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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.
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How do you attract the right staff?

If you have employees, you are probably aware that finding the right ones for your business is vital. You need people who have a great work ethic and skills to do the tasks, but who also understand your vision and fit the culture of your workplace.

Generally, finding people with the right skill set isn’t too hard (unless you are in a very niche market!). And if you have been through the recruiting process over the past few years, you have probably also found that you are not short of applicants who are good workers, committed to working the hours you set and the tasks involved.

But how do you find employees who ‘fit’ your business? That is, how do you ensure that the people you employee are going to work well with you and any other employees? How do you find people who have passion for your vision and are willing to go the extra mile? How do you know they will be loyal and committed to what you are trying to achieve?

Short answer: there is no formula for guaranteeing recruitment success. Unless you have an enormous amount of time, resources and finances to implement a lengthy recruitment process to help you really get to know a potential employee, to a large extent, you are taking a gamble on anyone you employ.

That is not to say that there are not a range of strategies you can use to get the best results possbile, including:

  • scenario based questions in your interviews (ask: how would you deal with this situation?)
  • informal conversations that allow potential employees to share ‘who’ they are
  • trial shifts or casual hours to ‘test the waters’

Ultimately, a great deal of recruitment success comes down to immeasurable factors. One person may look great ‘on paper’, but another may just have that ‘X’ factor you are looking for. Oftentimes, listening to your gut feelings and general impressions of someone can be just as, if not more, important than an impressive list of credentials. 

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Are you trustworthy?

On a recent episode of the television show ‘Shark Tank’, an entrepreneur appeared before the panel to pitch his idea. It was quite a bold concept and he matched it with a bold amount of investment requested from the ‘sharks’. At first, the panel were curious about his product and were keen to find out more. He seemed to be well thought out, and spoke articulately about his business model.

After a short time, his presentation started unravelling. The panelists’ questions revealed that despite initial appearances, the product was still very much in testing stage (despite indications to the contrary). The value of the business was based purely on speculation, not on previous sales or solid market research. In addition, they discovered that in a timeframe of approximately 10 years, he had started up (or been involved in) 8 business ventures; and not one of those ventures had been successful. It was no surprise when all 5 members of the Shark Tank announced that they were ‘out’.

This entrepreneur may have been trustworthy. But unfortunately, for him, there were too many ‘alarm bells’ for the investors, and they were unable to believe in what he was pitching to them. There is a difference between ‘being’ trustworthy and ‘proving’ your trustworthiness.

Although your customers are unlikely to ask you the in-depth and hard-hitting questions asked on ‘Shark Tank’, they will still form opinions about your business based on their interactions (either directly or indirectly). Everything, from your branding, to the end point delivery, gives your customers ‘clues’ about your trustworthiness.

Your branding might entice them to contact you in the first place. But if they experience delays and excuses, or receive inferior products, they are highly likely to distrust you. This may be despite the fact that you are not intentionally providing poor service, and are genuinely very trustworthy. But if the customer experience doesn’t reflect your values, your honesty and integrity will mean nothing.

The well-known saying ‘actions speak louder than words’ applies perfectly here. Every interaction you have with your customers must show and prove your trustworthiness: otherwise you may find yourself in the same boat as the unfortunate Shark Tank entrepreneur. 

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Are you over-stressed or ‘healthily’ stressed?

Are you always sick and just can’t seem to get over it? Are you having trouble concentrating? Do you have a constant headache that just won’t go away? Are you having trouble sleeping well? Chances are you are over-stressed; and being a business owner, the likely cause of that stress is your business!

‘Stress’ is not an inherently bad thing. When stress is within your comfort zone, it can help you to stay focused, energetic, and alert. It can help you perform under pressure, motivate you to do your best, and even keep you safe in dangerous situations. Stress is what keeps you alert during a presentation to a new client, or drives you to study for an exam.

But beyond your comfort zone, stress stops being helpful and can lead to a host of serious mental and physical health problems. The way most of us run our businesses these days, we can be so used to operating at a high level of stress that we don’t even realise the damage we are doing.

