What an angel with one wing taught me about running a business

I recently moved house and inherited a nice garden with a little angel figure hanging from the decking, right in front of my dining-room window. I laughed when I first saw this ornament because the angel figure only had one wing. Probably broken, I thought. Will have to move it because it doesn’t fit with my idea of perfection, I thought.

But recently I got to thinking that I rather like the angel with one wing. She reminds me that however high we might soar, it’s good to keep at least one foot on the ground.
Humility is something which serves us well. Arrogance, particularly in dealings with other business people or clients does not. It’s good to have a reality-check from time to time and look at what is working in our business and what isn’t.

When we’re flying high, it really is crucial to remember how we got there in the first place and who we need to thank or appreciate.

So whatever you’re up to, remember that perfection isn’t necessary and sometimes one wing is better than two….
Love Louise

Slow down to get faster

I recently caught some of the Formula One race in Monte Carlo on TV and something happened which stuck in my mind. The leading driver, Lewis Hamilton, got something in his eye, and this problem caused him to lose precious seconds at the head of the race, and to lose time repeatedly lap after lap. He was complaining about his discomfort via his on-board radio but he didn’t at any time slow down to remove the eyelash – or whatever it was – nor did he take a pit-stop. If he had used some time to rectify the situation, he would have got faster again (his car was the best on the track) and could then have won more comfortably in the end, instead of risking his own safety for the sake of maintaining his speed (which was counter-productive anyway).

Sometimes, you just have to slow down to get faster. Slowing down gives you time to remove the hurdles, take the jumps and produce better quality in the long-run.

Take Sir John Franklin, the Arctic explorer, and the fascinating subject of Sten Nadolny’s book “The Discovery of Slowness”. In his book*, Nadolny portrays how a seeming disability enables Franklin to wait, because he must wait, and apply “slowness” to all things. As a consequence, he attains unimaginable victories which astonish the more ‘hurried’ multitude around him. His slowness is the secret to his success.

So, focus on the task at hand (although I’m NOT advocating perfectionism here!) and don’t multi-task, slow down in your work and see what happens – I’ll wager better quality, better nerves and a better sense of time overall.

Furthermore, if you’re building your business, take a pit-stop from time to time. You’ll find that the ‘breather’ you award yourself will pay dividends in the long run. You’ll be more refreshed and creative when you go back. This can be a short break every hour, or a full day off a week when you remove yourself completely from your work activities.

Beavering away like a power house might fit with your own perception of what it means to be a successful entrepreneur but sometimes, slowing down can be a chance to savour and enjoy the ride.

After all, life is a journey, and so is running your own business.
Have fun – and slow down!
Louise

*“The Discovery of Slowness” by Sten Nadolny: Original title die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit, translated from the German by Ralph Freedman, 1983 Viking Penguin

My top two game-changing questions

I was recently asked the following question and it really knocked me for six. First of all, I struggled to come up with an answer and it really made me face reality whilst at the same time encouraging me to express my dreams and vision:

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

This question, originally created and posed by business empowerment guru Robin Sharma, is a game-changer.
Why?
Well, as a business owner I have had my fair share of scary moments (recession anyone?) and I believe that fear of failure is something that every serious entrepreneur has grappled with at some time or other. This question helps you to take a step back for a moment, forget the fear, and re-assess if you’re really doing what you want to be doing. I suggest you apply it to every new business strategy you devise, every new product idea you have, and to the bigger picture itself. Asking myself this question gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate my current course and look at my dreams and what I really want from my business (and from life). It was one of those aha moments. After all: knowing what you really want is the first step to getting it.

The second question is for your customers and clients and was penned by the late, great Stephen Covey:

What would it take to make it a ten?

How to use this question:
When collecting feedback after providing a service or a product, ask your clients how they would rate the experience or product out of ten. Then ask the above question and you should get some precise, important feedback as to what might still be missing and what you can improve. Look for patterns and act on them.
However a closing word of caution if using this question across cultures: I mostly work with German people and I have often had the pleasure of hearing “I’ll give you a nine, because I never give out tens on principle”. Kind of ruins it. Nevertheless I think it’s a great question and I will continue to ask it.
Hope the questions work for you,
Til the next time!
Louise

Looking after the rocks first … or mindful priority-setting

The following story is one that’s been circulating for a while. It holds a very important message regarding setting priorities in our lives – whether we are business owners or not:
A professor of philosophy stood before his class with some items in front of him. When the class began, he picked up a large glass jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks about two inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was full.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly and watched as the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The professor then asked the students again if the jar was full.

