Q. Do I need a traditional business plan? By this I mean something formal with a structured template.
A. No you only need a traditional business plan if you need to borrow money from a bank. Most business owners who write a traditional business plan file it away on their computer or it sits gathering dust in a drawer and never look at it again.
Q. What sort of business plan do I need?
A. Something practical, so that every week you know exactly what tasks you need to do to move your business forward. Something that’s yours, written how you like it, something that you are actually going to use and something that you love!
Q. What do I write it in?
A. It could be written on a bit of scrappy paper, on post-it notes, in a notebook or in an app like Trello or Asana. What’s more important is that you write the plan in something you like, that you are going to use.
Q. Where do I start?
A. To quote Stephen Covey you ‘‘Start with the end in mind’. Think about where you want to be in 12 months time, what do you want your business to look like, what do you want to be doing?
Q. What only 12 months?
A. 12 months is a long enough time for a business goal, as a lot can change in 12 months (look at how things have changed in the last 6 months with the Covid-19 pandemic!)
Q. What’s the best way to write a goal?
A. Write your 12 month goal using the SMART (Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebound) format.
Q. What do I do after I’ve written my 12 month goal?
A. A 12 month goal can seem big and far away, so you then need to break the goal down into smaller goals. Usually 3/4 through out the year. Write the smaller goals also in the SMART format.
Q. How do I get from the smaller goals to a plan?
A. The easiest way is to take the 1st small goal, which is usually for 90 days and write down all the actions of how you are going to reach your goal.
Q. Why can I never stick to my plan?
A. Sticking to a plan is the hardest part, the day to day running of your business gets in the way, life gets in the way, there’s always something more exciting to do.
Q. What can I do about it then?
A. Get yourself some accountability as it always works. Accountability isn’t rocket science but the fact that when you know somebody is going to ask you about something, it makes you do it!
Q. What if I reach my goal early or I know I’m not going to reach my goal?
A. Nothing is cast in stone, as it’s your goal and your plan, you can change it. You are the master of your business, nobody else is!
If you don’t have a plan for your business and as a business owner you should have! Then why don’t you come on my workshop: How do you want your business to look in 12 months?’.
On the 2 hour workshop you will:
For more information about the workshop and the dates: bit.ly/2EuIamG
‘Hi - I’m Karen and I share my over 30 years business experience as a Business Mentor. I love to work with female business owners that already have a ‘good’ business but want a ‘great’ business. I do this with 1-1s, groups and in workshops. What I do with each business is different. I coach and encourage, to get the best out of you. It's all in there, I know it, I bring it out and watch your business grow!’
Do you understand what I do and who I do it for? Was it clear? And more importantly could you explain it to somebody else who might need my services?
As business owners we need to be really good at describing what we do. At answering the question ‘What do you do?’
You probably think you are good at introducing your business but are you? Do you get people recommending your business, just from your pitch?
Have you ever asked people for feedback: Did they understand what you do from your introduction pitch? Was it clear? Did they get it?
Giving a great introduction pitch is important for a couple of reasons:
When you work for yourself this is your chance to make a great first impression. So don’t waste it!
We can get asked this question in lots of different situations: by family and friends, at networking events, an actual elevator pitch or by anybody we are talking to.
Let’s look at each one of these…
Family & Friends
Do you struggle getting family and friends to understand what you do? I know I do. In my past it was easy - I used to work for big corporations, nobody really knew what I did but it didn’t really matter. They would say Karen works for a big company, she has a great salary, the company is doing well on the stock exchange etc.!!
This was enough for most people as it showed I must be doing well (little did they know that there is more to life than being on the corporate hamster wheel and a big pay cheque - but that’s another story!).
At some point at networking events you will have to introduce yourself and most people dread this. If you’ve worked in bigger businesses you might know this as the ‘creeping death’! Waiting for your turn and getting more and more anxious.
I’ve heard lots of people introduce themselves and their business at networking events, some are good at it but a large majority aren’t. Mainly because they are not prepared, there is no structure to what they are saying and they waffle on. They go on and on so much that you haven’t a clue what their business is and you switched off ages ago!
What a waste of an opportunity to make a first impression!
One business I know who organises networking events have even stopped letting people introduce themselves because it was talking so long and now they give each person a quick introduction. The difficultly with explaining somebody else’s business, is getting it right!
