Did you know we have started a podcast?
Dream:Reality is a 12 week series. Linked below.
We talk to change makers, disrupters, thinkers and innovators. It has been a period of fast paced change, how can we and business keep riding that wave for good?
We talk emerging tech, mid career changes, startups, supporting each other, digital transformations, fintech and crypto, change management, stress management, leadership and VC's with purpose, CSR, Sustainability and D&I.....
Check us our on Youtube and wherever you get your podcasts!
Not some new age woowoo. Not a form of meditation.
Wholistic Business is an awareness of how the processes and functions of your business interact with each other. Each time you change or fix something in your business, you should understand how this impacts other parts of your business.
"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" Isaac newton
Each one of us has a blind spot in business; the bit you are not as knowledgeable at, or the part you just have no interest in. These can cause the worse fires - as we ignore the warning signs - we fuel the fire, until it becomes a raging inferno that demands our attention.
Working from small fire to small fire, reacting to every pull on us, leads to chaos. From time to time, we should zoom out, reaffirm the big picture, and ensure we are working towards our strategy actions and directions.
This is an introduction, so content is light.
I was delighted to present to Women's Inspire Network Ireland on Business Plans aren't Scary!
By breaking down the task into 3 sets of content, it is much easier to take what is in your head and translate to a plan.
Writing the detailed plan whilst making the summary also helps to align the two documents.
Check out our recording.
From June 2016 when the referendum results were announced, there was a lot of uncertainty as to how the UK leaving the EU would impact Ireland. Ireland and the UK are close partners.
Did this uncertainty put off nascent entrepreneurs from starting their businesses?
Was there a greater impact in the regions vs Dublin?
Were females impacted by the uncertainty more than males?
Were certain sectors impacted more than others?
Have a read of this free download of an investigation I completed on this topic.
This report remains the property of Alison McMurtrie.
I struggled with this one to be honest. It’s a rabbit hole of information, you can learn so much…… so if you feel you want to investigate further then reach out!
I think we can all appreciate that when our energy is high we are unstoppable! But how can we know when this will happen? Can we plan for that?
Different genders have different energy levels at different times. For the purpose of this article I will refer to men and women from the perspective of their hormone levels.
Hormones impact our moods, our brain functions and therefore our energy levels. Men and women have different mixes of hormones, and the levels of these differ throughout their cycles.
Men – 24 hr circadian rhythm, testosterone is highest in the morning, and they may feel most energetic then. Energy slump after lunch around 3pm
Women – 24hr circadian rhythm + monthly cycle. After a good sleep we are refreshed and more alert, and do face the afternoon slump, but we have a larger hormonal factor in the background which adds a further dimension. If you want more in-depth info on this check out ‘Wild Power’ (link below).
So we have a hormone effect, but what else? Diet, how much sleep, how much and what type of exercise, how hydrated we are can all contribute to how our energy is impacted. These are external forces, things we can control….. but so what?
This might seem like a big exercise, but some academic papers suggest up to 30% productivity improvement, but just switching and scheduling tasks to match your energy levels.
Part of the exercise of looking at the tasks you have to do and assigning low, medium and high energy should have already highlighted to you a rough prioritisation level. Some tasks need to be done every day eg, email review, and some are important projects with deadlines.
I break tasks down into 3:
Urgent – something that was unplanned, but really needs to be done today
Deadline – takes a few days/ weeks of work, but had a hard deadline
Sloggers – needs to be kept on top of, but not necessary to be every day
As you can see from my concept above, slogger tasks tend to be low energy, and as such can be scheduled during these periods. Urgent tasks tend to need high energy, so try to schedule them at these times. Key point is this is a recommendation and sometimes you have no option but to do what needs to be done, and then you just need to react.
Everyone has an idea of what needs to be done – some use to do lists, some keep it in their heads. But that is usually just the deadline and urgent tasks, not the sloggers on those lists. By capturing it all, then you can decide what task is first, depending on how you feel – it’s about awareness. When can you be most productive, have the highest energy and prioritise the tasks to that time.
I will take a moment to focus on sloggers. The email reviews, the social media checking – we do this (maybe not at the best time – but we do it). What about keeping on top of our business expenses and accounts? Do you update these once a week? This is an example where logging expenses weekly can be a lot quicker than doing it all in one go when you need to submit accounts to an accountant. Another example is social media posting. Do you have a plan of when you will post? Can you prepare these posts in advance and automate the posting of them? This is easier and more efficient that feeling stressed that you haven’t posted for 2-3 days and you need to do it….
