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Think Like an Olympian

The Olympics have rolled around again, which means a return of the armchair experts on diving, badminton, fencing and Greco-Roman wrestling (and arguments about whether synchronised swimming is really a sport). At some point though, most of us watch the Olympic competitors with awe, and muse about what it must take for them to compete at that elite level.

Most small business owners are not so different from our Olympians. It takes stamina, commitment and many hours of hard work to build and grow a successful business. If you have been in business for longer than two years, you are amongst the ‘elite’ – and you have many similarities to Olympic competitors.

There would be few (if any) Olympians who have not experienced setbacks. To get where they are, they have learnt to be resilient, to ignore the critics and to bounce back from negative experiences. These are all extremely important attributes for business owners. Firstly, it is being aware that there will be setbacks (business, like life, is not perfect!) and then it is being determined not to let those experiences defeat you.

All Olympians know that it is not enough just to have ability. Passion is vital: it is what will keep you going and willing to jump through hoops. Without passion, your business will become ‘just another job’ and won’t survive the long term.

Ian Thorpe, one of our best known Olympians, had a wonderful attitude before one Olympic final, when he was allocated Lane 5 (historically the ‘fastest lane’ is Lane 4). His response was “There is water in every lane, so it is OK”. It is this sort of pragmatism that is important for business owners too. There will be times when it appears that we have missed out on the best pathway to success, but sometimes we need a dose of pragmatism to realise that we need to make the best of what we have in front of us.

And to end with a classic Aussie way of viewing things, here is a quote from Olympic shooter Russell Mark: “A silver medal gets you as many free beers as a gold medal does”.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Are you a winner?

As usual, Australian Olympians have been providing us with many memorable moments at the Rio Olympics. From the sheer joy and exuberance exhibited by 20km Race Walk bronze medal winner Dane Bird-Smith, to the inspirational behind the scenes work of Eloise Wellings who placed 10th in the 10,000m race (the best finish and time ever by an Australian woman).

One of my favourite quotes by this current cohort of Olympians was from Kim Brennan, gold medal winner of the Women’s Single Sculls. Before the race, she told Channel 7 that “Winning isn’t everything, striving to win is”.

As far as I am concerned, that is a mantra by which we should all be running our businesses. In business, we are not always going to ‘win’. Sometimes the client we really want to work with chooses someone else. Sometimes the sales we thought we were sure to achieve with our fantastic new product don’t eventuate. And sometimes, we just run out of energy to get everything done that we would like.

If our satisfaction and happiness is completely tied up in the achievement of ‘winning’, rather than in the day to day journey of aiming for the ‘win’, life is going to be pretty miserable.

I am sure all Olympic athletes have days where they have to drag themselves to early morning training sessions. Or times when injuries plague them. Or periods where sheer exhaustion has them questioning if they should continue. But speak to any elite athlete, and they will usually tell you that they genuinely enjoy the challenges and small achievements along the way. Of course they are focused on the prize at the end, but few last the distance if they do not also enjoy the years leading up to that success.

Kim Brennan was also quoted as saying “You can walk away incredibly happy if you know you’ve given the best show of yourself”. And in this case, it resulted in a gold medal which she was “so chuffed to have”. So by all means have big goals. But take pleasure in the process and the striving that comes along with being the best you can be.


 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Is your logo really that important?

Your logo is very often the first introduction prospective customers have to your business. Not only does having a logo provide legitimacy, it provides brand recognition. You are competing to be seen and heard amongst many other businesses and companies, and your logo needs to help you stand out and be remembered. A good logo should summarise the uniqueness of your business and begin to give your customers an impression of who and what you are.

Even though your logo is not the only aspect of your ‘brand’, it helps to set the guidelines. A good logo designer will take you through a process of working out what you want to communicate to your customers. What emotions do you want to elicit? What assumptions about your business do you want people to make when they see your logo? A designer then uses fonts, colours, symbols and so on, to create a visual representation of your business. From then on, all your promotional materials will have a clear direction and you will have consistency in your marketing messages.