Have you heard of an elevator pitch? The idea is you get in an elevator (or in the UK we say ’lift’) and somebody famous like Deborah Meaden or Sir Alan Sugar get in the lift and they say to you ‘So what do you do’.
You then have the time from when the lift sets off, until them getting out of the lift to answer the question, say 30 seconds!!
Not long to make a lasting first impression!
This could be somebody you vaguely know that you bump into in the street, a neighbour or a friend of the family. The point here is that you wouldn’t explain your business in the same way, at a networking event or in the elevator pitch but you need to explain in a simple, clear way they will understand. Because you never know, who they know - and it could lead to your next super customer!
Whichever scenario you are in, when introducing yourself and explaining your business you need to be:
I have created a formula for writing an introduction pitch, which I teach to business owners on one of my workshops. At the end of the workshop each business owner has an introduction pitch which is unique to their business and which they can use in different situations.
The formula has two benefits:
The caveat I would say is that you don’t talk to your family and friends in the same way as you would introduce yourself at a networking event. So adapt the pitch, use different words but basically get the same message across.
Also your pitch doesn’t have to be perfect first time and there’s nothing wrong in practising. Read it out loud, read it to other people. How does it sound? Are you happy with it?
So what’s the formula….
It’s not easy…
Now this might sound easy but it’s not. Most business owners I know aren’t clear on what their USP is or know who their Super Customers are. If you are not clear, how can you describe each one in a simple, clear sentence?
BTW - Super Customers are very different to Ideal Clients as they are based on real people and not something you have made up. I always say that Ideal Clients are like looking for a needle in a haystack (impossible to find!) but Super Customers can be found because they are real!
Remember as business owners we need to be really good at introducing ourselves and describing our business. As they say - ‘you only get once chance to make a first impression’. Don’t screw it up!
Do you want to work ‘on’ your business and not only be clearer about your business but get your introduction pitch right? Then I’m organising more workshops soon, get in touch and I’ll contact you with the dates.
A couple of months ago my business, which I’ve grown from nothing, passed it’s 5 year birthday. A significant milestone, how did this happen and whoosh where did the time go! I’m not going to say it’s been easy, it hasn’t and it still isn’t. But I’m still here and I’m amazed at how far I have come!
When I worked in the corporate world we used to do an exercise called a ‘Learning Review’. What is a ‘Learning Review’, you might ask? It’s all about:
Learning Reviews are a great exercise to do for any changes you have made in your business. Stop, take a look at what happened, write down the good things, write down the bad things. What have you learned? Repeat what works, learn from what didn’t go so well and move on.
Here are my 10 learnings…
From my five years running my own business and I’m sharing them with you. Hope you find them useful…
What did you think of my learnings? I hope you take them and use them in your own business. If you have any comments or anything to add, get in touch.
Here’s to the next 5 years, onwards and upwards!
I’m always looking for female business owners who have a ‘good’ business but want to turn it into a ‘great’ business. If this is you, get in touch. I can definitely get you there!
Amanda Manson has been the business owner of ‘Orderly Office and Home’ for almost 9 years; she simplifies your life, home or workspace by offering in-person or remote organising & decluttering services. She is proud to be a member of APDO - The Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers and has been featured by Ikea, Hammonds - The Fitted Furniture Company, House Beautiful magazine and the Ideal Home Show.
When Amanda joined one of my Accountability Groups in January 2019, she was working 3 days a week in her business and 1 day a week for a client doing their marketing and social media. She had bookings for 3 weeks in advance but wanted more; to do more networking, restart blogging, get started on Instagram and start connecting with Estate Agents. She felt the work with her other client was eating into her working week and not allowing her enough time and space to grow her business.
Within a year of being part of an Accountability Group, Amanda cut ties with her weekly client, has increased her prices, started taking deposits and now has bookings for over 2 months ahead. She has a contract with a specialist relocation company, helping seniors to downsize and decide what is important for them to keep, as well as to pack and unpack their belongings in their new home. She is now on Instagram with 272 followers and has simplified and updated her website. She has been attending more networking events and is particular about which one - sticking to about 3 groups which work for her.
Amanda now spends 4 days a week working for her business something she wants for her work-life balance, happy that she is in control of her business and taking it in exactly the direction she wants.