There are some daily things you can do to alleviate your stress levels to a healthier, more sustainable level:

  • Move your body often. If you primarily sit at a desk, don’t sit for more than an hour. If your tasks involve a lot of standing, move to a different position or take a short walk outside.
  • Listen to music that energizes you and makes you feel good.
  • Visualize your next holiday destination or your favourite place to relax. This has the effect of switching your brain to a different ‘gear’ and can make you feel peaceful.
  • Assess your diet and ensure you are not ‘stress eating’. Many people crave sweet, empty calorie foods when they are stressed. Instead, ensure you are eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, and drinking lots of water.
  • Get enough sleep. For those of us with younger children, this can be easier said than done! But most of us are aware that good quality sleep is best had by going to bed well before midnight, and limiting the use of screens in the hours before bed.

As articulated so well by Sydney J. Harris: “The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

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Who has resilience to make it in business?

Having been in business for a while, I have observed that resilience is one of the most important traits to have. By ‘resilience’ I mean the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity.

The generic definition of resilience is: “the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity” and “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.”. I particularly like those two almost opposing words: elasticity and toughness. Those attributes must go hand-in-hand for resilience to exist: if you are only ‘elastic’ with no toughness, you will be taken for granted and pulled in all directions. If you are only ‘tough’ without any flexibility, you won’t be able to go with the flow when required or stretch to accommodate a new situation.

So what does the future look like for business owners? Do the upcoming generations have the resilience to be successful business owners?

Mark McCrindle (from McCrindle Research) says that “Generation X (those born 1963-1980) are reacting against the baby boomers' overindulgent and free-spirited parenting style…they are also swinging back to…an emphasis on notions such as work ethic, etiquette, resilience, fortitude and taking responsibility for oneself. All the research we've done shows Gen Y (those born 1981-1994) lacks resilience and a work ethic. Generation Z (those born 1995-2009) is different." His research is showing a stronger emphasis on social justice and a generation of highly educated, technologically savvy, innovative thinkers, amongst Generation Z.

So according to this research, there is likely to be a generation amongst us (Generation Y) who are highly unsuited to running a business. Before all the Gen Y’s get up in arms, this is of course a generalisation! But it does show us that the environment in which you’ve been raised, and your experiences, have a significant bearing on your level of resilience. Perhaps resilience can be learned later in life and the benefits of that new learning can be reaped? But for those of us raising the next generation of entrepreneurs, if we instil a strong work ethic and create opportunities to learn that ‘everyone is not a winner’, we will create a strong capacity for resilience.

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You can’t be all things to all customers

A friend of mine, who also runs her own business, posted on social media recently that her style doesn’t suit everyone. She is completely OK with that, but conceded that it has taken her a long time to get to that point. Like many of us, in the past she thought she needed to adapt or curb her natural mode of operating to suit others. She was trying to be all things to all people. But instead she has now found her ‘client niche’ and is reaping the rewards of that.

Your social media content is another great example of this. We all use social media for different reasons and respond to content in different ways. Some people will love your witty Facebook posts – the same posts will annoy others. Some people will be bored by a stream of factual posts – others prefer to read only useful information. For some businesses, a combination of both types of posts might work. But for most of us, we need to provide content, and provide it in a particular style, suited to our audience. Your social media followers decided to follow you for a reason: they liked what they saw. They won’t remain followers if the content strays too far.

This is not to say that your service delivery has to take a ‘cookie cutter’ approach and treat everyone exactly the same. Some people need more help than others. Some people need more information than others. My swim coach described this well to me recently. He stated that he tailors his feedback and advice to each person. There is no point demanding the same changes to technique for each person, when they are at different ability levels, or have bodies that are incapable of making that particular change. However, his approach and coaching style is the same with everyone.

You can’t be everything to everyone and not everyone is going to like you. Assuming you aren’t the world’s meanest ogre, you are going to find customers who respond to your way of operating and relating. Do not adopt a style that is naturally not ‘you’ for the sake of attracting customers. You won’t be authentic and it is not sustainable.

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Is your business idea a good or bad idea?