When your business is new, this process can be quite overwhelming. But it is good to remember that your logo can change and adapt over time. Think of the ways the Apple logo has changed, and other large companies such as Google. You are not always going to have the vision now for what your business will look like, and who it will target, years down the track. So although it is important to capture the essence of your business today, be assured that it is OK to adapt it in the future to reflect changes to your business.

Logo design can sometimes be viewed as an unnecessary expense when a business is starting up. And the costs can be daunting when you are trying to operate on a shoestring! But when you realise the impact that a good logo (and a bad or non-existent one) has on the image you project, logo design will shift to being viewed as an investment, rather than a cost.


 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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When Money is Tight

When I started my business, I had no financial backing. I was in a fortunate position of having some paid maternity leave and a partner who worked full-time. But I was faced with the challenge of building a business with resources other than money.

The first way I did this was to commit to covering my operating expenses only with the revenue I generated through my business. Although my partner was supportive of me starting a business, I also didn’t want the business to be a drain on our personal finances. Having no capital behind me forced me to be creative in generating income. It also made me appreciate every dollar that came in to the business, and gave me a great sense of pride that I built my business without relying on outside funding.

Marketing was the next area I had to work hard to cover with little or no money. These days, social media has enormous potential for free marketing for your business – generating trust and sharing your story on social media costs nothing. While it takes strategy and well planned campaigns to do it well, you can gain the sort of valuable information (such as feedback and recommendations) that would have been almost impossible for small businesses to gather (affordably) ten years ago. But social media aside, there are still numerous low cost or free ways to market your brand (for some great ideas, read ‘Permission Marketing’ or ‘Purple Cow’ by Seth Godin).

And finally, I learnt to minimise my mistakes – or where I did inevitably make a mistake, I took the time to learn from it. Most of my policies and procedures have been developed from situations or mistakes. It has always been a priority for me to adjust my practices and sometimes it has resulted in far better ways to operate.

It is important to realise that money isn’t a necessity for business success. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to take your business forward. Learn to think outside the box and rely on creativity rather than finances to overcome obstacles. Your business will develop far more innovatively and you will save your business unnecessary expenditure in the process.

 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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You’re never too old to start

Do you find that the majority of accolades relating to achievements in business tend to focus on young people? While it is a great feat to create a successful business by the time you are 25 years old (or even 35), those who are older might be forgiven for thinking that they are ‘too old’ to start a business.

There are a few reasons why starting a business when you are over 50 years old can make you a better business owner than starting when you are younger. First and foremost, you have life experience. You have likely encountered many different people and personalities, you can see the bigger picture in situations, and you are more likely to have patience to deal with each step.

You are also likely to have a larger, and more diverse, network that you can draw on to share their advice or offer their services. And if you require finance, a lending institution is more likely to let you borrow what you need, as you are likely to have other assets or a track record of financial stability.

At an older age, you are more likely to better understand where your passions lie. Younger business owners can get caught up in the idea of running a business, more than passion about the idea itself. You are far clearer about what you like and don’t like.

And finally, you are highly likely to have experienced failure. This means you will have learnt valuable life lessons and may fear failure a whole lot less than when you were younger. You understand the importance of contingency plans and you know from experience that bouncing back from failure boosts your self-esteem. Younger business owners are not lacking in self-esteem or confidence, but this is often drawn primarily from optimism, rather than balanced with reality.

So if you are in the ‘older’ age range, and have always dreamed of starting your own business, you haven’t necessarily ‘missed the boat’! If the passion is still there, don’t be held back by thoughts that you need to be in your 20’s. Being ‘young at heart’ will get you further than you might think.


 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Some mistakes you should avoid

Most often, business advice is full of things that you should do. But sometimes it is good to know what not to do, and what mistakes to avoid.