This is what Amanda says about 'Group Accountability’…
“I joined one of Karen’s Accountability Groups as I felt the need to regain control of my business, having let things slip in favour of another time-demanding client. A commitment of just a couple of hours each month, face-to-face, talking through issues, concerns and the random thoughts swirling around in my head with people I barely knew, allowed me to gain some clarity and ideas to move forward. When you are so ‘involved’ in your own business it is easy to miss opportunities and time can whizz past too quickly. You look up and a year or two has passed…which is exactly what happened to me! Karen has a way of helping you to identify the key issues that need working on and pushing you towards your goals. I’ve made some lovely friendships over the last year which I’m sure will continue, and I’ve taken the opportunity to move to another group to gain ideas, insights and inspiration from a different set of business owners in a bid to grow my business further. Thanks Karen for pushing me and being a useful sounding board.”
Find ‘Orderly Office and Home’ on their Website, Facebook and Instagram.
Yipeee it’s my 5th Business Birthday. I can’t remember the exact day but I know it’s the 1st week in May!
Can’t believe its been 5 years - it’s gone so fast!
How did I get here? After over 25 years working in big finance and pharmaceuticals companies as a project manager, knowledge manager, information manager and lots of different IT roles, I was made redundant. After a few months break and time to think about what next, I decided that this was my time now to do what I wanted. I’ve always wanted to work for myself and I’ve always liked helping people. I realised that I had a lot of years of various skills, knowledge and experience that I wanted to share.
So I launched my business in May 2015 as ‘Project Complete’. I saw a need of using my Project Management skills to help small business owners grow their businesses by setting goals, drawing up plans and getting stuff done. In the last 5 years I’ve become very skilled in supporting small business owners in: marketing, sales, websites, social media, branding and mainly knowing what works and what doesn’t!
With all these skills, last year I felt I’d outgrown the business name ‘Project Compete’ and I rebranded as ‘Karen - Your Business Mentor’.
It’s not been easy, there’s been a lot of ups and downs especially in the first 2 years. I nearly gave up many times and even looked for a job!
When I started out an Accountant said to me…
…it will take 3 years before you feel like you are getting somewhere…..4 years before you are getting somewhere and 5 years before you are there…
I thought really, that’s a long time but you know it’s true. It all takes a long time to get your business to where you want it to be.
But it’s definitely worth it, I could never go back to the corporate world. I love helping small business owners, it’s a pleasure seeing them grow in confidence and move their business forward to where they want it to be.
What you won’t get from me is ‘Go girl - you can do this!’, simplistic one line responses. Which I find quite patronising. Running a business is not a game. I give expert analysis on your business, which is just for you and nobody else and a kick up the bum, if you need it! I am direct and I don’t beat about the bush but I’m also open and honest and always on your side. I get a real kick when my clients succeed.
The future - well who knows - but what I do know is that I want to continue helping and supporting as many small business owners in Cheshire as I can, so they get the business they want and I’ve got some big plans of how this can happen!
Here’s to the next 5 years - cheers!
Sam Baguley is an artist specialising in oil paintings of seascapes, animals and the natural world. She captures the light, the colours and most importantly, the feeling of a place without making the paintings too much of a photo-realistic representation.
When Sam joined one of my Accountability Groups in February 2019, her customers where her family, friends and parents at the village school! Being a single mum with a young son she was struggling with time and how to manage creating her art and running a business. She was paying to have stalls at local fairs to try and sell paintings and small goods such as cushions, mugs, notepads and cards containing her art and unfortunately making very little profit. She wanted to do commissions for larger paintings but wasn’t sure how to get these customers. Also she didn’t have a website and wasn’t sure if she needed one.
Overall a very talented artist producing amazing work with a very small customer base and who didn’t really have a profitable business.
After just over a year being part of an Accountability Group, Sam is now getting regular commissions for larger paintings, expanded her customer base across Cheshire and into North Wales, stopped attending small local fairs, had some fantastic new branding and has her own website where customers now buy directly from. The website has already paid for itself within 3 months of being fully-operational. She has also exhibited at RHS Tatton for 5 days last July, painted a huge wall mural in a reception area of the offices of a plant hire company and had an article published about her and her work in Eclipse Magazine.
Most importantly Sam is now managing her time better, painting what she wants and now has a profitable business. She is getting the recognition she deserves.
The world’s her lobster for Sam, watch this space!!!
This is what Sam says about 'Group Accountability’…
“Since joining Karen’s accountability group, my business and my self-confidence have come on in leaps and bounds. When you work on your own all day, it’s vital to have someone to bounce ideas off and to give you unbiased feedback to help move your business forward, otherwise you end up stuck in a rut.