They laughed and agreed that it was indeed full this time.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled the remaining open areas of the jar. “Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar signifies your life. The rocks are the truly important things, such as family, health and relationships. If all else was lost and only the rocks remained, your life would still be meaningful. The pebbles are the other things that matter in your life, such as work or school. The sand signifies the remaining “small stuff” and material possessions.
If you put sand into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks or the pebbles. The same can be applied to your lives. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are truly important.

Take care of the rocks first – things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just pebbles and sand.

Even if this story is not new to you, let it trigger a reminder that the rocks really do matter. You can label the glass jar “My working day”, “My business” or “My life in general” and decide on the priorities (rocks) for each one. Just like Diane Keaton had a jar of white pebbles on her desk in the film “Something’s gotta give” (appropriately named film in this case!) you can even use a real jar and real stones as an ornamental and subtle reminder to make time for what really matters in life.

Source used for re-telling the pebble story with grateful thanks:
http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/motivation_articles.asp?id=264&page=2

Accepting and Allowing – the double ‘A’s of running a business

Sometimes when running a business and hitting repeated stumbling blocks, it is important to stop and think about whether we are doing and believing something on a sub-conscious level that perpetuates these obstacles. This is where we can usually find the source of the problem.

Is there something you are not accepting? Is there something you are not allowing? Take a look at the points below. They not only impact on how we run our businesses but also on how we run our lives…

MY “DOUBLE A” RECOMMENDATIONS:

Accepting help when you are spending too much time in an area you are not so good at (like accounting, in my case). This will free you up for something you enjoy and are talented at, like sales and marketing or product design, thus exploiting your strengths and ultimately creating more revenue for your business.

Accepting that sometimes money/income comes to us through unexpected sources. When we set goals and act on them, we open channels to more prosperity. Allow things to come to you in ways you never imagined. Affirm: “I am a money magnet!”

Accepting that a ‘No’ from a customer can just be a ‘No, not today’ and letting go, so that another door can open.

Accepting that your employees are all different people and allowing them space to express their own creativity by creating a positive, uncluttered working environment and a caring atmosphere, without unconstructive criticism.

Accepting help so that you are not tempted to micro-manage. Micro-managing is limiting behavior. Through this you will limit the flow of good to your business. Delegate, delegate!

Allowing yourself some down-time and some quiet-time, to have that million-dollar idea in the first place. We live in a world of constant noise – smartphones, computers, televisions, mp3-players. Can we re-connect with silence and listen to the voice within? That’s one of the greatest resources we have.

Allowing yourself to fail sometimes. That’s how we grow. Get out of the victim role and ask yourself: “What did I do to bring about this situation and how can I avoid it in future?” Then accept that it happened and let it go.

Allow yourself to be successful and prosperous. People will still like you! Sometimes we are trapped by limiting beliefs we grew up with. Most people can finish the sentence “Money is the root of…..” without any problem. That is negative programming. See my last blog article on ‘Money Mindfulness’ for more on prosperity consciousness.

All the very best to you and your business!  Louise

The Mindful Money Audit

If you are starting up your own business, money will probably be one of your main concerns. For most people, maintaining the flow of capital to their business is a major challenge. Once possible grants and subsidies have been secured, and the first client is on board, things look rosy and that’s great; but if you don’t remain vigilant on money matters, you run the risk of ‘leaking’ money for no apparent reason later on…So how can we protect ourselves?

A lot has been written on the subject of money and how to make it. However, one of the biggest lessons I have had to learn as a business owner (and am still learning) is that how you THINK about money heavily influences how it flows to your business. So that is what I’m going to address here.

If you’re having financial trouble of any kind and/or your cash flow is suddenly limited, it’s time to do the following ‘mindful money audit’:

1)    Do you have any limiting views about money? By this I mean: Were you brought up to the tune of “money doesn’t grow on trees” or told that having a lot of money automatically meant being a bad, maybe even immoral, person?

How money was handled in the family when we were growing up can have a long-lasting impact (like the ripples on a pond when you throw a pebble) on how money flows to us in later life. Sometimes we are not even aware that this old “programming” is affecting us now until we stop and really think about it. Such negative beliefs will definitely impact on your profitability.

