Building a Profitable Business is Not a Race to the Finish Line

Great things are not built in one giant leap – it’s built through the power of incremental steps.

You can achieve your dream lifestyle through your business, and that requires making reliable profits. But dreams take time to come to fruition and call for patience, perseverance and resolve. Rushing to the end goal creates the risk of building a business on a foundation made of sand.

Besides, the creative process of the journey to whatever your finish line may be, is part of what fuels your entrepreneurial spirit. Without that, business would be pretty boring.

In our blog Why Making Profit is a Good Thing, we discussed the uncomfortable topic of ‘profit’ and why businesses need to be designed for achieving it. Let’s now consider why it doesn’t have to be, and perhaps shouldn’t be, a race.

The Realistic Formula for Profit

The Tortoise meanwhile kept going slowly but steadily, and, after a time, passed the place where the Hare was sleeping. But the Hare slept on very peacefully; and when at last he did wake up, the Tortoise was near the goal. The Hare now ran his swiftest, but he could not overtake the Tortoise in time. – The Hare & the Tortoise

We live in a time of rapid innovation. We often read stories of entrepreneurs launching their way to instant growth that they could barely keep up with. It’s tempting to get lured into the appeal of quick profit (or what appears to be quick), but is it realistic to demand this of your business? Or to hold that expectation for yourself? If you’re relying on campaigns going viral – only to get caught in a hamster wheel of going from one launch to the next, burned out from exhaustion or disappointment – it’s time to reconsider your approach.

Most often, the formula for building a profitable business comes down to focusing on one or two things (your products and services) and making it great, with the consistent quality your loyal customers can rely on. This is not something that happens overnight.

By properly building your ‘signature’ product or service with steady, incremental steps, supported by consistent and reliable processes, the quality will stand the test of time and changing trends. Your well-earned 5-star customer service ratings, or valued service or product(s) that continue to meet their needs, will stand out from the competitors as solid and reliable.

How to Build a Stable Profit

 Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill, former British Prime Minister

With the combined years of experience our BWMD team has, we understand the journey to building a profitable business, and the pitfalls along the way. Here are tips that we recommend every business owner be familiar with. In addition, we suggest reading our blog Why You Need to Work On Your Business – Not In It.

  • Work smarter, not harder. What does this mean for you? It could be prioritising tasks better, adjusting your strategic plan, restructuring your team, updating processes or upgrading equipment for better efficiency.
  • Learn the art of delegation. Working smarter requires delegating, to free you up for leading, building, and growth. Approach delegating like the success of your business depends on it. It’s that important.
  • Build replicable processes. Like a well-oiled machine, systems and processes are the structure for any business to run well. Be sure to read How to Build an Effective Management System for a deeper dive into this.
  • Seek expertise. Don’t leave your business to chance. A compliant and growing business needs the solid support of accounting and legal professionals and business advisors. Invest in continual learning and self-development to hone your entrepreneur and leadership skills.
  • Be patient. Set short and long-term goals to stay focused. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and tracking your progress with milestones and achievements will keep you inspired, faithful, and persevering.
  • Don’t sacrifice your health and relationships. Pace yourself. Hustling 24/7 is not sustainable, and burning out is not necessary to build a profitable business. Of course, delegation and prioritising play a part in avoiding burnout, and if you’re in need of upgrading some bad habits, check out our blog Ten Tips to Improve Your Habits and Business.

Need Help to the Finish Line?

The team at BW Miller Dean guides business owners to reach it, by providing reliable support and solid expertise. We help business owners like you to design your business in a way you can achieve your profit and revenue goals. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

How to Think Like an Entrepreneur

Penny for your thoughts? Actually, they’re worth a lot more!

Continual innovation and big-picture thinking is the hallmark of the entrepreneurial spirit and every business owner’s success. How you think about your business has a powerful impact on how you ultimately end up doing business; for better or for worse.

Zooming out to see the bigger picture is important to help you design your business as a tool to realise your goals. It’s not your teams’ concern to steer the ship in the right direction. As the captain, the navigation is up to you!

In Ten Tips to Improve Your Habits and Business we discussed the importance of identifying and disrupting behaviour patterns that are keeping us stagnant. Now, let’s shine a light on how you think, which ultimately has a profound influence on your behaviour.

Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right.” – Henry Ford

What is an Entrepreneurial Mindset?

The mindset of successful entrepreneurs is different from the mindset of employees. It’s a combination of beliefs, thought processes, and ways of viewing the world that drives innovative behaviour.

You probably became a business owner because you carry the entrepreneurial spirit within you. But too often, when we get into the details of running the business, we spend less and less time thinking like entrepreneurs, and more like employees.

Here are three ways of thinking like an entrepreneur:

1) Thinking Strategically

“Strategic thinking rarely occurs spontaneously.” – Michael Porter

Strategic thinking is different from thinking reactively. It’s about your big-picture goals and long-term vision, and fuels how you work strategically. It requires you to prioritise your actions every day and filter out mundane business activities so you can think from a higher level.

When you’re thinking strategically, you’re constantly asking questions like: 

  • What’s my vision for my business one year from now? Or five?
  • What is the dream lifestyle that I’m determined to make happen?
  • What are the steps needed to get me there?
  • Who is my ally or trusted advisor to help me? Who really understands my vision?
  • What organisational planning or restructuring is needed?

2) Thinking Systemically

Systemic describes what relates to an entire system and seeing how the intersection of parts affects the whole.

Do you see your business as an interconnected web of systems, or a mesh of separate, unrelated areas? Perceiving your business and its problems through a ‘systems’ lens enables you to solve problems more efficiently. 

For example, poor sales aren’t necessarily the fault of your salespeople’s performance and their lack of effort. It may be that, instead, the company’s sales processes are haphazard, or your Management System is disorganised. Or maybe they aren’t hitting your sales goals because you haven’t communicated their targets with them, or maybe you haven’t run the numbers to ascertain whether the sales targets are actually achievable.

3) Thinking Systematically

Bringing order to chaos is an inside-out job. With your strategic and systemic thinking hats on, the systematic approach now puts the needed changes into motion.

Systematic describes having a system, method or plan, and thinking systematically allows you to see the patterns that are required to create consistent and reliable results. It’s the level of thinking that emerges once you’ve recognised the larger systemic issues, and are ready to narrow down to building the systems needed to solve them.

It’s the next step in entrepreneurial thinking. Once you’re aware of the systemic problems in your business, like the example above of poor sales, you’re ready to create the systems to solve them. Systematic thinking builds the clearly defined processes and steps needed to increase sales, or onboard new clients, or improve customer service, or increase the efficiency of and accuracy of administrative tasks.

Think Your Way to Success – On Your Terms

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” – Albert Einstein

Thinking like an entrepreneur drives your actions, which ultimately determines whether your business will be successful or not. By thinking differently, you get different results. By continually asking questions, such as “Why do we do it this way?” and, “How could we do it better?” you’ll get the answers.

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and kicking here at BW Miller Dean. Get in touch if you need help with taking control of your finances and succeed in your business.

Ten Tips to Improve Your Habits, and Your Business

Your habits are running your life – make sure they’re good ones!

We talk a lot about using your business as a tool to create the lifestyle you desire. Knowing where you want to go and creating a solid roadmap to get there is only the first step, albeit a very important one. But the next step – doing the work – is what trips many people up.

It’s easy to blame our outer circumstances for standing in our way of progress. But it’s often our own behaviour patterns that are holding us back. It’s also our behaviour patterns that get us to the finish line – if we can implement good ones.

We all have habitual patterns in our personal life and business practices. James Clear, author of the New York bestseller ‘Atomic Habits’ says,

“By the time we become adults, we rarely notice the habits that are running our lives. Most of us never give a second thought to the fact that we tie the same shoe first each morning, or unplug the toaster after each use, or always change into comfortable clothes after getting home from work. After decades of mental programming, we automatically slip into these patterns of thinking and acting.”

It’s worth considering that instead of having to make major changes to achieve success, you may just need to upgrade your habits and behaviour patterns.

But how do you do that? First, you need to identify those bad habits, then you need to disrupt them, and start forming new habits.

 

Step 1: Identify Your Bad Habits

Observe your habits for a few days. Do you distract yourself with social media to avoid doing something you dread, like paperwork or marketing? Or do you procrastinate on upgrading old equipment or outdated processes because it’s easier to avoid fixing them? Perhaps you’re among many business owners who are in the habit of not delegating.