  1. Keep decision making simple. When I send a client the first concepts for a logo, I advise them not to show those concepts to others. My advice is always to wait until the concept has been honed to a more final stage, and then gather feedback. And I strongly advise them to seek feedback from the ‘right’ people (for example, people within their target market). Otherwise, you waste time considering opinions from irrelevant sources. The same is true of any business decision. I am not advocating ignoring other people’s advice entirely, but by soliciting feedback from the most relevant people, you will have higher quality feedback on which to base your decision.
  2. Avoid constant idea generation. I am not suggesting that you should stop dreaming big and coming up with new ideas for your business. But some business owners are too busy thinking of the next idea, and don’t spend time to make any of them a reality. It can be counterproductive to throw ideas into the mix faster than you can put them into action. The ‘lightbulb’ moment for your business won’t be the initial idea, it will be the realisation of how to turn that idea into a successful outcome.
  3. Know when to quit. This can be difficult to discern. Most business owners are wired to want to succeed and are determined to make their business ‘work’. We all know it takes tremendous amounts of blood, sweat and tears to succeed. But we all need to know the limits, which are going to be different for each of us. If you have become someone that you no longer recognise or someone you don’t want to be; if you have lost your passion for your work; if you have no time for anything other than your business: these may be signs that it is time to quit. Or at the very least, to take some time out from your business to regain what you have lost.


 


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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The right person for the job

A customer named James requested an itinerary via online travel website ‘Skyscanner’ and was surprised to find a 47 year (yes year!) stopover in Bangkok. In good humour, he posted this question on their Facebook page: “Hi Skyscanner. Just wondering what you’d recommend I do during the 47 years layover your website has suggested?”.

Hopefully, most companies would have replied quickly to this query with a response such as “We are terribly sorry for the error. We will send you a correct itinerary ASAP” – which would have been perfectly acceptable. However, this company took their response to a whole other level, responding to James (and many subsequent posts from others watching the exchange) with great wit and humour.

An employee named ‘Jen’ provided James with a suggested, humourous itinerary for his 47 years in Bangkok. A subsequent Facebook comment pointed out that in addition to the 47 year stopover, James would be travelling back in time. To which ‘Jen’ replied “This was all an elaborate hoax to divert everyone’s attention from our real plan of time travel”. The exchange ended with the comment “Skyscanner, you win at customer replies on the Internet for at least the next 47 years” and ‘Jen’ sending James package “with bits and bobs that might be useful for the next 47 years in Bangkok”.

‘Jen’ exhibited the perfect blend of politeness, humour and responsiveness. Her responses reflected the brand and image that I imagine an online based company would want to project. This exchange could have been quite different if Skyscanner had not responded (that is, James may have posted a subsequent negative comment). And they have certainly gained many potential customers in the process, who thoroughly enjoyed the exchange and will remember this company’s name next time they want to book travel.

It shows us all just how important employees are to the success of a business. They are a constant window into the core values of your business, as they will reflect the culture in which they work. Recruitment of the right staff is the first step, but just as important is the way you induct, train and foster them in their work. Skyscanner has done a fantastic job in employing a social media person who truly understands their online customers.


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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How to be happy in business

Sometimes business owners aren’t as happy running their business as they thought they would be. Most seem to understand that building a business will take hard work, a large volume of work and a certain amount of stress. But if you are rarely happy in relation to working in your business, perhaps it is time to ask some questions.

Some people start businesses that they think will make them a lot of money but they have no passion for the concept or work involved. If this is you, you are unlikely to succeed and you are even more unlikely to ever be happy. Even if you do succeed, you will have tied yourself to a business that you hate. Be sure to go in to business with both a great idea AND a passion for what you do.

As stated above, most of us know that successful businesses are hard work, and are not built overnight. You need patience and perseverance. But how much harder is it to exercise those traits if you are unhappy with your day-to-day work? This is not to say that at times there will be tasks you need to learn that you don’t enjoy, or that you don’t pitch in when there are ‘boring’ jobs to complete. But if those times turn into weeks, months and years, no amount of patience and perseverance is going to result in happiness.

