Using Trello to Create Checklists You’l Actually Use

Systems, while not the answer to everything, can certainly be one of those things that brings a great sense of control to your business.

The trick is creating them in such a way that:
1. They work,
2. People use them,
3. You can keep them updated and relevant.

And doing those three is not always easy.

For us and many of our clients, we’ve been using Trello successfully to achieve all three points above. In this video, I walk you through how we are using and that may give you some ideas how it may work for you.

Don’t forget to download the Master Systems Checklist below – and if you need help designing systems that are unique to your business – give us a shout.

We welcome any comments or questions. Enjoy!

Cheers
Jamie

Download the Checklist!

Sign up to download your copy of the Master Systems Checklist!

Thanks! Check your email for a confirmation link! Be sure to check your junk mail if you don't receive it in the next few minutes 🙂

7 Must-Haves for a Successful Relationship (With Your Business Coach)

If you are thinking of engaging a business coach, it can be muddy waters. The internet is filled with many claims and ‘secrets.’ So how do you know what to believe?

This article, of course, is totally biased because I am a business coach. That said, I am also a business coach who has learned much about what makes a successful coaching engagement. I’ve been coaching business owners since 2005, and while I’m very proud of the results my team and I have been able to generate for clients, there have certainly  been a few engagements that have taught me some lessons the hard way.

Here are the seven components I believe make a successful client/coach relationship:

  1. Think long term, not a quick fix – there are times when you will indeed have some quick wins. In many cases when we start working with a new client, there is some low hanging fruit that is easily reaped and that makes everyone happy. That said, long term sustainable results often take time and hard work. Be willing for that. Make sure neither you or your coach have a ‘quick fix’ mindset. There is no need to make things harder than they need be – in today’s world of ‘hacks,’ and immediate gratification, shortcuts can be tempting but rarely last.
  2. Personality fit – you need to like each other. Sure, coaching can work without likability, but if your sessions with your coach are not enjoyable because of a personality clash, you just won’t get all you could from the engagement.
  3. Communication and simple language – a personal red flag of mine when engaging any professional is when they use complex language and excess industry jargon. This is often a mask to make them sound smarter than they may be. An effective coach should be able to communicate complex ideas using simple language. At the end of the day, building a business, while certainly not easy, is not overly complex, make sure your coach sees that too.
  4. Asking uncomfortable questions – you are not looking for someone to tell you what you want to hear. In fact, in many cases, you may need the exact opposite. When you are speaking with your prospective coach, notice how willing they are to ask you uncomfortable questions. Also look for objectiveness and compassion in the way they ask the questions.
  5. Root cause – a great business coach, will be able to identify the root cause of an issue quickly and help you find a path through it in a way that is doable for you. Everything in life and business boils down to the first principles of business, which are the real keys to success; and a great coach is a master of using these principles.
  6. Responsiveness – this is really a 101 for any service provider. If you really matter to your coach, they will respond to you within an appropriate time frame. This is a simple point of respect and professionalism.
  7. Your intuition – after speaking with a coach, you should feel clearer in your thinking and empowered and able to act. You should feel a degree of growth in your thinking and/or skills. At the end of a session, your gut should tell you ‘this is working.’ What I’m really saying here is, check in with yourself after speaking with the coach and ask ‘does this feel right?’. For me, every client engagement that has not gone well (don’t worry, there aren’t that many), I really knew at the start the fit was not right. You will also know, if you slow down, take a quiet moment and ask yourself the question, “is this the right coach for me?”.

While this list is not exhaustive, it is the top seven things I would encourage you to consider when hiring a business coach. This will be a very important relationship in your business life. A relationship that can and should change you and your business or the better.

Good luck.

P.S. If you’re still not sure how business coaching can help you be the entrepreneur you seek to be, consider subscribing to our Business Nutrition Newsletter, packed with just enough fuel for your fire. Sign up below.

To access the entire Business Nutrition archive for free, click HERE

Emotion Can be a Business Asset

Time to Watch: 4:34

It’s important to know what your goal is and how you’re going to execute it, but sometimes one of the missing ingredients is having the emotional leverage or clarity around why you’re going for something and the drive to see it through. This clarity of emotion is a business strength your don’t want to ignore.

In the pursuit of any goal, there’s ups and downs, but it’s when things are challenging and going against you, that you need those emotional reserves. In this video I’m not going to walk you through the actual planning process—there’s a cracker of a guide HERE that teaches you how to do that—but rather, we’re going to go through some east steps to tap into those emotional reserves when you need them.

