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.