It is also important to think about your motivations. If you are working solely to attain material things, you will soon learn that money doesn’t buy happiness. If your goals are entirely about earning a certain figure, you will find yourself unhappy in the leaner times. Whereas if your purpose for running your business are for other benefits, your happiness is not necessarily tied to your financial success. In any case, wealth should be an outcome of your business, not a strategy. Having “get rich quick” as your goal is not only unrealistic, it is also a sure fire way to be UNhappy in business. Align your goals to non-financial values and you are far more likely to have a successful business and the happiness you also no doubt want along the way.


Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Lessons from Competitive Sport

With the conclusion of the 2016 Olympics, conversations in Australia range from pride for those who competed, to disdain at the number of medals won in relation to the public money spent. Whatever your stance, most of us can appreciate the astounding accomplishments of ‘Triple/Triple’ gold medal winner Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps with his record-breaking 23 gold medals. Many of us can also appreciate the accomplishments of those who didn’t win medals but overcame enormous hardship and difficult circumstances just to compete at the Olympics (such as those in the refugee team).

There are many lessons we can learn from Olympians, regardless of their (or your) final ‘results’:

  1. Being in business is an accomplishment in itself. Have some audacious goals, but keep in mind that your little steps along the way are significant.
  2. Have faith in yourself. Even when it seems like you are failing or in a slump, have faith that you can get through it.
  3. Know your competitors. Find out what others are doing. Work out how you can do it better.
  4. Be coachable. You can’t do it all by yourself – no athlete has ever become an Olympian by themselves. They understand that to get the edge on their competitors, they need someone else who can give insight into strategy. Likewise, you need to look for people who can not only cheer you on but can tell you what you need to hear.
  5. Understand the need for work/rest cycles. No-one can operate at maximum capacity at all times. Olympians understand that they can burnout and plan their performance so they are in peak condition when they need to be. We all need to incorporate rest and relaxation so that mentally and physically we can rejuvenate ourselves to keep running the race.
  6. Use failures as a learning opportunity. Even Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps probably lost a few races along the way to becoming record-breakers. Use ‘losses’ to better understand how you can improve what you do and view them as challenges to be overcome.

Above all, view your time in business as a journey – earning a ‘medal’ is all well and good, but the hard work along the way should be rewarding in itself.

Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Are you being productive?

Being ‘busy’ does not always equate to being ‘productive’. Many business owners find themselves working long hours but feel like they are treading water when it comes to moving forward in their business or increasing profit margins. Perhaps the answer in many cases is to ‘work smarter not harder’.

A great deal of productivity stems from uncluttering your mind. If you are thinking of too many tasks at one time, you are likely to feel stressed and constantly busy. But there are some simple strategies which can help you be more productive:

  • Prepare for the next day: write down what you plan to do tomorrow, what you need to achieve, and even what you need to wear or take to the workplace. This clears your head before you sleep, giving your mind and body a better rest.
  • Exercise: we all know regular exercise is good for your physical health, but it also gives you a clearer mind. Morning exercise can get you ready for the day, and later in the day exercise can help you to unwind.
  • Take time out: when you are a busy business owner, it can be easy to make business your whole focus. Spend time on the little, important things, like playing with your kids before bedtime or catching up with a friend for coffee. Some people find that taking regular breaks throughout the day (for example, work for 30 minutes, break for 5 mins) also creates more focus and less strain on your brain (and body).
  • Get up early: while this doesn’t suit everyone, there are many proponents of early rising (and going to bed well before midnight). People who do this tend to have more time to think strategically with minimal distractions and can get more accomplished in those two quiet hours when they are refreshed, than any other time in the day.
  • Be tough when you prioritise: ensure that you are prioritising what ‘needs’ to be done, not just what you ‘like’ to do. Sure, we all want to enjoy our work. But there will be many times when the ‘fun stuff’ needs to be moved further down the list. It can be even be useful to use those more enjoyable tasks as a reward for completing the mundane ones.

Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Do you live up to your promises?

I was recently driving behind a van belonging to a business and underneath the business name was the tagline “When Quality Matters”. It is a great tagline, however, I was somewhat unconvinced they would live up to it, as the lettering was faded and peeling off the van. It gave the impression that despite their promise, they weren’t really committed to ‘quality’. They quite possibly do provide a high quality service – but unfortunately my first impression of them defied that promise.

I am sure you can think of many businesses, large and small, who promise one thing and deliver another. A tagline or motto, is in theory supposed to be a summary of a company’s mission or purpose, and should deliver on the promise it advertises.

Whether or not you have a tagline, somewhere in your promotional content, you will be telling people what it is you intend to do for them. And if you want to stand out from the crowd, it is good to find a niche or a specific offer that you can provide, which you might develop into a tagline. But it is very important to consider carefully what your business promises.

You have probably heard the phrase ‘under promise, over deliver’? While I am not suggesting that you aim low, it is important to ensure that you do not promise something that is impossible for you to provide. Your customers are going to be much more impressed if something is completed or delivered earlier than expected - or if they receive something extra that they weren’t expecting - than if they keep hearing excuses from you as to why you haven’t met an expectation.

Some businesses have grand promises that they fully expect will sometimes be broken (for example, “we will deliver in under 30 minutes”). However, in addition, they have in place a policy and practice in place for compensating the customer if they cannot keep their promise. So for their customers, it is a ‘win/win’ situation. For most small businesses though, it is far more prudent and cost-effective to develop promises that can be kept and that continue to hold your business in high esteem with your customers.

Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Books every business owner should read

Business owners, especially those new to business, can be overwhelmed with information. So here is a list of books that I think every business owner should read:

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey): this has been in print for over 25 years, but contains wisdom and inspiration that is just as relevant today as when it was first released. It reveals how to perform better in both personal and professional arenas, via a ‘paradigm shift’, so that you develop better skills in productivity, time management and more.
  2. The 4-Hour Workweek (Timothy Ferriss): while the premise of this book might not sound like something you are seeking (because you love your work, right?!), what it actually gives you is ideas to have better systems and processes, so that you are far more efficient and effective. And if you end up working less hours in the process, bonus!
  3. Purple Cow (Seth Godin): this is one of my favourites! Godin says that the key to success is to find a way to stand out (be the purple cow!). The concepts are useful but it is also very practical and a useful tool for businesses of any stage.
  4. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It (Michael E Gerber): This is another classic which challenges assumptions and gives you the steps to progress from infancy to maturity in your business.
  5. Make Your Idea Matter: Stand Out With a Better Story (Bernadette Jiwa): This is a fantastic book that will explain the importance of having a ‘story’ for your business and guide you through the process to develop it. She takes what seems like a complex issue and makes it bite-sized and simple.
  6. Flying Solo: How to Go it Alone in Business (Robert Gerrish & Sam Leader): for those of you who are solo or micro business owners, this is essential reading. It includes practical and motivational advice, dispels myths and gives you tools to thrive as a solo business owner. The most updated version also includes advice for navigating the online world.

Happy reading!

Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Should you mix your business with politics?

The short answer to whether small business owners should mix business with politics is that it is an individual decision. However, in a similar vein to the articles I posted recently on aligning your business with charities, there are some things you need to consider.

The primary risk of aligning yourself with a political party is that it can alienate your customers and hurt your brand. Those who have strong ties to opposing parties, or even those who avoid any political ties, may avoid dealing with your business due to your views. But there are ways to minimise the potential negative effects of involvement with politics if you choose to do so:

  1. Limit your support to issues, rather than political parties. Few of us could say that we agree with every issue and policy touted by a preferred political party. Supporting a particular issue distances your business and minimises damage to your brand when there are political party fallouts (as there inevitably always are!).
  2. Choose localised issues. These may be geographically local or issues that are relevant to your customer base, and that align with your company’s values. For example, a local gym might support an initiative to increase physical activity for children.
  3. Ensure you are informed before you show support publicly. You run a much greater risk of harming your business if you do not do a great deal of research into the political issue, party of person that you are supporting. You don’t want to find out too late that there are aspects of a political cause that you are not comfortable with.
  4. Where possible, choose an issue that unites people rather than polarises them. Even though you may be passionate about an issue, it doesn’t make good business sense to damage your business by aligning with a marginal or controversial issue. This is where it can be wise to separate personal views with professional conduct.

