Category Archives: Knowledge

Choosing the best business coach for you

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Let’s face it. Choosing a good coach to work with you and your business is a potential nightmare!

After all, what makes a good coach?

How can you be sure you’re getting a genuine professional?

How can you minimise the risks in choosing one and what should you expect from them?

Whilst none of these have straightforward answers, there are a few things you can do to minimise any potential risks, and dramatically improve how you find and select not only a good coach, but a great one.

To start with,  remember this ‘golden rule’: always, always, always do your research before you choose your coach.

In doing that research here are a few simple steps to focus on:

1) Ask the ‘coach’, “What is “coaching”?”

Can they clearly and simply explain the key differences between coaching, mentoring, counselling, training, teaching and telling?

TIP: make sure you know what “coaching” actually is. If you’re not sure, click here to ask me for a definition.

If the ‘coach’ cannot give a detailed and correct answer to this simple question, move on to your next candidate straightaway.

N.B.: most so-called ‘coaches’ cannot answer this question correctly!

 

2) Are they genuinely professionally qualified in coaching?

It is estimated that over 85% of so-called ‘coaches’ are not professionally qualified in coaching.

Alarming, isn’t it?

So, beware! An unqualified ‘coach’ could do untold damage to your development and the success of your business. It also means they probably do not have professional indemnity insurance for delivering coaching services (I am yet to come across an insurance provider who wouldn’t require a professional coaching qualification).

Sadly, there are a vast number of flaky (to be diplomatic) ‘coaching courses’ out there, almost all of which are well below acceptable professional standards, let alone being robust enough to be genuine qualifications.

Establishing the credibility of any ‘coach’s’ professional qualification can be tricky, but a few simple checks can make a big difference and bring much greater peace of mind to the selection process.

In my view, the best professional coaching qualifications in the UK are obtained from UK universities and management schools. Clarify whether the qualification was classroom-based (good) or distance learning (not so good).

There are also a small number of professional bodies and dedicated coaching qualification providers who deliver good quality qualifications. e.g.: the CIPD (predominantly HR focused, for delivering coaching within an organisational development programme), the International Coaching Federation (a dedicated coaching skills qualification provider who has improved the quality of their programmes considerably in recent years), Eurocoach (again another dedicated coaching skills qualification provider who is gaining in reputation for the quality of coaches they produce), to name but a few.

Note: many ‘coaches’ have completed in-house coaching skills programmes from when they were working within large organisations. Be careful! These are rarely genuine qualifications or aimed at developing coaching skills to a professional standard (of course, there are a few exceptions). These programmes are usually designed for the ‘coach’ to be working within the organisation, rather than being independent. If your preferred ‘coach’ has been trained in this way, establish how they have adapted to being a professional independent coach before going further.

(TIP: if you’re thinking about qualifying as a coach, remember the simple ‘rule’ of coaching qualifications – on the whole, you get what you pay for!).

 

3) Check-out their specific post-qualification coaching experience.

It may sound like a contradiction, but the professional qualification does not ‘make’ the coach in the fully rounded, competent professional sense.

It is their post-qualification experience that really defines a coach’s credibility and expertise as a genuine coach.

When I qualified as a coach back in 2004, I completed around 150 hours of post-qualification coaching with a very wide range of business clients before I felt I had reached a level of professional competency and ‘rounded’ coaching ability required in a professional, independent coach.

All professional coaches will understand the need to continuously and pro-actively review and develop their skills and abilities throughout their careers, learning from every coaching session they deliver. As such, an experienced coach tends to work in specific areas of delivery that reflects their skills and experience (as this will provide greater empathy with the subject matter). In my case, for example, I concentrate on working with business clients around their leadership, business strategy and growth management requirements.

So, look for a genuinely qualified professional coach with a delivery focus in the areas you are seeking to change or develop.

Remember, it is not unusual to enlist the expertise of more than one coach in order to make sure their collective expertise is aligned with all of your requirements.