So what can we do?

Well, once you have identified any limiting beliefs, the best antidote is to start thinking differently. Start using affirmations – positive statements you can recite to yourself like a mantra: “It’s ok to have lots of money”. “Money and abundance flow freely to me”.

”I welcome money and all it brings into my life”

2)    Motivational speaker and author Cheryl Richardson says: “Money flows into our life when we become a good steward for the money that we already have”*.

How much of an overview do you have about your current and long-term financial situation? Is there anything you are trying hard to ignore?

Having an overview of incomings and outgoings at all times is essential, as is the elimination of debt and borrowing capital as soon as possible. If you’ve got debts to pay off, organize a timetable where you start paying these off at regular intervals. Don’t fear tax demands: Paying tax, like paying all bills, should be seen as proof of our own solvency. Think differently about such demands – welcome them and regularly affirm: “There is always enough money to pay everything I owe”.

3)    Finally, be vigilant about how you speak about money and money matters. Just like positive affirmations, making a negative statement out loud about your cash flow situation will reinforce any problems you are having. Instead, tell everyone you meet: “My business is a goldmine.” Avoid phrases like “Things are a bit tight at the moment” or “I’m never going to reach my targets…” These statements will weigh you down.

If you are interested in learning more about how positive thinking and speaking affect your financial well-being, as well as finding out how to make more money in general, you might like to take a look at the following books:

Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill

The Science of Getting Rich, Wallace D. Wattles

The Rules of Wealth, Richard Templar

Money and the Law of Attraction, Abraham Hicks

How to get from where you are to where you want to be, Jack Canfield

Til the next time, Stay profitable!

Louise

(*At the “You can have a wonderful life” Workshop in Hamburg, 03.03.13)

Why Vampires are good for books, but bad for business!

Although I do prefer to focus on the positive in my blog, I decided to devote this week’s article to one of the problem areas that new (and established) entrepreneurs may face.

Beware of ‘energy vampires’ – people who tell you things can’t be done or that you are not capable of doing something. Starting your own business is a big, courageous step to take and you may find that some people around you start projecting their own fears onto you and your venture, causing you to doubt yourself. They can show you blatant negativity, for example by saying: “You are crazy; one of my friends started their own business last year and barely made enough to live on. They had to take a part-time job just to pay the rent!”.

On the other hand ‘energy vampires’ can be very subtle:

When Robert and his business partner Karl moved their IT company into a larger office in their second year of business, they panicked and hired an administrative assistant because they thought they wouldn’t create the right impression without one. They suddenly had lovely new rooms, ringing telephones and postal deliveries to deal with and felt this warranted a third person to deal with the expansion. All went well for the first couple of weeks. Then, things started to change.

This particular P.A. would wrinkle her nose up at any suggestion Robert made that was out of the ordinary. She often gave her own opinion before tackling the task at hand and the opinion was usually that his suggestion wasn’t a good idea in her view. Imagine how destructive that can be to your motivation on a daily basis. Not to mention frustrating. Needless to say Robert and his assistant soon parted company. Robert and Karl now have a sign in their office that reads: “The one who says it can’t be done should not interrupt the person doing it”.

Robert told me: “We hired an assistant because people told us it was the right thing to do. We didn’t stop to think if we really needed one. We were feeding our ego. The fact that we hadn’t thought this through led to us attracting the wrong kind of candidate. It was a bad match for us and it poisoned the whole atmosphere for a while.”

So make sure you surround yourself with positive people. Seek out mentors and supporters who are happy and content with their lives. You will also find that ‘energy vampires’ or ‘toxic people’ disappear from your life anyway, the more you strike out affirmatively and confidently. Take decisions slowly and measure them against your personal beliefs and mission.

Remember: You don’t need anyone’s approval for your business venture, but your own.

And finally: Protect yourself from negativity in general. Watching the news on TV last thing at night or reading the newspaper in bed will have a negative impact on how you sleep. Instead, keep a notebook by your bed and write down what you are grateful for each day before you shut your eyes. Have a book of inspirational quotes handy or start compiling your own. Join a social network like “Twitter” and surround yourself with positive people who send inspiring and supportive quotations and messages on a daily, even hourly basis. Make sure your screensaver or wallpaper carries a positive image or message you can focus on throughout the day.

Good luck and leave the vampires to Hollywood…