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