What you’ll need to complete this exercise is a blank piece of paper, divided into three columns and enter your information as follows:

  1. Write your goal in the middle column. The only guideline here is to make sure you are picking S.M.A.R.T. goals. That is, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented with a Timeframe. SMART goals are critical in the planning process, particularly so you can gain a better picture of what success for that goal looks like in reality.
  2. In the left-hand column, write the all the “WHY” reasons which relate to the goal. Behind every goal is a feeling, an emotion – and the emotional result that you want to achieve through that goal. Don’t skip this step or shake this task as a feel-good, fluff piece which doesn’t have any basis—nothing could be further from the truth. What you want to distill here are all the emotional reasons you want to achieve the goal. For example – if the goal is financial and you want to pay down your mortgage faster, list the emotional benefits you will gain by doing so (more disposable income to travel, more time with family, helping your children financially—whatever it is that fuels your fire). It is the feelings you will get from achieving that goal that will sustain you in the low times.
  3. Finally, in the right-hand column is the “HOW.” Don’t worry about getting this column ‘right.’ The ‘how’ column is all about brainstorming. This is the place to list every possible way you can think of to achieve that goal (and you may need an extra page to do this—that’s ok!). Once you have an exhaustive list, you can go back, prioritize and figure out and ask yourself, “which ones make sense?”, “which ones do I have the resources/time/ability to do.” Etc…
  4. From there, we advocate that you develop a structure to execute the plan and to help solidify your tasks and timelines. To do this, feel free to access our free 90-Day Planning guide which has all the tools and resources to help you develop and track your plan.

That’s it! The absolute importance of planning with purpose and emotion can’t be understated. The clearer you get on your goals, the more emotional leverage you have behind you to help you achieve those goals you’ve been dreaming of.

Dream big!

P.S. You can access the jam-packed Planning Edition of our Business Nutrition Newsletter HERE.

And for more free training Videos, subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

The Hidden Profit Centre in Your Business

Think HR has no bearing on profitability? Think again…

Having long been denounced as nothing more than a cost centre and a necessary part of doing business, the people management aspects of an organization (specifically HR) have been overlooked as an integral component of the profit structure of an organization. The link, however, is a lot stronger than many businesses have traditionally thought.

In a recent study on management practices in Fortune 1000 companies, the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California found that employee involvement measures (that traditionally sit well beneath the HR umbrella) show a solid ROI and link to the bottom line.

For small to medium-sized businesses who don’t even have an HR department, the impact of this study is even larger, as decisions made at owner-run businesses see an immediate trickle-down effect due to the smaller work structures, and can see a positive impact in the bottom linke much sooner than a larger organization. The key is in increasing the employee commitment to the organization.

Any one of the following measures can be implemented by a company to see a lasting improvement in financial returns (not to mention the cost-savings garnered from reduced turnover):

  • Employees generally feel that if an investment is made in them, they will return that investment in-kind. Establish a feeling of “repricosity” through:
    • Information-sharing
    • Skills training
    • Encouragement of ownership thinking
    • Fostering “buy-in” for organizational change measures
    • De-centralizing decision-making
  • Using technology for process improvement, not just cost-cutting benefits. If employees are brought into the process on the ground level, working backwards and can have input into process design, hey are more willing to manage change, and feel a greater benefit of new technology as a tool for them—not just because it’s cheaper for the organization
  • Building a culture which values job-security – which means attaching value to the person over the employee number.

Each of these measures is fiscally achievable in one way or another, even for very small businesses and engage in the employee’s higher level needs, which leads to increased productivity, better customer interactions, a willingness to tackle challenges and stick with the company–all which have a positive impact on profit.

Small tweaks can often have the greatest impact on profitabilty, particularly if they are seemingly unrelated to the bottom-line. Remember that everything in your organization starts and ends with culture, so before you tweak your marketing, sales prices, or slash costs to boost productivity, have a critical look at how investments to your people-practices can pay you back in spades.

Business Lessons From the Bike Trail #1 – Knowing Where to Focus

There’s a basic object to enjoying a safe ride on a mountain bike: Look where your going.

While the same can be said for business, it’s amazing how many people focus on the obstacles in front of them instead of focusing on the track, but when you fixate on the obstacles which are in your way – they tend to magnify – which makes your changes of hitting one fairly high.

The same goes for them you start riding faster on the trail. The faster you go (ie: the more you grow) the further down the track you need to look. Just don’t look so far down the track that you get blindsided from something you didn’t see just up ahead.