 

So, that’s it!

Three, hopefully, simple steps to help you find the best coach for you.

Just remember to do your research first.

If you’re unsure about anything here, or if you have any questions about coaching, please get in touch – I’m here to help.

To find out more about how I work with business executives, leaders and owners to maximise their potential and success, and the benefits of professional executive coaching and mentoring, particularly in developing leadership, strategy and growing a business, please contact me:

t: 01242-672440

e: click here

© Adrian Malpass 2015-17. All rights reserved.

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Business growth: how to overcome slowing growth

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Whether you like it or not, a growing business will, at some point, experience a time when growth slows down significantly, or even stalls completely.

Most business owners – the vast majority in my experience – fail to see this coming (mainly through ineffective planning and analysis) and so, potentially critically, don’t know what to do about it when it does arrive (note I say “when” not “if”).

The result?

Business owners tend to take one of two actions. They either:

Do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Bury their head in the ‘sand’. Assume (usually sub-consciously) that the ‘crisis’ (for that’s what it will quickly become if not dealt with effectively) does not ‘apply’ to them, and that it will soon go away, or rectify itself, and growth will return….as if by magic!

Or

They panic. Rush around like the proverbial headless chickens. Turn everything upside down. Create chaos and unsettle everyone in the business, and end up right back where they started – with growth going nowhere!

Unsurprisingly, the lack of planning and strategic thinking to deal with the situation is potentially disastrous for the business.

So, what do you do when growth slows/stalls?

First, and this is important, do not panic!

Second, as you work through this challenging time, always remember to think strategically – how everything you do ‘fits’ into the ‘big picture’ for your business.

Then, you need a clear plan and process for working through this business risk to truly understand and deal with it. For example…

Step 1: get everyone, especially those with the relevant skills and experience, involved who needs to be involved.

Having a team who can ‘access all areas’ is essential to success, and is vital in getting a complete insight into the causes, effects and solutions for their issue.

Step 2: ensure there is plenty of energy in the team and the process at all times.

Any solution needs to be achieved in a timely manner, no matter how challenging it is.

Step 3: the solutions is reality….not magic!

Take a practical, subjective, ‘here and now’ approach to getting growth going again.

Step 4: give finding a solution your complete focus.

Finding the causes of slowing/stalling growth, and a solution for it has to be your absolute priority.

If it isn’t, by the time you fully understand the causes and have worked out how to move forward, it may well be too late!

Step 5: search, search, and search again.

The only way you will design and implement a genuinely good solution is from fully understanding the causes of this slowing/stalling growth.

So do everything you can to find every cause, no matter how small, no matter how large.

Only then can you be sure of building an effective solution for the whole business.

Remember to search systematically – leave no stone unturned. It is essential you root out and analyse every cause.

Step 6: take responsibility.

Unless you have conclusive proof to the contrary, take full responsibility for the causes of the slowing/stalling growth.

Step 7: remember to have a back-up too.

Just in case the steps above don’t provide the solution(s) you need, remember there is always the ‘plan B’ option – what else can you do for the good of the business that delivers a step forward?

 

Remember, the best leaders take immediate ownership and full responsibility for every challenge, and tackle them all head-on. No excuses.

Make sure you do too.

As always, if you would like to discuss building a successful plan, or how to improve your personal development in the fields of business growth, please get in touch.

To find out how my clients also achieve a 35% year-on-year increase in profits, please get in touch:

T: 01242-672440

E: click here

Business growth: making sure you get from here to there

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What does it take to grow a business and, especially, keep it growing?

What causes so many to stumble just when it seems they’re on the right track?

What makes business growth so difficult, when it doesn’t have to be?

It might surprise you, but the answers to all three questions are the same:

  • Planning
  • Reflective learning
  • Regularly reviewing both

So, let’s take these in order.

Planning

The main observation I have about planning is that business owners, executives and managers all too often fail to get their planning right.