Sometimes you have this big to do list, and you are soooo busy, but at the end of the day you wonder what did you get done? Hmmm the grass was cut, the ironing done, looked at holidays for the summer, but nothing really disappeared from your to-do list. This is especially valid if you have a large project with a deadline.
Studies have shown that this procrastination is “the primacy of short-term mood repair … over the longer-term pursuit of intended actions.” Put simply, procrastination is about being more focused on “the immediate urgency of managing negative moods” than getting on with the task, Dr. Sirois said.
So now we understand a bit of the why – what can we do about it? Google procrastination and you find a lot of suggestions. Below is what works for me and my justification…
But hang on…. is this a flaw? I don’t think so, and neither does Prof John Perry.
I do some of my most out of the box thinking when I am procrastinating, I can be creative, innovative and a bit wacky…. And my tasks always get done. So, my opinion is to understand your drivers, acknowledge it and get your tasks done. Sometimes you will procrastinate, and something will develop out of that time, but just be careful not to procrastinate 100% of the time and not deliver.
What a topic! It definitely generated a lot of discussion….. We could deep dive on this for so long, but below are some of the links to info that I found helpful!
www.Focusmate.com Gives accountability, you team up and commit to work for x period of time, then you have a chat and celebrate at the end!
www.Monday.com This is recommended to me almost every day…..
https://apps.apple.com/us/app/focus-keeper-time-management/id867374917 (also avail on android) Based on pomodoro technique
What does it all mean???
KPO – Key Performance Objectives – Usually a goal or action that is based around an outcome or performance (something that is measurable). Eg: Staff should have 98% safety training at all times, to ensure they and their co-workers stay safe at work.
KPI – Key Performance Indicators – Metrics defined by your organisation and used to track the organisations performance. Eg: Increase revenue by 20% vs last year.
OKR – Objectives and Key Results – Goals that are aligned and communicated using objectives (what you want to achieve) and metrics so you can measure how you are achieving the objective. Eg: Design and deliver 100% of products from recycled material to reduce environmental carbon impact by 3% vs last year.
Metrics – the measurement of something so you can review
Is it clear yet? Don’t worry – books have been written on this, many youtube resources are out there (some listed at the end).
What is important, for your organisation is to understand where you want to be – what is your goal (see the link to strategy there?). Now work backwards, into bitesized pieces.
Depending on the size of your business, metrics may be sufficient to track performance, and how you are moving forward with your strategy. In larger businesses, as you communicate the strategy, and the breakdown of milestone tasks, the review can be made with metrics. But revenue increase might not make sense to a coder or team member – so switch it around, would they understand reduced client complaints, or client satisfaction as a metric? These can impact revenue through repeat purchases, and are more understandable to team members.
I am biased. I am an engineer, so I like numbers and metrics. I find KPO too fluffy, and I find that no matter the level of an employee, if you communicate a relevant target to them they will work towards it. Its how you communicate the relevance of that target that differentiates for me between a KPI and a OKR. If the target is part of the strategy and communicated as such, then OKR work, if its just to grow the business then stick to KPI.
What metrics to chose can be a confusing exercise, and really is quite dependent on the type and size of your business.
The list goes on, what is important is to have a few (5-8) and track them. They should be customised and RELEVENT to your business – generic metrics just don’t work.
How and Where to Capture and Review?
Once you have decided which metrics are important and aligned with your strategy, you need to track and review them. This is just as important with those metrics which you agree with your leadership team and employees as KPI or OKR. Where can they see them, so they know they are on track or not?
There are a heap of different ways to do this, below I will review some of them for you… I have used each other below myself and definitely recommend Tableau or PowerBI
What is strategy? And is it even relevant any more?
Back in ye old days of 2019: Strategy was relatively clear cut, and made a lot of sense – you got your team together (or dedicated some quality time if you are a solo-entrepreneur) and mapped out where you wanted to be in the future. Depending on how you approached it, maybe took some actions or filed it to be reviewed at next years meeting – as everyone is on the same page – right?…. Et voila!
Now, in 2021 I feel we need to approach things a little different. Having a goal as to where you want your business to be in the future is great – but I don’t agree this is a strategy – this is a goal. The strategy is the how to achieve the goal. This is what is going to make us successful in 2021.
By breaking our goals down into achievable timebound actions, we can have the ability to be agile, change in the market place as needed, whilst continuing to be true to our brand and long term goal. Bitesize pieces help us to not get overwhelmed with what is ahead of us to have world domination – lets break it down to one city at a time ?.
Bitesize pieces allow us to see what works where, and what doesn’t. What needs improving, or needs a completely different approach.