Have a think about your business. How far down the track are you looking? What obstacles do you face that you could find the answer to if you just ventured to look a little beyond them? Are you getting blindsided by other things that are stopping you from making progress?

The Secret to Managing Attitudes at Work

The number one stressors in business are (and may always be) money, and people. In fact, you likely know first hand how much emotional energy and loss of team synergy is wasted on a member of your team that just doesn’t fit the bill.

It turns out – the key to managing attitudes in the workplace is as simple as communication and follow-up. Sounds easy, right? Well it can be more difficult that you expect to implement, but once the expectations are set, it can become remarkably easy to keep momentum in your team.

The tools we need start with creating our core value and culture. You see, if expectations for every member of your organization aren’t clear, and we don’t hold people accountable, you will always have an organizational culture that is driven by the quality of people within it.

A good starting point is to check out “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business“, by Patrick Lencioni it is a fantastic read about the concrete advantage that can be gained by having a healthy organization.

 

The Reality of Open Book Management

Truthfully, this is just one reality .. but a good one at that 🙂

Norm Jefferies of Computer Merchants has been running his company for over 20 yrs and I think it’s fair to say, he’s doing a damn fine job at it.

Norm and his team adopted the philosophy of Open  Book Management (OBM) at an early stage and it has become a key part of their culture.

In this interview, Norm shares how they implemented OBM and what the benefits and challenges have been of sharing the numbers within the team. We dive into the specific of day-to-day tactics, how OBM affects performance and how they make it a living and effective tool to align the team.

If you are thinking of implementing Open Book Management or are on the other side and think it’s crazy, either way you’ll get some direct benefit of learning from Norm’s experience.

Enjoy!


 

Links from the interview:

Computer Merchants website – http://www.computermerchants.com.au/

Norm on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/normjefferies

The Great Game of Business – http://greatgame.com/

Ownership thinking – http://www.ownershipthinking.com/

What’s Your Daily Number?

What if you had a friend who was trying to lose weight, but they never stepped on a scale and didn’t know their weight when they started? I’m sure, being a good friend you would suggest they find our their true weight, so they could track their changes and get a sense for if they were heading towards their goal.

Now take that same principle but apply it to your business. Whether it be sales, marketing ROI, or employee turnover, knowing where you stand is a huge part of success, and knowing if you are (or will) meet your goals. Having those metrics in hand will also help you determine the time it will or has taken you to reach your goal and provide a critical baseline for further attempts to improve your numbers.

The truth is this – if you don’t keep track of your numbers, you will always think your track record is better than it actually is, because our brains can sometimes confuse intention with action. Numbers don’t lie. Creating a hard goal will allow you to be objective in its achievement and is easy to measure. This number should be shared in your daily, yes daily, meeting with staff so everyone knows where you stand. Why daily? Well, if you measure the important goals quarterly, or even annually, you deprive yourself of critical moments to adjust your course which could mean the difference of a goal exceeded and one which has fallen short.

3 Critical Things You Need your Team’s Input on

When doing strategic planning, it is essential to gain some insights from your team members on their perceptions of the business, where it’s going, and why things are the way they are. Remember when it comes to your employees, every action they make is a direct result of their perception of the business and their understanding of why it is being done. The important part is to marry their expectations with yours, so that the team can function as a cohesive unit for the purpose of growing your business. With that said, there are three key questions you needs to ask of your employees before the strategic planning process begins (and is something to keep a gauge on at least once a year):

1. What should we START doing?

2. What should we STOP doing?

3. What should we KEEP doing?

With the answers to those key questions, you will be able to spot trends and patterns of thinking in your employees which will guide your planning discussions.

Good luck, and have fun.

Culture Shift: An Interview with Aaron Lavell

Today, we sat down with Aaron Lavell, Managing Director with WMS Chartered Accountants, to speak about the shift in workplace culture which led to the creation of WMS, and their fantastic culture growth which has seen them grow to be one of the Gold Coast’s largest professional firms.

.

Aaron tells us why principles matter in business planning – and what impact that has on retaining the best talent.

 

 

 

J: Give us a bit of an overview of WMS and how you came to be…

A: We started in May 1994. 2 partners and 5 staff left a Big 4 accounting firm at the same time after an extended down turn period emanating from the “Recession we had to have”. The “W” and “M” stand for the surnames of the founding partners and the “S” stands for Staff. From day 1, the staff have been recognised as the core ingredient of what the firm is about.

.

J: What led you to embark on formally developing your culture?