Karen is brilliant at giving no-nonsense advice, no matter what your business is. She is able to be both supportive and perceptive at the same time, and won’t let you get away with half-measures. She keeps me on the straight-and-narrow, which I really need, but is a great cheerleader for my business, too.”
Find ‘Sam Baguley Art’ on her website, facebook and Instagram.
Jemma Munford is the owner of ‘Blissed Out Babies’, a provider of baby and child led, family focused baby massage and sleep coaching services. Jemma’s business specialises in empowering you to feel confident in caring for your baby through positive nurturing touch and improving sleep with gentle and responsive techniques.
When Jemma joined one of my Accountability Groups in January 2019, she was pregnant with her 2nd child and had been running her business part-time. She was running baby massage classes 3 times a week, which she needed to fill, studying to become a sleep coach and had lots of ideas on how to grow the business. But wasn’t sure how her business would continue whilst on maternity leave from her 2 day a week job and with 2 children under 3 years old.
Fast forward a year and Jemma has taken everything in her confident stride. Since having her lovely baby, Holly in June 2019, she has qualified as a sleep coach, launched her sleep coaching services and had paying parents, restarted her baby massage classes last September, which have been all sold out, run popular daddy baby massage classes, made lots of connections with local nurseries for her sleep coaching and won runner up in the ‘Raring to Go 2019’ awards for best pre/post natal service or class!
Amazing! Jemma is a very busy mum and business owner.
Congratulations - onwards and upwards for the future.
This is what Jemma says about 'Group Accountability’
“For me joining an accountability group was a little nerve wracking. Will I look like I have no idea what I'm doing? Will I fit in?
Well I needn't have worried! Working with Karen and this fab group of business women has not only been really enjoyable, especially as running your own business can be really lonely, but has helped me to make business decisions, given me a sounding board for my ideas and helped me focus on getting tasks done between our meet ups. Group accountability is a push to stop procrastinating, focus your mind and generally be more productive. I highly recommend it!”
Find ‘Blissed out Babies’ on their website and facebook.
Two years ago I read a blog about writing a bragging list at the end of the year. So for the last two years I have written my bragging list and you know what, it is a great cathartic thing to do. It will make you feel great! Particularly if you are a small business owner like myself.
All you do is go through the past year and write down all your achievements. They can be big, medium or small but they are ALL something that has happened because of you. Because of something you did!
Being British we are not particularly good at bragging, at showing off (I did get the idea from an Australian) or boasting about our achievements. But if you do this list, I promise that you will get a lot from it. You don’t need to show it to anybody and you’ll be able to give yourself a big pat on the back.
Starter for 10..
If you are struggling for ideas. Here’s your starter for 10… a list of things you could include in your bragging list…
You can obviously expand this list and include what you have done and what works for you. The main thing is to write YOUR list.
So start writing your list now. Its a great activity to do between Christmas and New Year when you are all relaxed.
And don’t forget to give yourself a bit pat on the back and reward yourself for all your hard work and achievements.
Word of caution! - if you write your bragging list and feel you haven’t got much to brag about, please please don’t get too disheartened. It is a bit of fun and there are still lots of positives: you still have your own business, you are still aiming for those goals and you are NOT your business. There is much more to your life than your business.
Bragging List for 2020 - Starter for 10!
If you want to start your 2020 bragging list early. I have a freebie my website called ‘Quarterly Checklist’ , which my ‘Monthly Accountability’ clients use.
It makes you look at what you are doing in your business. Recording numbers, like for turnover, clients, social media etc. Each month you fill it in and after a full year you know where you started from and where you got to. If you are not writing things down, how to you know what your goals are and if you have achieved them? The Quarterly Checklist is a good place to start for writing your bragging list.
If you are a small business based in Cheshire, I would love to hear from you. I always work 1-1 and face to face to help local small businesses get to the next level, get more clients and/or get more profit. I am a Business Mentor with over 30 years of experience. To find out more visit my website at 'Karen - Your Business Mentor'.
I meet lots of business owners who feel like this and it’s not good - it makes you feel like a total failure.
Want to know the reality of what’s actually happening with businesses in the UK and what counts as ‘good’ growth?
Every year a report is written by the ‘Scale Up Institute’ called ‘The Scale Up Report’ which gives facts and figures about scale up businesses in the UK. The latest report was published in March 2019 from 2017 data.
First things first - What is a scale up Business?