Strong political views and convictions can work alongside your business as long as you do your homework first, and if your intention is to unite rather than divide. Make careful, measured decisions and choose wisely.

Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Should your business support social causes?

Following on from last week’s article about having a social conscience and the ethical dilemmas associated with misaligned values of our clients, this article takes this idea a step further: should your business actively seek to support social causes? Make sure you consider the following as you seek to answer this question:

Most social causes are intrinsically linked to political, religious or other value-laden foundations. You need to consider that your link to a particular social cause may alienate you from potential clients. This may not be an issue, as you might prefer to only work with clients who share your values (or are sympathetic to them). But it is a question worth considering before choosing a social cause to align your business with.

Consider that some causes create a culture of dependency rather than truly empowering underprivileged communities. While the vast majority of charities and social causes are motivated by a deep-seated desire to help others, some do this better than others. Have you heard the proverb “Giveamanafishandyoufeedhimforaday; teachamantofishandyoufeedhimforalifetime”? Aim to support social causes that empower people rather than make them dependent – it is far more worthwhile and has far-reaching effects.

It is also important to pursue social causes only if you are truly passionate about them. If you are doing it just to ‘look good’ or because all your business friends are doing it, you are likely to cause harm to your business reputation and possibly enter into arrangements that harm the charity as well (e.g. if you end your support, it can affect the long term effectiveness of that charity).

An important note: do not ever use tragedies, disasters or crisis situations to promote your business. You need to be extremely careful about offers that benefit you far more than the charity and that look like you are being opportunistic. By all means, if you are genuinely assisting a social cause, do so. But be very careful about your motivations and consider whether your support is better done quietly so as to be a genuine response.

Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Should your business have a social conscience?

Today I was watching an episode of Mad Men (a TV show about advertising agencies in the 1960s), where one of the company partners, Don Draper, pens a letter and publishes it as a full page spread in the New York Times. In response to a recently severed relationship with a tobacco company, the letter says “…there was money in it. A lot of money. In fact, our entire business depended on it. We knew it wasn’t good for us, but we couldn’t stop. And then, when Lucky Strike moved their business elsewhere, I realized, here was my chance to be someone who could sleep at night, because I know what I’m selling doesn’t kill my customers.”

Don Draper opens up an ethical can of worms with this pronouncement! In other episodes of Mad Men, the creative department often deal with the underlying dilemma that as an advertising agency, their job is to get their client’s product sold, regardless of what they personally think or feel about it.

But is there a limit to how far this ‘blind eye’ is turned? While also motivated by a perceived opportunity to get other clients on board in a time of crisis for the company, Don Draper did seem to have a true epiphany that in this case, he wasn’t prepared to continue a relationship with a product and company that was misaligned with his values.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a company on a job that would have led to ongoing, more lucrative work. But I listened to the nagging voice in my head that reminded me of the conflicting values this company had with my own. It was a difficult conversation that ensued, because I knew I would be offending the company by stating my reasons for pulling out of the process. But I had decided that even if it caused offence, it was more important to be authentic and stick to my values.

The definition of ‘social conscience’ will be different for every business and person. As a business owner, you have the power to choose, even if sometimes those choices might be difficult, cause offence or lose you some business.

Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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How to Get Focussed

Whether you work from home or in a more traditional workplace, there are distractions everywhere. Some of those distractions are unrelated to work – chatting with co-workers about your weekend, losing yourself on social media, etc. But other distractions can be work tasks that you know you really shouldn’t be spending your time on.