A: Day 1 was easy. We simply looked at where we had come from and assessed the merits of doing the opposite. That isn’t intended to be a criticism per se of the former firm, it was just a result of an extended down turn and their former policies around transparency in numbers and decision making processes. For example at WMS for over a decade, we were totally open book and staff set their own salaries. As the firm grew we found it harder to keep everyone on the same page and certain newer staff didn’t appreciate the history and the fragile nature of a true open book approach. We found staff making ambit claims for pay rises expecting to be shaved back. In the first 5 years of operations, not one pay rise was knocked back, because the requests were fair.

Around 2006 we implemented the “WMS Culture Wheel”. This was 10 core cultural concepts usually expressed as one word. We received immediate positive impact with same. A true test of any culture is hard times, with the onset of the GFC we found that some of the one word concepts could be interpreted in different ways and some were aspirational. As an example, our final concept was “Fairness” which was the outline of the wheel and designed to be a tie breaker provision. What is “Fair” can vary depending on your perspective. So with that by way of background, in 2014, we embarked on a fresh approach trying to keep the genesis of the firm’s origins whilst introducing an explanatory framework for each core principle. It coincided with a brand and web site refresh.

.

J: Can you give us an overview of the process?

A: We grabbed our 6 partners and a range of 6 staff. By range, we covered from our next partner in waiting to the leader of our Secretarial team. We were facilitated by someone external and we had regular break out groups of 3 armed with butcher’s paper to brain storm concepts and associated explanation. We had decided to include 3 to 5 core principles with about 3 explanatory lines per principle. This was designed to address the ambiguous nature of the original one word concepts. By day’s end we had a draft list of 5. We met again internally the following week and then again the week later with the entire office (approximately 50). During that workshop, which was again facilitated by the same external party, we updated the proposed imagery for the core principles to go onto our new website. We workshopped on a Friday afternoon and the website went live on Monday. This gave us bang for our buck internally and also drew attention to it for visitors to our new website.

.
J: How did the team engage/react to the process/outcome?

A: You could feel the energy in the room which was great to be part of. As it was designed in-house, we all had ownership of it.

.

J: What have been the benefits of the process?

A: Straight up, it gave us to have a focused above the line discussion as a group as to “what type of work place would you want to come to everyday?”. You then assessed each principle as to whether we as a group were prepared to commit to live and breathe it in both good and bad times. We have a go to framework to assess any key decision facing the firm.

.
J: How do you keep it alive?

A: It has to come into your daily vernacular. As an example, every email our HR manager sends contains a footer with some different play on words of one of the principles. We filled an entire wall of our main break out area with graphics of the 5 principles. Our screen savers are a rotation of the core principles. We had about a dozen of the staff do a culture video which sits on our website. The framework was allocated in terms of what principle each team member would cover, but what they said was completely unscripted. We wanted it to be real and the only way to do that was to have it come from the coal face.

.

J: What are some of the setbacks or pitfalls you’ve experienced around developing your culture?

A: We adopted two broad approaches pre the present framework. Both were entirely appropriate for the firm at that stage of the firm’s evolution, however, for broad reasons outlined above, they both ran their course.

.

J: How has it impacted your ability to attract or retain talent?

A: Huge impact. 99% of applicants make reference to the culture video on the website and the initial perception of what it is like to work here is very high. Our challenge of course is to provide the tools and environment to enable the reality to match the brochure.

.
J: How has it impacted performance and happiness of the team?

A: Our last financial year results were great. The staff turnover here has always been good compared to industry standard but has further been enhanced. I think the staff trust the culture and we encourage them to “shoot straight” if they feel we have slipped up as a partner group. We all work hard and deadlines can stretch the odd friendship, however the group get along very well because we have a common goal to understand our client’s business and make a difference to their lives.

.
J: How did you get all leaders aligned to buy into the process?

A: That was easy, as our own observations combined with our 360 degree reviews told us the old Culture Wheel had run its race. When you get that feedback, you ignore it at your own peril. None of our partner group are perfect, but we all understand that if you don’t have the foundation right, anything you try and build on it will be fragile.

[divider line_type=”Full Width Line” custom_height=”20″]

[two_thirds]Aaron Lavell is the firms Managing Partner, and has over 20 years experience in the accounting industry with his initial years at Ernst & Young, before commencing as a founding member of WMS.

.

Aaron has a strong focus in the property sector and heads the firm’s Corporate Finance Team, which holds and AFSL

For more about Aaron, click HERE.