Working on the business and not in it…

Earlier this year, Michael O’Dwyer at City A.M[1]. reported that more than 216,000 new businesses were registered in the greater London area in the last 12 months, a 6.45% increase on 2017.

Furthermore, the number of new companies registered across the whole country in the last year rose by 5.7% to over 660,000. A record high, especially when you consider the political and economic gloom we currently find ourselves in.

It’s exciting and, as Matt Smith, director of the Centre for Entrepreneurs (CFE) commented: “These figures demonstrate the resilience and confidence of entrepreneurs across the country, confirmed by … the strengthening of London as Europe’s leading start-up hub.”

While this is incredibly positive news, I wonder just how many of these new business owners really appreciate what they’re up against? It’s a cliched phrase I know… but it’s so true for business owners, especially start-ups, that the founder is often the one who works long hours in the business and never has real time to work on it. I know because I’ve been there, not just for my own business interests, but also in supporting others.

Over the last fifteen years I’ve worked with SMEs across the UK, China and the USA. And I’m sad to say I’ve seen the same thing happening over and over again. Business owners work long hours to keep it running. Of course, the ironic thing is that many of these people set up their own enterprise to give them more time to do things ‘outside of work’, yet now they find themselves stuck working in their business.

Listen and act on advice

I set up my first business in 2004. At my first meeting with my new accountant, she handed me a copy of Michael E. Gerber’s book, “The E myth revisited”. She told me to read it before we next met.

Like most entrepreneurs at that time, I was busy working on my new business, creating contacts, networking and writing proposals so I didn’t have time for reading about business while actually in business. After all, I thought to myself, I have an MBA from a top business school, and years of corporate experience so why did I need another book?

It wasn’t until a few years later that I picked up the book again and began to take it in… if only I had read it when my accountant had instructed me to!

Value time

Fast forward to 2010 and I started to work with business owners wanting to grow and exit their businesses. The strategies we developed started with ‘getting the owner out of the way’. Too often, the owner is the blockage to the growth of the business, and therefore obstructs the potential value the business could achieve.

Working on the business is about understanding a number of various aspects. The first is the value of time. That is the value the founder puts on their time and the amount they can ‘earn’ per hour for their time relative to the cost of doing a task.

The second thing that a founder needs to remember (or indeed recall) is the reason they set up their business in the first place. Many owners do it because they simply want to work for themselves (and that’s the start of the problem) while others want to change the world in different ways. They want to create something that’s bigger than them but still they get ‘stuck’ running the business, working in it not on it.

Too ‘hands-on’

When I look back to 2000, I was working for a small media agency. The owner was ‘keen to sell’ one day and even offered me a percentage of the business when it happened. With little progress to realise that dream, I left the agency in 2004 to pursue other opportunities. Recently, I saw that the company had at last been sold, some 19 years later.

One of the issues I saw first-hand in that agency was the owner’s need for everything to be approved by him. After all it was ‘his business’. And that issue is the same for most owners. Far too many see it as their ‘baby’ and are sometimes ‘afraid’ to actively delegate to others in the team, so they perpetuate the need for them ‘in the business’.

One of the biggest issues for business owners, of all sizes of organisations, apart from stifling the growth of the firm, is the impact or burden of the business on their shoulders. Sadly, stress for some can also be the downfall of not just the business but the owner and his or her relationships and health too.

Stepping back

Yet it doesn’t have to be like that. With stress impacting the lives of many people in the 21st Century, entrepreneurs can help themselves by taking a step away from the business, through active delegation and working with other suppliers, rather than doing all the work that they used to do as the business grows.

The key to stepping back is to actively engage employees and allow them to take on responsibility for both tasks and functions. Building a clear organisational structure, with allocated responsibilities for functional activities, will enable a number of critical processes to happen.

Firstly, it will free up time for the founder to work on the business, secure in the knowledge that the required tasks that they used to perform are now being completed. This in itself can have a major impact on the growth potential of the business.

Secondly, tasks that had been ‘left’ in the past get done by the appropriate people with the appropriate skills. These are the jobs that were often on the business owner’s list but just kept being put off as they weren’t as important as others.

And finally, the biggest benefit is that the owner can choose what to do with his or her time. They can take time off to do whatever they want, or they can invest that time back into the more strategic elements of the business, like re-engaging with the real reason they set it up in the first place – the purpose.

By taking this approach both the business and business owner benefits. Both will start to grow, stress and frustration will decrease and, importantly, the company will become a better place to work. The culture will change, engagement will go up and people will enjoy working for the firm (again).

And that’s not all. The end result of better engagement, improved culture, renewed focus on purpose and better systems is increased profitability.

So, taking a step back and up, bringing in a team who can do things (better in many cases) will ultimately boost profits. And when systems and revenue come together, the value of the business goes up too.


We are all Human and we all make Mistakes!

We all make Mistakes!

And you know what? It’s OK.

Today I noticed a mistake at about 1215 that took me a few hours to sort out. It was frustrating to say the least. 

I told myself all sorts of things that didn’t help me emotionally in the moment.

But guess what? 