Typically, they usually don’t have enough detail in their plans and, importantly, they frequently don’t plan far enough ahead:

It’s always easier to take something out later on than it is to add something new in

Your plan needs to look at least 3 years, and preferably 5 years ahead

Your plan needs to include everything that happens in your business, and I really do mean everything: including market analysis and trends, business structure, analysis of your competitors, product analysis and development, cashflow, profit and loss, and full financial analysis and forecasting, as well as conventional S.W.O.T. analysis and what you are learning.

Business planning is also like  planning a journey using a map – you need to know exactly where you are now and exactly where you want to get to. The route you take is up to you!

Remember: ONS figures show that over 80% of businesses who plan properly will successfully make it through the next 5 years. Over 80% of those who don’t, won’t!

 

Reflective learning

In psychological terms, reflective learning is recognised as one of the most successful, flexible, yet simplest to implement, forms of personal development in whichever parts of your life you choose to apply it.

It is particularly recognised as the key in developing one’s emotional intelligence, for example.

In fact, it is something that many of us already do without necessarily realising it.

Here’s how it works:

  • Spend a little time each day making notes of that day’s experiences. Some people choose to do this in a journal, or a pocket book, or in a mind map, or record it, or just write a list of key words – basically, do it in a way that makes it memorable, and enjoyable for you
  • Reflect on the key events, however small, making note of what impact they had on you, what went well, what you could/should have done differently, and so on
  • If you can, try to take the emotional attachment (which we all have) out of your reflections and just note down the ‘hard facts’
  • Then regularly, for example once per week, review your notes adding anything else that comes to mind.
  • So, over a period of time you will build a ‘library’ of your own unique learning experiences which you can refer to at any time.

There’s even probably an app for that! J

 

Finally, review and update you plan every month or two, perhaps applying what you have learned  too?

 

As always, if you would like to discuss building a successful plan, or how to improve your personal development in the fields of business growth, please get in touch.

To find out how my clients also achieve a 35% year-on-year increase in profits, please get in touch:

T: 01242-672440

E: click here

Leadership: the direction is up to YOU!

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5 building blocks (part 1)

You will undoubtedly have heard that one of the things a great leader does is to give the whole organisation, and especially the people within it, ‘direction’.

It’s true! A great leader really does do that.

But it’s a highly complex skill that is built up of many key elements – ‘building blocks’, if you will – that all work together to deliver this ‘direction’.

So, here I’ve selected five of those key elements – how well, and how often do you practice each of them?

Focus on where you’re going

This is often an area where leaders, especially relatively inexperienced leaders, can slip up.

Without clearly knowing where you’re going, you cannot expect to know when you get there!

Work on setting a clear goal (or multiple goals), that everyone can clearly identify, with measurable achievements along the way, and, of course, making sure all involved in reaching the goal(s) can easily understand how they will recognise when they get there.

No matter what changes, hurdles, or challenges you experience along the way, keep focused on where you’re going – if you lose sight of it, you’ll drift. A leader who’s drifting won’t be a leader for much longer!

 

Motto: do or delegate!

Yes, it really is as simple as it sounds – everytime something is in front of you, or arrives on your desk, take one simple action first: do (take action yourself), or delegate it to someone else!

Most leaders I meet want to hold on to everything themselves. Consequently, they’re usually snowed-under with things they really don’t need to be concerned with and could be done perfectly well by someone else.

So, start the new habit today (and it really is just a case of changing your habits) – just do, or delegate!

 

Engage everyone

As a leader, you need to be able to ‘take’ people ‘with’ you – you cannot do it on your own!

This does not mean directing or telling those around you they should do this or that (but remember, there is a time and place for such things too). It means engaging everyone you meet, especially everyone you need to be part of the success ‘story’ – don’t just chat to them, get to know them, and especially let them get to know you too.

If you behave like a robot, you’ll get treated (and respected) like one!