Also write down the triggers that lead to a habit kicking in, as well as the ‘reward’ they provide.

Each habit has a trigger – when X happens, then you’ll do Y. For instance, when you sit down to do your paperwork, you suddenly feel tired and think you’ll just take a little break, and while at it, you’ll check what’s going on on Instagram. Similarly, every habit started because you got some type of reward out of it. Maybe you’re avoiding feeling uncomfortable when not delegating, because you find it hard to tell people what to do. Or you think it would be quicker to do yourself, rather than teaching someone, saving you time in the short term (but certainly not in the long run!) 

Write down a few habits you can identify that are directly impacting the success of your business and keeping you from moving forward. Maybe you already know what it is. And maybe it’s just one big bad habit!

 

Step 2: Disrupt Your Patterns and Form New Habits

Now that you’ve identified the habits that you’re ready to kick to the curb, the fun part starts: disrupting your behavioural patterns. 

A desire for change isn’t enough to create lasting improvement. Desire provides the fuel, but the effective application of it requires day-to-day action and creating new associations. 

In his book, James Clear outlines how to create good habits and break bad habits by inversion.

How to create a good habit:

(Trigger) – Make it obvious.
(Craving) – Make it attractive.
(Response) – Make it easy.
(Reward) – Make it satisfying.

How to break a bad habit (inversion):

(Trigger) – Make it invisible.
(Craving) – Make it unattractive.
(Response) – Make it difficult.
(Reward) – Make it unsatisfying.

Using the distraction of social media as an example; you can disrupt the trigger by removing the app from your phone, or unfollowing groups that are wasting your time.

To change a habit, make a conscious decision, then act out the new behaviour.” – Maxwell Maltz

 

Ten Tips to Reboot Your Habits

  1. Identify the bad habits that need disrupting. 
  2. Be clear on what the outcome is that you want. When the reward is clear, you’ll be more intentional and motivated.
  3. Change the association of the outcome of the bad habit from a reward, to an unacceptable result.
  4. Pace yourself and start with one habit at a time. This will help to build momentum, rather than tackling too many and getting discouraged.
  5. Set your intention first thing each morning. What is your mini-goal for that day? Write it on a sticky note and keep it visible, like on your computer screen.
  6. Invest in your self-improvement by following business success groups and reading entrepreneurial books.
  7. Create reminders that are in-your-face unavoidable, such as pop-up calendar prompts, or something that forces you to take action. Get creative.
  8. Stay accountable. This could require involving a colleague or your spouse, a business coach or your accountant to help keep you on track.
  9. Monitor your progress. Review your accomplishments at the end of each week or month, and observe what new behaviour helped you achieve them.
  10. Be transparent with your team that you’re on this journey of shedding bad habits and creating better ones. Inspire them to bust their old habits too.

 

Need Help With Disrupting Bad Habits?

It may surprise you that, as accountants, we talk about helping you with developing better habits. But it’s actually not that strange. Our role as accountants has evolved to support the dreams and challenges of business owners – to be business advisors; to be your confidant – and forming better habits in business is a crucial part of it.  

We are by no means perfect when it comes to following only good habits – but the best guides are often those who struggle with the same obstacles and have learned how to overcome them. Let us help you to define what success means to you, create a roadmap with you to get there, and then start implementing. Your dream is worth it!

 

How to Build an Effective Management System

After a tough year, it’s often challenging to keep the spirits up and keep your employees motivated and productive. We see this trend every year, and usually it passes – once the team is back from their summer break, their spirits are high and they’re eager to work again. 

But what if this is a constant problem you’re battling with? What if motivation and productivity are low even in the best of months? 

“You don’t build a business, you build people, then people build the business.” – Zig Ziglar

If you have a problem in your business with keeping people motivated and productive, it may be because you don’t have an effective management system in place.  

Many business owners never think of implementing a management system, so in Part 1 of this blog, we’ll have a look at what it is, why you need it, and how to spot if your management system is not working as it should. If you’re not sure what we’re on about or how you’re faring, then make sure you read the whole blog. 