I sorted it all out. It will cost me a small amount of money but everything else will be OK. No one was hurt; it’s only me that will have a bit of a change in my plans. In the long run nothing else will be effected.

and in the end, it will be forgotten about until I next read this blog post!

My mistake, just for my sake in the future, was to book my return flight from Dubai back to London on the wrong day. I intended to book a flight after 4pm but that wasn’t available so I looked on the airline website and saw they had a 0225 flight in the morning. That would work perfectly I thought. And so I booked it.

I made my plans around that booking which worked perfectly for me. I would finish work with my client at around 2pm, would have an afternoon and evening to see Dubai and then would head to the airport and fly home at 0225. Back for 0625 to London and home by 9am to see my family…

All sounded great.

And then today I checked my flights to confirm my airport parking…

Instead of booking 0225 the following morning I had booked 0225 on the morning I finished the course with my client… therefore I was due to fly home 24 hours BEFORE I intended! Doh!

It wouldn’t have been a major problem if I could just change my flight.. but the flights were full and the next available was £1090 more expensive!

When I noticed this I immediately went into a bit of emotional shock. 

“How could I have been so stupid!; How did I make such a simple mistake? you Fool!”

After a number of checks online I chose to ring the airline. The told me the same as I had found online. There was a huge jump in price plus a fee to change.

But then an amazing thing happened… the lady I was speaking too said, “Hold on a minute, let me check with my manager…”

And with that she asked some questions and came back on the line to confirm that in this instance they wouldn’t charge the fee to change the flight and could get me on a flight home in the afternoon the following day.

I was relieved. That lovely lady, Anushka, had saved me money and helped me out.

I paid the fee and all was sorted.

But I still was emotionally beating myself up repeating the same “How could I have been so stupid!; How did I make such a simple mistake? you Fool!”

Something had to change. 

I later had a coaching session with my coach, Anne.

She helped me put things in perspective. She helped me rationalise that we all make Mistakes! It was only an admin error and everything had now been sorted (well almost, I just now need to confirm another night in a hotel!)

She helped me also look on the ‘bright side’ (my words not hers) I could now have an evening relaxing in Dubai and have a morning to do what ever I chose. All was OK.

She also helped to understand that, in business and in life, some things never go to plan, and that’s ok.

We must all be prepared for things to go wrong at some stage. If we do that we can put our energy into our life and not dwell on the mistakes we make – for mistakes are normal. As long as we (I) learn from our mistakes we can move forwards safe in the knowledge that all is OK. After all ‘people do that best they can with the resources they have.’

And for that I am truly grateful.

Thank you Anne and Anushka at BA.

Return on Investment and Gym Membership?

Return on Investment and Gym Membership?

Have you ever been to the gym? Did you get fit? Did you feel healthier?
I bet you did?
However, I am sure you will have heard the story about the person who joins the gym after Christmas to get them fit and to keep them to their New Years Resolution. They pay their money. They read the leaflets and books. They tell their friends….
But other things get in the way of them actually going to the gym. 
When their membership comes to an end and they are asked politely if they want to join up for the following year what do they do? 
They Complain.
They complain that the gym didn’t work for them. They didn’t get value from it.
Well Surprise surprise. Who would have guessed it!
They then go back to their old ways, or more precisely they continue doing what they’ve always done. 
Those pictures of them looking good, those internal thoughts they had of them feeling healthy vanish.
And who do they blame? The gym… ‘they didn’t make it easy for me?’; ‘the times didn’t work’; blah blah blah…
Now the point is this…. you only get the results you expect if you put in the effort.
Return on Investment only comes from a change in behaviour.
RoI follows RoB (thank you to Suki and Tom from Shirlaws for this one).
It’s the same with anything you do. If you want results you have to do something different. It’s no use carrying on the same and then blaming others for your lack of return. Yes, you know who you are don’t you?
So as you go about your life today just consider for a minute what changes you want to make so that you can reap the rewards of your investments.


With the summer holidays now over and the Olympic games closed this last week has been the time for the World’s Paralympians to take the stage in London. Tonight has been billed as the ‘Blue Riband’ event night – the mens T54 800 metres and the mens T44 100m finals. Events run by men on blades and in specially designed racing wheelchairs.

Today has also seen Hannah Cockcroft win the womens T34 200metres and Sarah Storey win her 4th gold (and now David Weir wins the 800m and Jonny Peacock win the 100m finals after two ‘false’ starts). I sit and watch these young athletes in amazement. Amazment for many things – the athletic ability of all these inspirational men and women; their determination and the comaraderie they all display. I don’t think many people ever expected the paralympics to be so amazing. It’s been compelling viewing. All the athletes can be justifiably proud of their achievements. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many emotional days and nights as I have had watching these games. Every day I am further amazed. Well done to everyone who made these games so wonderful. This is what life is about. Thank you!

how long is too long?

It’s almost 5 years since I last sat down to write a post here… what a lot has happened in that time. back in 2007 when I last posted we were almost five years from London 2012 – and here we are now almost at the end. These Olympic games have been a great time for me to reflect on the past and enthuse about the future. I reflect on the past when I think back to where I was on the day the games were annouced. I was in London on a sales course with my friend Marcus. I was only 4 or so years into my personal business journey.

