to planning that with her.

But for now, I'm going to log off and enjoy the sunshine that's making a rare appearance!

Friday, 20 July 2007

A very mixed week

Well, I've made it to another Friday! It's been quite a mixed week. Lots of coaching, a bit of networking (see yesterday's post!), and putting the finishing touches on the new workshop I'm presenting on Monday to a group of small business owners. I'll let you know how it goes!

One of the reasons I love what I do is that there is so much variety. Each business coaching client presents different challenges and situations. The newsletters and articles I write, and this blog, allow me to express myself and my opinions (!). The workshops and new products and services give free rein to my creative side. I get to meet lots of lovely people when I want to be sociable, or I can be quiet in my own company when I don't. Every week is very different. I wonder what next week will bring?....

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Networking Fatigue Alert!

Yesterday I went to the second breakfast meeting of a small networking group who are just trying to get established. (This is the same group where the venue had cooked all the eggs two weeks ago (see post from 13 July) and were unable to provide me with scrambled instead of fried, of which, more later!)

At the first meeting, there were 18 people present, this time - just 11. I do hope the group survives but I have some doubts. From my own experience of setting up and running a group (4 years ago), I know how difficult it is to build and maintain a viable number of members.

On Monday, I was invited to yet another networking group's first meeting to be held at the end of this month - hence the Networking Fatigue Alert! (see post from 6 July)

How can all these breakfast groups survive? There are only so many breakfasts a person can eat.

Today I heard about a well established (over 6 years) group who are sadly losing long established members and struggling to attract new ones.

Could it be that all the 'new' groups are creating a different breed of networker? I know that I'm in danger of becoming a 'Networking Tart"! (definition: a networker who visits every new group just to see what it's like and who's there.) I know that when I was a regular member of a group, my loyalty was to my fellow members. Now, because I can do all the networking I want, without the commitment of joining a group, there isn't any group loyalty and business referrals are more hit and miss.

Could it be that, with all these new groups starting up, the more established groups are suffering as members defect to find out what else is out there? Could these satellite groups actually be damaging the amount of referred business?

Sadly, what also struck me, as I listened to the proposed goals of this new group yesterday, is that their goals are almost the same as most of the other groups I've visited, although they may be worded differently. I had to keep my mouth well and truly buttoned!

Please forgive me if I start to rant at this point. The main purpose of networking is to build relationships. But, you cannot build relationships based on meeting someone just once or twice. You choose the people you want to get to know better (perhaps on the basis that you have similar interests, similar target markets - or you just like them!) and you spend time developing that relationship.

Visiting different groups once or twice is not enough to build relationships. Joining a group and attending regularly is. I'm not going to risk my reputation referring business to someone I hardly know. On the other hand, if I've been meeting them once a week over a period of time, I will feel much more comfortable introducing them to my other contacts.

Rant over.

Just to let you know that, despite ordering "just scrambled eggs and mushrooms" for my breakfast, on my plate were - scrambled eggs, mushrooms, tomato, the hated baked beans, hash brown and toast. I have to say that the eggs and mushrooms were delicious - but I'm still wondering what part of the word 'just' was so hard to understand!

Friday, 13 July 2007

A tale of two breakfasts

I’ve spent most of this week working on a brand new workshop I’ve been asked to present later this month to a group of business owners. It always seems to take me longer than I think to put them together, probably because I keep adding things!

On Wednesday I made a delightful early morning country drive to Alton, where I was due to speak to a breakfast group about Networking. As I hadn’t made that particular journey before, I set off in good time and arrived far too early, just after 7 am – with the meeting due to start at 7.30. Unsurprisingly, no-one else from the group was there yet.

The hotel staff were so friendly and helpful – especially considering the early hour. They made sure I had everything I needed while I waited for the rest of the group to turn up. I spoke to the duty manager, and two of the housekeepers and they were all so cheerful!

After the talk (and a very tasty breakfast - cooked to order!) I went back to reception, someone else was on duty by then but she was just as friendly. I said that I had enjoyed my visit to their hotel because the staff were so nice. She looked a bit surprised, but very pleased. Sometimes we don't praise when things go well.

Contrast that experience to the week before. I was invited to a breakfast meeting being held at a local golf club. When the breakfast was served, it was already 'plated' - with fried egg, bacon, sausage, hash brown, baked beans, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and two pieces of fried bread! Now, while I'll agree that this is good value for money, I don't like baked beans and, to be honest, there's no way I could manage more than half of what was on the plate.

When I asked if it was possible to just have some scrambled eggs and mushrooms I was told that 'all the eggs had been cooked'! As a compromise they gave me another plate - just without the baked beans.

What a contrast in service and willingness to please. I know few people like being on 'breakfast duty' but it makes such a difference to have a cheerful start to the day.