In part 2, we get down to business and show you step-by-step how to create an effective management system. If you’re already convinced that you need to up your game, then skip ahead to part 2.

PART 1: Management System 101

‘System’ can be defined as a set of processes, tools, people, and strategies that all work together.

A management team is one thing, but what is a management system? As the word implies, it’s the interconnection of the team and the system which is needed to steer the business in the right direction – in line with your strategic objective.

A management system is the foundation for how everything in your business operates, so it deserves careful consideration when creating it, and also with updating it for inevitable changes.

 

Why Should You Have a System for Management?

Systems empower managers to thrive and know where they stand in the overall vision of your business.

A management system provides structure, which promotes higher output and accountability. The structure also gives them room to be more innovative and creative – a must for any business that wants to survive and thrive in our constantly changing world.

In our blog, Why You Need to Work On Your Business – Not In It, we talked about how important processes are to help you to transition from working in your business (doing), to working on your business (leading).

Together with a management system, your business will hum like a well-oiled machine.

 

Signs Your Business Lacks a Management System

The tell-tale indicators include:

  • You can’t rely on your team to handle operations without you, leaving you with little freedom to lead or grow the business.
  • You constantly have to micro-manage or train people, or complete tasks yourself to ensure they get done properly.
  • Your team lacks clearly defined roles of responsibility and accountability, and the default go-to person for every little thing is always you.
  • You have no department or middle managers, or staff with enough technical or management skills to shoulder responsibility.
  • In other words – you guessed it; you’re caught in the ‘doing’ role to compensate for an ineffective team.

New business owners often struggle with these issues when they’re just beginning to build processes. But, they can crop up at any stage of the business, so it’s important to honestly assess if, and how much, you’re stagnating because of an ineffective management system.

Take some time to really think about the challenges you’ve faced this year. Are they because of an ineffective management system? And if so, what are you going to do to solve your conundrum? To help you with that, let’s jump into a step-by-step process on how to create an effective management system in this next part.

Part 2: 5 Steps to Building a High-Performing Management Team

A high-performing business starts with a high-performing management team.

But how do you go about creating an effective management team? Following these steps would get you there:  

 

Step #1: Create or Update Your Standards and Protocols

Your standards and protocols lay down the rules for your team and key business activities. These should be aligned with the vision and strategy of your business. The list of what this could include is endless and specific to every business, but here are some questions to get you going: 

  • Customer service: How do we handle complaints, returns, etc.?
  • Sales policies: Do we offer guarantees or refunds?
  • Marketing and promotional activities: Which activities and channels do we use?
  • Team policies: How do we conduct employee training, performance reviews and advancements?
  • Staff behaviour: What type of clothes are required/acceptable and what is our work from home protocols?

Creating a Team Handbook laying out these rules would also be helpful.

 

Step #2: Create or Update Your Organisational Chart

An organisational chart provides a visual structure of departments, sub-departments, upper and middle-management roles, and support staff roles. The chart should also illustrate how the different roles and departments work together.

 

Step #3: Create or Update Job Descriptions, with Position Agreements

You cannot hold someone accountable for something they did not agree to. 

Beyond the basics of the usual job description, position agreements establish a clear understanding of each position’s accountabilities, standards, and what resources and support they need to succeed in the role. 

We’ve found that while it’s important to have a job description, you have to carefully go through each of the items and make sure both you and the manager understands what each statement means and what is expected from the manager. There can be no grey areas and you need to get buy-in from your manager for each point.

 

Step #4: Create or Update Your Operation Manuals

Your operation manuals should be specific to each position so that every employee knows the functions of their role and what steps should be taken to complete each task. This will eliminate any guesswork or confusion. 

Don’t go overboard with this, though. Leave some room for people to think and use their creativity if they’re dealing with a scenario that is out of the ordinary. We’ve found that if you’re too detailed, people start to get lazy – they don’t think about what they’re doing and why, and if dealing with an outlier case, they don’t know how to handle it.  

 

Step #5: Hold Regular Individual and Team Meetings

One-on-one meetings provide opportunities for managers and employees to build effective relationships. It also supports employees’ growth. Company-wide meetings, whether bi-monthly or quarterly, provide you with the valuable opportunity to share updates, reaffirm the vision and strategic objective of the firm, and reinforce team spirit.