Now, in August 2012 I have put another 5 years onto that journey. Back then i set some goals for my business, and for my personal life, much like many of the athletes in the Olympics in London 2012 did one year later in Beijing 2008.

I am pleased to say I have achieved most of my personal goals in that time. For example I set out to run the london marathon in 2008 and did so. I then ran another 3 marathons over the next three years and this year finished it in 3 Hours 26 minutes. Not a world beating time, but for me it was the culmination of many miles training. It was also the achievement of one of my goals – to run 26 miles 385 yards in under 3 hours 30 minutes.

I wrote that down. I developed a plan to get me there. I followed the plan. And I delivered.

Doing it against myself was the easy bit. I had only my self and a clock to beat.

Those great athletes in today’s Olympic Games have not just their own PB to achieve but also they have the chance of beating other athletes who are out to win and that’s when things get a little tougher.

In business it’s just the same. we can set ourselves personal targets or we can set world beating targets. The choice of what to go for is down to the business and its’ owner. All we then need to do is follow the plan.

(In the last 5 years I have also joined my business with another great business – Shirlaws. You can find out more by visiting

marketing methods

This morning’s REFER-ON meeting made me think! And at 7am that’s pretty impressive.

We all spend time and money going out, meeting people and generally networking. But how much time and money do we spend actually marketing our businesses – I mean real marketing. I know some of you get it, but others don’t – me included.

When I set up my business I had wonderful ideas about how I would promote what I did – and I should have done as I had just spent 4 years in a marketing and PR agency. But the fact is I only did the basics – I networked with other business people and I developed my website (on my own I might add). I didn’t make time for the other marketing because I was ‘busy’ and wanted to ‘do it myself!)

Now, three and a half years later I have developed a good network with small and medium size business owners. I have a great reputation with my clients, but, and here’s the problem, I haven’t yet managed to build my relationships up outside of my networking groups – I haven’t actually marketed myself or my business.

So, what can I do?

The answer: do what I had planned to do (and more) four years ago.

And that’s what this morning’s meeting made me think: how many ways are there for a small (but ambitious and growing business) to generate awareness of what it does. There are hundreds of ways – we just need to be creative, and (dare I say it – talk to the experts).

So, let’s keep up the networking BUT look at how networking fits into the overall plan for marketing your business – after all it is just one of the tools in the box.

(If you have ideas and tips on marketing that have worked for you please let me know).

good luck with promoting your business – let me know what’s worked and what needs improvement.


It’s two weeks and plenty of networking sessions since the last post – last Friday I went along to the Spyda VIP networking session at the Hyatt on Portman Square. I like this group – it’s not produced any business for me yet but there is a quality about the people that attend that make it different. Claude did a good job getting a few more guests in for the meeting so the room had a good buzz about it.

I always learn something from this group – this time it was all about filling your marketing pipeline from zero upwards. This means not just focusing on the sales you make at your optimum price, but looking at what you can do between zero and your typical project price. Let me explain…if your typical project price is £5000 then you probably go looking for projects where there is a high probability that you will win work at this level. But what about all that value you could provide to your clients, and prospects upto this level.

* what can you give away for free that is of VALUE to people?
* what can you sell at a low purchase price that is of VALUE
* what additional items can you sell at higher prices that provide even more value to your clients and prospects?

How many people have thought about this before – you win business from people you know, like and trust. And what better way to gain trust over time than to actually give away some of your knowledge! Wow – that’s powerful!

How much knowledge do you give away for FREE – NOTHING – absolutely zero! I’ll bet that not many of you do this.

In essence I think that this is the real element that makes networking work.

If I continually go along to a networking group and take – as plenty of people do – just look at your average Business Ref/ Networking group – they are full of needy desperate people who only want to take.

So ask yourself two questions before you go to your next networking session:

– what can I GIVE AWAY to the group, or an individual F.o.C!
– How can I build trust with the people in the room?

Because if you’re not building trust then you’re certainly not going to benefit long term from the networks you create.

Have a great networking week, I look forward to hearing how it went in the future


Neworking for success

I’ve just returned from a morning networking meeting – I’ve been to many of these over the last few years – some are useful , some are dull, some lack energy – this one added to my knowledge and to that of the whole group (I hope).

Networking is one of those things that many business people do as a way of developing their business. The emphasis here is on THEIR BUSINESS. Those people that actually succeed at using networking to develop their business do so by helping other people develop theirs first.

I must admit it took me some time to realise this – I was one of those who first went networking to win business – and was frustrated because my network group was doing anything for me. But now I know what I was doing wrong – I was always trying to take!

It’s a simple lesson but one that needs to be learned quickly if you are to succeed in the world of small and large business.

To get technical Emerson wrote something similar to this in his laws of compensation – – in this one thing he said was “Give and it shall be given you”. This applies very well to business and especially t networking – the more you give, the more you get.

So, this morning I felt that the group all gave more and so ultimately, I believe will get more.

Have an outstanding day – how can you give more – you never know what it might bring back.