 

YOU are the final decision-maker

Leaders have to make decisions. Fact.

Great leaders know that when the ‘chips are down’, the final decision is theirs and theirs alone.

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it – so develop your decision-making skills, constantly reviewing their success in every respect, and never, ever stop trying to make better decisions.

 

Always take full responsibility

It goes with the job, I’m afraid (for better and worse)!

Ultimately, as a leader, you are in that position because you are expected to take responsibility for yourself and your team.

So, step up and make sure you do it!

 

To find out how my clients achieve a 35% year-on-year increase in profits, please get in touch:

T: 01242-672440

E: click here

Drop your obsession with ‘being in busYness’!

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Have you noticed there’s something of an obsession among ‘business people’ to be seen as constantly, and dare I say chaotically busy?

There seems to be an almost unwritten ‘law’ that telling everyone you meet how excessively busy you are is somehow good for their business.

But what does it actually do for their business? What messages does it send out? Is it really what current and potential customers want to hear?

Most importantly, are these people just busy being busy, or are they actually busy being productive? There is a huge difference!

I’ve made a study of over 100 micro businesses over the last 2 years, and here are the conclusions.

Unsurprisingly, the people who are busy being productive are very much in the minority – typically just 1 in 10 at best.

The remainder are, quite literally, busying themselves with what they consider is ‘being busy’, yet have very little output to show for their efforts.

In many of these cases, they have a firm belief that filling their time with what they consider to be “essential” or “important” tasks is good for their businesses, sends out a positive message, and as a result they are “too busy” to do other things (which would improve their productivity).

But what are the causes of this obsession with busyness?

Well, from the businesses I have looked at, it’s fundamentally about being disorganised – poor diary/time management, not prioritising the necessary tasks, not thinking clearly about being productive instead of just being busy, and consistently not understanding the full requirements of each task (including what they would deliver, how long they would take to complete, what the whole task requires, and so on).

So, how can you improve your productivity and free-up more of your time in the process?

Try these 3 steps:

  1. Make a list of your essential tasks first. Then note down everything you need to complete each task (and I do mean everything): whose help/input you will need, what materials and other resources you need, deadlines, etc, then work out how long it will take to complete fully.
  2. Prioritise these tasks – simply compare each task with all the others, and decide which task in each comparison is most important. The number of ‘wins’ from each comparison that each task gets, gives you your prioritised list – the more ‘wins’, the higher the priority.
  3. Give yourself feedback on how successfully you increase your productivity – do you estimate enough time, do you remember everything that each task requires, how is it benefiting your customers and your business, and so on?

To find out more about how I work with business executives, leaders and owners to maximise their potential and success, and the benefits of professional executive coaching and mentoring, particularly in developing leadership, strategy and growing a business, please contact me:

t: 01242-672440

e: click here

© Adrian Malpass 2015-17. All rights reserved.

Business alphabet: P is for…Priorities!

P letter

I come across many people in the business world with long lists of things they need to do. yet they often complain they never get enough of the important things done. Well, if this sounds like you then this simple solution may work for you, that takes just a few minutes each day:

The aim is simply to prioritise your list so that the most important tasks are put in their order of needing to be done.

Step 1: Decide one simple ‘yes or no’ criteria that you will use to decide which task is more important than another

Step 2: You now need to compare each task with all of the other tasks in pairs and simply decide which of that pair is most important. here how…
Number you list of tasks

Take tasks 1 and 2 and decide which is most important (according to the criteria you selected in Step 1), and put a tick again which one ‘wins’

Then take tasks 1 and 3 and do the same, then 1 and 4, 1 and 5, and so on until you get to the bottom of your list

You have now compared task 1 with all of the others

So start with tasks 2 and 3, 2 and 4, and so on (no need to compare tasks 2 and 1 as that was already carried out above)

Then 3 and 4, 3 and 5 and so on

Carry this through the whole list

The list can simply be prioritised by looking at how many ticks a task has – the more ticks, the higher the priority!