A scale up business is a business which:
Now for the sobering facts……
There are 5.7m SME (small to medium enterprise) businesses in the UK
Of those 5.7m only 36,510 businesses met one of the above criteria to call themselves a ‘Scale Up’ business.
That’s less than 7 in a 1000!!!
Not a lot is it?
If you have met one of the above criteria, you are classed as a scale up business - big congratulations. You deserve it, being a business owner is hard, growing your business is harder!
This means that if your business grows by 20% year on year, it will double every 4 years or nearly triple in 6 years.
As shown in this example, where turnover starts at £10,000
The hard reality…
So how come if you look at all the marketing and social media out there, everybody talks about huge growth rates, make 6 figure numbers etc. etc.
Ask yourself ‘In the real world, how realistic are these claims?’ When we know that a growth rate of 20% is only possible for less than 7 businesses in a thousand.
Now we understand the reality of the situation wouldn’t we all want a 20% growth on our business year on year?
The question is what can we realistically and practically do to achieve this?
Daniel Priestley, co-founder and CEO of Dent Global Ltd and author of books such as ‘Key Person of Influence’ and ‘Oversubscribed’, meets 100’s of business owners each week and the thing they all have in common is DESIRE.
They all have a desire to do well, to grow their businesses, to be the best they can be. But if they ALL have this desire, it can’t be enough. Because less than 7 out of 1000 businesses owners who have the desire to grow, will have a greater than 20% annual growth!
So there has to be something more that businesses who are achieving 20% growth are doing.
What is it and more importantly what can we do to join them?????
How to scale up your Business?
Here are Daniel’s top 3 recommendations to scale up your business….
Yes we all need a certain amount of luck. We need to be in the right place, at the right time and have the right ideas. All successful entrepreneurs will have had an element of luck.
But we can help get luck on our side - put yourself in the right place, for luck to happen. Get out and meet people. Have a positive attitude and you never know what might happen.
A few years ago I wrote a blog about needing luck in business, here it is: Do you need some luck?
2. Look at how you spend your time
There will be certain things in your business that only you can do and other things that other people could do. Such as admin, book keeping, social media, updating your website…..etc.
You can make more money doing only the things you can do, then outsource the rest. Simples!!
Outsourcing will free you up to do more of the things only you can do e.g. business strategy, pitching for work, signing off on branding etc.
This is also where you will make the most impact on the success of your business.
What tends to happen is that the things you outsource are the things you don’t really like doing - win, win! Leaving you more time to do the things only you can do, these tend to be the things your love about your business.
An extreme example of this is a brain surgeon. If a brain surgeon can do 4 operations a day, why would they only do 2 operations a day and spend the rest of the day doing admin, book keeping, sorting out taxes etc.!!!
3. Design to Succeed
This is Daniel’s most important recommendation to scale up your business. Spend time designing your business to succeed and it will pay off. All successful businesses are designed to succeed.
What does this mean? Think of an aeroplane, it is a hunk of metal, so is a car, so is a motorbike. But the aeroplane flies, the others don’t. Why is this? Because its been designed to fly - it’s been designed to succeed at flying!
So design all the elements of your business to succeed:
Your business growth is fast enough!
You are doing great!
You are reaching the numbers expected!
You are in the real world and it doesn’t matter what anybody else is doing!
For more information on the ‘Scale Up Report’, visit the Scale Up Institute at; https://www.scaleupinstitute.org.uk
When I work with small business owners 1 to 1 as their Business Mentor they always become a scale up business! Want your business to be a scale up business? Then contact Karen for a free business chat to start everything off.
Why Project Complete?
A little story of choosing a name for my business....
In 2015 when I was deciding what to call my business, I initially thought of using my name. I had just come out of the corporate world and in my last job at AstraZeneca there was 4 Karen Taylor's!!
I thought how would anybody remember another Karen Taylor? So I decided against using my name.
At the time I was doing mainly project management for small businesses, so I decided on the name 'Project Complete'.
Roll on 4 years and I now feel that 'Project Complete' no longer works for me and I do very little project management work. All my work is now as a Business Mentor and I've outgrown the name 'Project Complete'.
So I'm changing my business name and having a rebrand!!! I'm very excited and hope you will all like the changes and feel it is more relevant.
I'm excited to announce that my new business name is:
'Karen - Your Business Mentor'
Here is my new branding, hope you like it? A big thanks to Anna VDF Creative for bringing it alive.
All blogs are written by Karen @ Project Complete.