When most of us started out in business, we wore many hats. But if you were smart, you soon realised that you couldn’t progress your business if you were trying to do everything. It is important to focus on what you’re good at and let others do the rest. Accept your weaknesses so that you can leverage your strengths. That is, let someone else do what you cannot, so that you can focus your time, abilities and resources on what you do best.

Being focussed can also have a lot to do with your physical environment. Some people work well at a desk with no-on else around. Others need the stimulus of other people and an environment where ideas can be bounced off others. And other people need a variety of workspaces to stimulate ideas and their most productive work.

Although this might seem like the antithesis of being focussed, sometimes breaking the routine and letting your mind wander can be what your brain needs. Allow yourself to become an occasional daydreamer, as you may just find that it sparks creative ideas and innovations you would not think of in the course of your usual day. This also gives your brain a break from trying to stay constantly focussed, and you are more likely to be able to re-focus on tasks at hand.

This is a really great quote by Leo Babauta (Zen Habits): “Everything seems important. But when we step back and think about what matters most, what will make the most difference in the world and in our lives, we can see what we need to focus on, to make time for. We can’t step back unless we’re aware that we’re getting caught up in less important tasks.”

Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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The Power of a Good Belly Laugh

If you are on social media, you have probably viewed, or at least heard about, the “Chewbacca mask video” (if not, type that phrase into Google and you’ll find it!). It was a video of a woman in a van, filming herself wearing a Chewbacca mask that roars – which makes her laugh hysterically. It was streamed via FacebookLive to her friends, but quickly broke records and has been viewed over 150 million times.

Described in writing, it sounds completely mundane! And in many ways it was. But when she donned a mask intended for kids, her pure, childlike joy and laughter connected with viewers. People responded because it was innocent of any agenda, just her having fun and videoing something that she thought was hilarious. There were knockers – people who found it completely unfunny, who thought the viral nature of it was ridiculous and who didn’t ‘get it’. Personally I didn’t find the video itself particularly funny – but I did love her complete disregard of social expectations and her utter hilarity at something so simple.

So what can ‘Chewbacca woman’ teach us in business? Maybe she is on to something when she shows us that being authentic and spontaneous, even though it’s ridiculous and mundane, connects with people.

Perhaps we are sometimes too serious about the ‘business of business’? Perhaps we worry too much about being taken ‘seriously’ that we forget to be authentic? I know as a micro business owner, I can be guilty of this. When I look at my long term clients, I know one of the reasons they have stayed loyal to me is because of genuine connection. Yes, they like my work and want me to be professional! But sharing some personal information, making a joke during email correspondence, and talking to them authentically as I would a friend, seems to be a big factor. But it took me quite a few years to realise how important this interaction was.

If you are still unconvinced about the power of laughter and spontaneity, Google this video: “Baby Laughing Hysterically at Ripping Paper” (and make sure you have a big belly laugh when you watch it).

Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Are you being realistic or idealistic?

With another season of Australian ‘Shark Tank’ on television at present, we all have the opportunity to cringe at the blunt feedback, cheer those who snag a great deal with a Shark and become an armchair expert on all thing entrepreneurial.

What I love about Shark Tank is that the ‘sharks’ are not afraid to tell someone that their idea won’t work or that they haven’t thought through their business model well enough. Obviously a budding entrepreneur should be passionate about their idea and love what they are doing. But the panel of Sharks bring a big dose of reality to many prospective business owners, telling them that what they love and think is beautiful, is actually pretty ugly and needs a lot of work to be viable.

So how do you balance realism and idealism? This is the ultimate, bottom line test: ‘will this idea make you money?’. If not, your idea is just an expensive hobby or a charity. There is nothing wrong with either of those outcomes if that is what you are aiming for. But realism trumps idealism when facts and figures don’t add up to turning a profit.