Business alphabet: O is for…Opportunity!

Sleeping monkey

 

What do you understand, in a business context, by ‘opportunity’?

More chances to sell, or make more profit? How about a chance to build better relationships with your customers, or suppliers? What about do all those jobs your accountant has been asking you to do?

An opportunity can present itself in many, many ways. The key is to ‘see’ the opportunity when it’s there.

So here’s a simple tip: which is as effective in looking for opportunities to improve your customner service as it is in keeping yourself motivated – whenever you think you have completed one task (any task), simple ask yourself, “What else can I do?”.

Simple!

Because it’s an ‘open’ question, the voice in your head will want to avoid giving a one word answer.

Catch up with a new Business Alphabet entry every month in my Building Better Businesses newsletter. Subscribe here.

What Makes Customer Service So Difficult (for so many)?

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How many organisations, not least the ones we all have to deal with (e.g.: utilities, local councils, etc), just can’t wait to tell us how good their customer service is?

Or should that be how good they think their customer service is?

In reality, just how good is it?

Remember – the most important ‘rule’ of customer service is simply…give your customers exactly what they want.

Because? Because they want what they want!

I know that sounds obvious, but how many companies (of all descriptions) actually do that?

Answer: not enough!

Achieving genuine excellence in the field of customer service really is not difficult.

It may be an old, and well-worn adage, but little things really do make the difference. Solid, simple, clear thinking is vital to success – one of the easiest things to do, and yet is so often not done!

No doubt you remember K.I.S.S.? Keep It Simple (Stupid)!

Some years ago I was being spurred on to create a new attitudes, behaviours and skills development programme simply called ‘Customer Connected®’ – driven by my frequent poor experiences, as a customer, when dealing with all sorts of organisations.

Here’s an example of poor service I received recently:

I am a member of a certain health and fitness organisation (yes, tough to understand I know!).

As always, they let me know, in a letter in the post (!) a few weeks in advance of when my membership is up for renewal. Thanks for the reminder. Well done.

Now, you would think that letter would let me know the best membership deal available for my needs and, just for a bit of further information, what other membership options are available, wouldn’t you?

After all, it’s a great opportunity to grab a bit of ‘one-to-one’ with the customer and show them how much you want to meet their needs, and is so easy to do.

But no!

Firstly, the letter contained two spelling mistakes, four simple grammatical errors (commas and apostrophes in the wrong place/missing, etc). Inexcusable!

But even worse was that the letter contained absolutely no information about what my membership renewal options were, didn’t actually tell me when my current membership expired, and then asked me to contact them to discuss it!!

In other words, the emphasis was on me, the customer, to do their work for them to get what they should be providing me with in the first place!

Appalling! Bad move on the customer service front! Very bad!

Important: the company failed the simplicity test – as one deal runs out, letting the customer know of the best deal they can provide, rather than writing to them with no information at all, takes exactly the same amount of effort! So do it!

So, I checked the company’s website, only to find I cannot renew my membership online! This is 2015! The world is online! By now I, as a customer, am distinctly unimpressed!

So I grab the phone. After a few minutes of being ‘held’ in a telephonic abyss, I eventually get to speak to a human being. Who promptly enters into a written ‘script’, and tries to explain all sorts to me, absolutely none of which was of any relevance, instead of actually listening to what I wanted! Dear, oh dear!

It turns out that the staff who are directly interfacing with their customers cannot, repeat CANNOT attend to anything that the customers might want if it doesn’t fit with the very limited range of services that are available on their computer.

Yet two-thirds of customers ask for something different!

To cut this story short, it turns out that the ‘best’ membership deal is actually one of their standard products. Great. So why doesn’t your website and your letter say that?

Another addition to my poor customer experience!

Can my membership be renewed there and then? Yes. Great! At last!