Strategy is something a business is always ‘told’ to do at the start of the year…. But I would ask why? A strategy should be already in place, and you should be periodically revisiting it at least every quarter, if not more often in this tumultuous times. In doing this, you as the business leader can identify the strengths of your business, and see where improvements can be made. A strategy is not and should not be a once a year activity – if it is, it’s going to be super hard for your business to grow and be successful.
Have you mapped out your goals?
Take a moment, breathe, in 5 years where do you want your business to be? This can be as grand as you want, or as basic as you want. You are the business leader…. Reach for the stars and you might just land on the moon!
This step itself can be quite a challenge for some people, we become a bit modest, and shy – you don’t need to share with anyone if you don’t want, or you can share parts only with your team, its up to YOU. A tool that is great for this is vision boarding
Disclaimer: I personally don’t believe in exit plans, or the term exit plan – as if you plan this from the start, you will not contribute fully to the business. Business develops, and you may be absorbed by a bigger organisation, which can be part of your plan, but to do this you need to develop the business to its full potential. You will need an action plan or strategy.
The beauty of all this is no matter the size of your business, the process is the same. A solo-entrepreneur will work through the steps themselves. A larger business with a leadership team should really work through the process together. The Business Leader explaining where they see the 5 year goal to be, but listening to the team around them: BUY IN! A team not consulted, or on board with the business goal will not a successful strategy make.
Now you have where you want your business to be in 5 years, how are you going to make this happen? What will you need to do? Do you want to go international? Do you need to find new manufacturing capability? How are you going to achieve this?
Break your 5 year objective into 5 steps. If you do A in year 1, this will enable you to achieve B in year 2, which will enable you to achieve C in year 3 and so on until your objective is achieved by year 5! Your team can help brainstorm on how to achieve these milestones and actions. *I use the term milestone, as that is timebound.
Using this frame work – how will you achieve A? what needs to happen? Do you need to scale up? Do you need to skill up? Do you need help? By breaking A into absolute tasks that are timebound (milestones again) we can keep ourselves from being overwhelmed, and can be adaptive to the market.
What is important is to WRITE ALL THIS DOWN. You need to be able to see the end goal and the journey of steps and milestones you will be complete to get there. If you don’t, but just keep it in your head, how will you convey to employees, to potential investors. Equally important, how will you review, see if you are on track? Make adjustments?
You can use some great tools to do this….
It would be easy to get overwhelmed when making your business strategy for the first time, or reviewing again in this current climate – but this is something that helps to create a successful business. Having the details mapped out with timeframes and assigned to people in an easily reviewable format can really keep you on track, and help identify any areas of concern.
I find a vision board and real blue ocean thinking is great for long term thinking. This should be something you cannot achieve soon or quickly but should take some time and efforts to get there. I also come up with wild ideas when out for a run or walk, so carry a pen and paper (old school) to jot down ideas. Do you have a vision? This is different from a mission, but if you have that already it can help to direct your thinking.
Pinterest is a good app that can help with this, and you can update it regularly. Just remember to take screen shots of it, so you can share with your team where appropriate.
Mapping the Strategy
Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & R. Mauborgne
Strategy Maps by R. Kaplan & D. Norton (not an easy read, but some good tips)
The Strategy Book by Dr M. McKeown (a personal fav, follow him on LinkedIn for some great tips and inspirational videos). Includes a poster template to build out your strategy.
Mind Map Mastery by T. Buzan (great book, if you want to be good at mind mapping!)
My personal recommendation is to map out on paper by yourself or with your team using COLOUR, ideas flow more and connections can be made when we bring colour into our lives. This can then be transferred into a mindmap app.
MindMeister – I have used the free version, pretty intuitive, and you can screen shot and share.
MindManager – I like this one and use frequently, only the free version for me I find is enough, however if you are working with a team then the paid versions may be more applicable.
I keep a copy on my desk top (computer) and have a placeholder in my calendar to review every 1 month (recurring).
These applications also allow you to share the maps, add actions which go directly to action plan lists with deadlines and assigned person. This makes it super easy to review and understand if you are on track or not.
You have your strategy, long term goal. You have it broken down into quarterly actions which are manageable and are assigned to individuals. You built this with your leadership team and it has been communicated to all your employees. Everyone knows the direction of the business and where you want to be in the next 5 years or so…… so what now? The work is done – so go have a cup of tea! ?
In the words of the Carpenters ‘We’ve only just begun….’.
Depending on your business size, how you review and keep this momentum will differ. The key point; no matter what the size of the business is, if everyone is on the same page, have bought into the long term goal and the bitesized actions, then really this becomes part of their day to day focus and projects of everyone. These shouldn’t be additional workload – your bitesized actions are the workload and direction, possibly the changes that need to happen to the business to reach the next level, achieve that new contract. If they are not being worked on, then the individual who is assigned as the owner of that action has not bought into the goal and action plan. It would be prudent to understand why, listening and empathy can really help to get employees, no matter the level engaged.