Having passion for an idea and then birthing it into a profitable business is an awesome venture to undertake. But there are some business owners who seem to have missed some vital steps, and then wonder why nobody is buying their product or service.

 

Research is the first vital step. This includes market research to ascertain whether people actually want or need your product, and whether they are willing to part with their hard earned dollars to obtain it. You and a few friends might think your product is great. But if there is no market for it, you won’t turn a profit. Research into the specifics of your product or service is also necessary to ensure that you have investigated all the risks, pitfalls, potential problems and existing competition.

 

Assuming you have undertaken as much research as possible, and your sales are still stagnant, you may need to look at whether you are clearly conveying the value of your product or service. You might have something that you are absolutely certain people need, but if your target market doesn’t understand what you’re selling or why they should buy from you, they won’t commit to a purchase.

 

Another factor to consider is whether people are ready to buy from you. This doesn’t mean they never will. But it does mean you need to factor in various stages to the buying process. Yes, I know this is not what new businesses want to hear when they need to start turning a profit! But it is important to acknowledge that your customers are likely to need multiple opportunities to opt-in when they are ready. Which also means implementing strategies to keep people engaged and connected. This could include things such as subscribing to an e-newsletter, interacting with a Facebook page or seeing your business name/brand consistently via sponsorship, advertisements or other promotional avenues.

 

If you have done all the above, made any necessary changes and still aren’t getting results, you may need to come to a tough conclusion: perhaps nobody wants what you are selling? You should absolutely believe in yourself and follow your passion. But ensure that you are also balancing that with logic and common sense if you are not getting the results you expected.

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When You Fail

Have you ever failed in business? Or at least in some aspect of running your business? If not, you are in the minority! And in fact, you may actually be at a disadvantage to those of us who have had degrees of failure.

Why would failure be an advantage? The primary reason is that you learn much more from your mistakes than from your successes. In the process of pushing boundaries and being brave, you’ve learnt what NOT to do and how to do it better next time.

That’s not to say that you should seek out ways to fail! But you should use it to your advantage, and here’s how you can:

  1. Don’t blame others when you fail. Take ownership and work through the mistakes so you can learn from them.
  2. Take the good from the bad. There is always something good to be found, so incorporate those good things (e.g. change your policies to reflect the experience)
  3. Learn from your mistakes. Study what happened. Get smarter because of them.
  4. Don’t listen to doubters. People around will see when something hasn’t ‘worked’ and tell you to give up – but if you believe in what you’re doing, keep at it!

A classic example of ‘failures’ is John Grisham, whose first novel was rejected by twenty-eight publishers and agents. Of course we know he persisted because he is now one of the world’s most famous novelists.

Are you prepared to fail and keep persisting? The best entrepreneurs all do – and we have to learn to do the same: keep moving and stay focused on our long term goals.

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Expert Advice

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’? Business owners are often told to be more hands-on in their business and have a good grasp of their business operations. And I agree, that is a good thing.

However, there is definitely a line that can be crossed. Take branding as an example. Business owners should always be involved in discussions about branding and logo design. The input to this process can also be quite specific as far as preferences of aspects such as colour, symbols, overall style and so on.

But where problems can arise is when business owners go beyond specific and become prescriptive, despite having no expertise in graphic design. A graphic designer understands design principles, has experience in what design elements work well together, and so on. So although a graphic designer must take into account a business owner’s preferences, the graphic designer’s opinion should be considered carefully. They know what they are talking about!

This applies across nearly every aspect of running a business. You might know a bit about tax law and accounting (which is very handy for understanding financial reports and so on), but your accountant is always going to be the expert. You might understand a bit about risk management and workplace safety, but a specialist in this area will be able to advise you accurately.

This does not mean you should follow blindly what every so called ‘expert’ tells you: questioning and confirming is paramount! But it does mean that you should not try to do their job or think that you know best in an area where you are clearly not qualified.

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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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Contact Us

Shel Design
PO Box 8142, Glenmore Park NSW 2745
0412 701 147
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Mon-Thurs 9am-4pm
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