What do you do if you discover that your amazing idea has no future as a profiting making business? You have a choice, which is incumbent on your reason for running a business in the first place: are you passionate about your idea or are you passionate about running a business? If you cannot bear the thought of letting go of your ‘money pit’ idea and have no desire to find another idea that will work, it’s highly likely you are not an entrepreneur. As anyone who has been in business for a while will tell you, a successful venture takes tremendous hard work and commitment to the process, not the just the passion for the idea.

Your passion might be your motivation, but it has to be coupled with openness to change direction or modify your ideas if required. Without this realism, you may find yourself running a business that is short-lived.

Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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To Sit or to Stand: time for a change

I bought a standing desk for my office, and as I write this article, it is my first day using it. It has been an interesting day, deciding how long to stand or sit, and working out what is best for my productivity. This new desk was purchased primarily for health reasons: sitting for long periods as I do has contributed to my back condition and I decided some drastic measures needed to be put in place.

Aside from the obvious difference of standing to work rather than sitting (and being able to pull out a few dance moves while I wait for a file to load), I have noticed some other differences. In order to accommodate my new desk, I needed to relocate my primary working desk to a new position in my office. After seven years of sitting in the same space, I am now right next to a window and facing a different wall. You’re probably reading that and thinking “Big deal!”. But I am amazed at how different my work day feels just by those small changes. Coupled with a clean and tidy office (it had been a while since my last big clean up!), I am feeling very productive.

Which makes me realise what simple things we can all do to create positive change in our businesses. I think sometimes we can get stuck in a rut, knowing things need to change, but feeling that ‘change’ is just too big a task to tackle.

But what if really small things could make a difference to how you work? It can be useful to choose just one seemingly minor thing to implement and see what impact that can have. If you work from home and need to work on something requiring creative thinking, try working out of your office for a few hours. If you find yourself with dwindling energy at the same time every day, go for a 15 min walk (preferably with some trees and nature nearby).

In general, be cognisant that little things that can make a big difference to your mental and physical energy and therefore productivity. And now I think it’s time to switch to sitting for a while…

Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Some things change, some stay the same

My television series of choice at the present time is Mad Men (set in 1960’s New York, following the lives of advertisers working on Madison Avenue). It is a fascinating insight to the social and working mores of the time, as well as providing subtle messages and discussion about issues relevant today.

One of the themes of the show that interest me particularly is gender and sexism. Women in the show were primarily confined to the role of housewife or secretary. They rarely got promoted to any higher level positions, and those that were able to climb, got left out of the all-male after hours negotiations that seemed crucial to forging deals. Power was clearly in the hands of the men and any ambitious women had to not only work harder than their male counterparts for the same recognition, there was only so far they could rise on the ‘ladder’.

It is easy to dismiss the portrayals of women in the 1960s as ‘history’ and something that used to happen a long time ago. But social commentators have pointed out that this behaviour is not as far back in our past as we would like to think it is. And that in some workplaces or industries, is still evident, albeit more subtle.

We now have laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender that have given women far more career choices than in the 1960s. But statistics show that women still struggle to ‘rise to the top’. We have strict laws around sexual harassment in the workplace that have abolished the openly accepted ‘sexual banter’ depicted in Mad Men. Yet many women can attest to subtle (or hidden) situations in their workplaces today.  

As a woman running my own business, I sometimes experience unequal treatment based on my gender. While I have far greater opportunities than women in the 1960s, it is too easy to dismiss the overt gender inequality they experienced as irrelevant now. Many women still feel they have to work harder to ‘prove’ themselves and that power is still meted out through powerful men. Television shows like Mad Men are a reminder that history should continue to teach us and help us to reflect on ways we can continue to change.

Michelle Grice writes a weekly column for business women in The Western Weekender

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Contact Us

Shel Design
PO Box 8142, Glenmore Park NSW 2745
0412 701 147
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ABN: 88 695 161 542

Contact Us

Shel Design
PO Box 8142
Glenmore Park NSW 2745
0412 701 147
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mon-Thurs 9am-4pm
ABN: 88 695 161 542