How can you spot this?
The reviews. I know, I have been, some might say preaching about this all week, but from experience, if you don’t review and someone is not following on their actions it can be to the detriment of the whole business. As the business leader you need to be ontop of this. Then next year, when you revisit the strategy you will assign the same actions all over again.
What should reviews look like?
They can be in the form of a KPO, or simply a project update. If you have monthly team meetings or a regular meeting, I would always start by the key people updating on their actions – people need to be accountable, but at the same time feel supported. It is important, especially in this current climate to make sure we have a safe space for people, things change, home schooling impacts productivity, people may have sick days – that’s ok, and its important to pass the message that that’s ok whilst we continue to move in the same direction and keep communicating.
Communication is key to all of this, you and your team should always be talking about goals, new ideas, brainstorming. Its empowering to you and your teams.
I have some bad news for you.
You will probably never achieve that 5yr goal. There I said it…. I’m sorry to have to break this new to you. But, it’s actually a good thing. Let me explain.
As you go on this journey of direction and adaptation, there really is no final destination. It will evolve, it will adapt further and each time your review your strategy you will make some small, and sometimes larger changes. This is good, this is what is meant to happen. A static strategy is not a strategy for success, but in my opinion a strategy for failure. As you have annual reviews, you perhaps even see your 5 year goal changing, becoming more ambitious, changing direction, and you should be comfortable with that.
Strategy is all about change and embracing change in the organisation. Don’t be afraid of change, it is what can keep your business successful!
Ecosystem – such a buzz word in business leadership right now. Attention OPINION ALERT – unless you are a sustainable business, with an eco product…. I am very uncomfortable using the term ecosystem…… and I’m not going to apologise for it!
Yes – your business functions are linked, and we should definitely move away from silo’s of functions that do not interact with each other, but this is not the word to describe this. We lean towards these terms a lot, sometimes to make us feel better about business, to make it a more natural thing, to say ‘It’s ok’…. Business environment, organic growth….. you can’t escape.
Welcome to Wholistic Business.
This is a model I have created at Idunn. We assess your business from a process and interaction level, and derive an action plan based on this.
Every time you ‘fix’ a function it impacts somewhere else in the business – and sometimes not positively….. unplanned growth impacting cash flow, but giving you a nice profit? Converting those flexible part time workers to full time but now you have no one to cover the holidays without impacting your profit and cash? The list goes on…. and talk to almost anyone who has run a business they all have a story. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
I agree, there are lots of companies out there that can offer support on this, and they will do a great job. Idunn is different. We believe that people are the difference. Along with assessing the business function interactions, we look at the profiles of your leadership team. Having the right person in the right job who is motivated can have a significant impact on your business. We look at the interactions of their functions and how they communicate, and map against how the business processes map to identify the skills GAPs. We partner with you to implement the action plan to achieve the agreed outcomes, guiding you, the business leader along the way.
This is Idunn – your trusted guide to assist, grow and scale your business.
OK - I know.... we are all over 2020, and collectively wish it could be over sooner - but is 2021 going to be that much better?
There is light at the end of the tunnel for sure, and there has been serious adaption already - which is amazing.... now we need to stabilise that rushed adaption, expand on it, and continue to grow.
New Year - new start - right? I like to think of it as a great time, just to reflect on the past year - what worked, what didn't? then learn from that. Revisit your strategy - short and long term. (I will be sharing my 5 days strategy pointers in early Jan!)
Health check employees
This is the time of year that employees are expecting their annual reviews. Be reflective, as a leader. how have you supported them to enable them to succeed in 2020? Did they have all the tools needed? When you talk with them, ensure it is in the correct environment, but make it a two way conversation, listen to what they think went well, and what do they need more support on......
How financially secure is your business?
You know that I am all about cash health.... so check out my previous blog for details on that.
Revisit your contracts
Do you have tenders coming up? As the way we do business in some sectors has changed significantly, should you be revisiting the T&C's of your contracts with suppliers?
GDPR & Security
What do you do with client data? Are you storing it properly? Are you using the data to its most advantageous? Are you compliant with legislation? Is it secure? Time to do an audit? Get off excel and formalise your data process in this digital age.
There is probably a chance that you had to adapt your business quickly in 2020. Now is the time to revisit this, to see how it can be stabilised and improved. Think LEAN methodologies (don't get scared of the term!) which can streamline some of your processes, ultimately improving cash flow and profitability.