So, what infathomable reasons are there for me being forced to experience this level of poor service when providing all of the information in the letter would have made me a happy customer straightaway?

Goodness knows what the real answers are to that question, but, in essence, they missed a major and so simple an opportunity to deliver great service.

Somebody, somewhere in that organisation approved the letter, designed the website (or, rather, didn’t design it), purchased and configured the telephone system, employed the customer ‘service’ personnel, and trained them not to serve the customer – all of which costs considerable amounts of money!

Or, to put it another way, adds enormous cost to the business. Cost which has to be recovered through their charges to customers, let alone the frustrations inflicted on the customers themselves.

So, if the original letter had simply advised me of their best deal, instead of nothing at all, quite a few of those additional costs could be avoided, allowing lower charges for customers or more money for investment, and, most importantly of all, much happier customers.

The lesson from all this?

However much your customer spends with you, however much interaction you have with them, and however valuable they are to you and your business, keeping them happy really isn’t difficult! Just think clearly from their position and give them exactly what they want!

For some reason, so many organisations have an overwhelming and inexplicable desire to take something really simple and make it as complicated as they possibly can. Madness!

If you really value keeping your customers happy (and happy customers tend to be profitable ones) – please, please, please don’t do it!

To find out more about how I work with business executives, leaders and owners to maximise their potential and success, and the benefits of professional executive coaching and mentoring, particularly in developing leadership, strategy and growing a business, please contact me:

t: 01242-672440

e: click here

© Adrian Malpass 2015-17. All rights reserved.

Networking: the centre of the onion!

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I am often asked what networking is ‘about’.

Needless to say, there are as many views on networking as there are networking events,  just about everyone wants to get more from their networking, and those who say it ‘isn’t working’ for them are usually the ones who go about it the wrong way.

So, here is a very quick selection of hints and tips I have picked up over the last 28 years…

Firstly, let’s look at how networking goes wrong.

Networking is NOT:

  • About collecting as many business cards as you can
  • About selling there and then!
  • About constantly blowing your own trumpet
  • About dominating conversations
  • About being a robot

 

Now, the simple, easy things you can do to get your networking right!

Networking IS:

  • About building mutually effective, productive relationships
  • About listening and being genuinely interested in the people you meet!
  • About reminding people you exist (N.B.: they WILL forget from time to time!)
  • About getting to know others and letting others get to know you
  • About being ‘real’

 

The most effective networks contain these (at least) – which ones are you?:

  • Highly respected, well-connected, pro-active referrers
  • Regular, repeat customers
  • Great value, reliable suppliers

Remember, building a great network that works for you and those that are connected to you is like being in the centre of an onion. Try to build layers of people you know – get to know 10 people well, and let them get to know you well too, and they will each remember you to 10 others as they network.

So spending the time and effort to build 10 really good relationships, could increase your network by 100 connections.

Especially remember most of all that networking isn’t all about you! Refer and connect those in your network who you have good reason to.

Good luck!

To find out more about how I work with business executives, leaders and owners to maximise their potential and success, and the benefits of professional executive coaching and mentoring, particularly in developing leadership, strategy and growing a business, please contact me:

t: 01242-672440

e: click here

© Adrian Malpass 2015-17. All rights reserved.

Business alphabet: N is for…saying ‘No’ (occasionally)!

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When was the last time, in business, that you said, “No!”, and meant it?

It doesn’t happen very often, does it? Not least because we have all been led to believe that saying ‘no’ at any time in business is a bad thing.

Wrong! Wrong! WRONG!

Saying no can have a number of beneficial effects for both you and your ‘customer’ (the person you are saying it to). Here are just a few:

  • it has the effect of ‘re-setting’ your thought processes, typically allowing you to reconsider the situation from a different perspective
  • the ‘customer’ will usually not be expecting it, and they, too, will think more comprehensively about the situation, and
  • sometimes, it is simply the right answer, so say it!

New thinking = new results!