 

How Will This Look in Your Business?

When you have a management system that works like a well-oiled machine, you’ll be able to design your business around the lifestyle you dream of. At BWMD we believe that your business is a tool to help you create your ideal lifestyle – your business should not overshadow every bit of your life.

But, creating the type of business where systems work smoothly can be a challenge. We love helping SMEs like you to design and update your systems in a customised way that works for your unique business, so get in touch if you need a hand.

 

Why You Need to Work On Your Business – Not In It

Are you micro-managing every piece of your business? If so, you probably can’t see the forest for the trees – the bigger picture, instead of all the small details.

As the business owner or CEO, your job is to look ahead, imagine what your business can become, work out the business strategy, and make sure your team has the tools to bring your vision to fruition. In other words, working on your business.

Not only will the business be more successful when you work on your business, instead of in it. But you will enjoy it more as well.

The purpose of life is not to serve your business – your business’ purpose is to serve your life.

Is it time that you reimagine your business from being a burden that consumes your life, to the tool that will enable you to achieve the lifestyle you crave?

 

 

Signs that You’re Stuck on ‘In’

It may already be obvious to you where change is needed, but sometimes it’s a subtle and habitual approach that causes stagnation. If you’re caught in an employee-mindset, you often lose the entrepreneurial perspective that inspired you to be a business owner in the first place.

So, to help you identify whether you’re IN instead of ON, let’s look at some of the red flags:

  • There is no solid system of processes in place.
  • You don’t delegate enough, or ever, and are micro-managing every aspect of the business.
  • You’re constantly putting out fires.
  • You lack solid team members or department managers you can hand over responsibility to. 
  • You’re working long hours, are drained, and have little time for family, hobbies, or relaxation.
  • You’ve lost sight of your vision, creative inspiration, and goals.
  • You feel like an employee serving your business, not the business serving your life.

If you’re spending the majority of your time working in the trenches of your business, this leaves precious little time to actually focus on your business, with long-term planning, goal setting, performance tracking, or scaling. Although doable for the short-term, this approach will leave you with no energy or time for much else but managing day-to-day operations.

 

Why a Business Process System is Essential

As the business owner or CEO, your work is to design the machine-like structure of a business process system – the model of replicable actions and process automation that your team can follow.

The people on your team are vital to its success – they are on the frontline of your business. But, without the structure of solid business processes, the full potential of your employees will go to waste.

People bring systems to life. When systems work well, people have the space to, and often do, perform exceptionally.

Businesses are not built by extraordinary people, but by ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” – Michael E. Gerber

 

Why Should You Design and Build a Well-Oiled Machine for Your Business?

These are some of the results you can expect:

  • Consistently providing superb services and value for your clients.
  • Cost efficiency, increased productivity, and higher employee satisfaction.
  • A structure for your team to know what to do when.
  • Easier transfer of business knowledge when someone leaves and you need to train a new staff member.
  • Structure and order which will empower you and the team, instead of chaos and confusion.

The only person in your company who will be genuinely motivated to grow your company is you. Every minute that you spend working on tasks that can be delegated is a minute that you are not planning, strategizing and building the best business possible. – Inc.com

 

How Do You Build a Well-Oiled Business Machine?

  • Take stock of everything and ask: “what can we do better?”, “where are our bottlenecks?”, “where do we not get consistent results?”, “what do we waste our time and resources on?”, and “what’s outdated?”.
  • Establish the big picture layout, and inspire an excited team effort of who’s going to do what, with clearly identified roles of responsibility.
  • Map out new procedures, fill in the blanks with the little details, and document the new processes. 
  • Test and tweak, gather feedback and adjust as required.
  • Train the team on new processes. Make sure more than one person knows how to do each task so there’s a backup for every role.
  • Establish an ongoing review and improvement plan.

 

Ready to Transition from Doing to Leading?

When the right people, structures, and processes are in place, not only will you improve the business’s agility and efficiency, you’ll finally have the freedom to step out of being a micro-manager. Instead, you’ll oversee the larger picture, lead your team, better react to change, and steer the ship in the direction that supports your vision for the business.

Need help building a process system so you can get out of IN and back to ON? Get in touch with us so we can help you to design your business to become the tool to achieve your dream.