The list goes on.... but the above is a good start.... basically its time to reflect and think. Revisit your strategy and aim for the stars!
What does it even mean?
It is important to understand who your customer is, and how they will interact with your product or service. Will you make life easier for them? Will you remove non value added tasks? Are you a dream, an aspiration? etc
How do you know this? How often do you talk to your customer? Talking and listening to them, rather than taking at them is key to understanding if your product/ service is a WANT or a NEED, and how you can market yourself. Where is your customer in the buying chain.... do you sell B2B or B2C or a combo of both - this can make building a product/service for your customer hard, if you are only getting input from the user. In a world where customer service are on hand through social media 24hrs a day almost, the dynamics have changed. Business need to invest in customer service like never before - or be the brunt of a horrific viral social media freenzy! But even a product disaster, if handled correctly, can make your client base even more supportive.
Who is your customer?
Do you really know your customer base? What they want? What they need? Needs are something you can't live without: food, shoes, coat etc. Wants are not necessities: oysters are food, but not a necessity to have them, designer shoes or coat. What problem will you solve for them? How will customers find out about you?
All too often business leaders, Marketing Managers, Sales Teams make assumptions on their client/ customer base. It's a complex world out there.... clients? customers? users? Each have their own demands - but which one is the most important.... well no easy answer - sorry.
You need to have a relationship with customers and users to understand how they interact with your product/ service, you need feedback from them. You are innovating products/ services for them, not for you - your products/services should solve a problem or be of use to them. That is your USP (unique selling point).
Understanding your customer....
Now you know what a NEED and a WANT is you can understand the buyer journey. Once a purchase has been made - what do they do with it? how do they interact with the product or service? Is it as you expected?
Febreeze initially were offering a scent free deodoriser - but after understanding how it was being used in the home - changed to a scented.... this is customer centric - this is understanding and listening to your client. Data alone would never have allowed the marketing and development teams to realise that a small change could create such a strong and desirable product. Understanding the habits and nuances of your customers - helps you to provide better more functional, more desirable products them.
But remember - how they use is only one part - how do they purchase, how good is the packaging, what is the aftersales.... depending on the product/ service these have different weights of importance, but can equally ruin a great product. So when you are talking to customers, ask about the sales experience, the delivery options, the packaging, the after sales - this will help to increase desirability of your product/service event more!
We have all heard about them, or seen them, or been part of them. The train wrecks. Sometimes a major issue, or sometimes a minor one, but always blown up like an erupting volcano.... is there any way back? YES. Managing how you communicate with a client can help you turn it around.... and remember, this is not personal, don't let it become personal. The customer is unhappy due to a product or service no because of you personally. You didn't get out of bed that morning wanting to get on the wrong side of a customer!
It is important to learn from mistakes, it is one thing for a one off event to be recoverable, but if the event happens time and time again - that is very challenging to recover from.
If something does happen, TALK to the customer, LISTEN to them, let them vent if they have to. Don't get into a fight, or become confrontational/ defensive. Let them have their time to speak, and let you know how they feel. Then communicate the issue back to the client, just so you both know exactly what the issue is, without the emotions. Now you can do something about it!
Replace, repair, compensate
TALK to the customer, ask them how they feel, and if there is anything else you can help them with.
Handling correctly, can result in the effected customer actually bringing you more customers... their word of mouth is worth 300% of your advertisements!
Is the customer always right?
This is a phrase we have heard a lot - but what does it really mean? Well, in my opinion, the answer should be IT DEPENDS.So, what do I mean by that?
If you have a product/service fault and the customer complains - then yes, the customer is right and you need to fix that and keep the customer happy so they will return.
If your customer is asking for customisations, changes etc for your product/service then perhaps the customer isn't right. Yes, we should ALWAYS listen to the customer, and its another avenue for innovative ideas - but you need a product/service that is profitable, scalable and marketable. You don't want to have a range of products/services but they are each only applicable to a single customer - that's a situation that is extremely inefficient and will have a lot of cost associated. Also, you don't want to have all your eggs in one basket, so your products/service aimed at one client - what if they go elsewhere? then you have no customers and no product that is market ready..... You want to listen and understand their points and then decide what is best for your business..... could you make changes/ improvements and the product/service be of interest to a larger market? premium pricing at minimum extra cost? These are the tough decisions, whilst maintaining the relationship with the customer. Communication once again is key - as you need to take their feedback onboard, but not commit, unless you really are going forward ith it. If you are not going forward, then you need to manage their expectations and keep them as customers - COMMUNICATION.
Again, you see, Customer Centricity touches so may facets of your business - marketing, training, profit, cash...... you need to keep looking at all of your business to have a successful business!