How to Achieve Business Goals Like an Olympian

Throughout the London 2012 Olympics, which are heading into their second week we have witnessed feats of extreme dedication and human drive. These athletes have not become overnight successes, many toil  for a decade or more in their sports before finishing on the podium. What they do have in common is the intense desire to achieve success and the knowledge that this is their time to shine, to lay it all on the line.

How can we harness the same dedication, perseverance and patience to achieve our own entrepreneurial goals?

Start with a Long-Term Plan – Finish with Today’s Plan

I remember starting my business with plan which had the next 3-5 years outlined with specific steps and performance measures. This is very similar to the way high performance athletes train. Each Olympic cycle is called a quadrennial, which is broken down into smaller and smaller segments until the details for each training day are specified. Do the same with your business. How often are you taking the time to sit-down, review, adjust and plan?

Find the Internal Flame

Find an intrinsic reason to reach your goal. This will light the fire within that will burn no matter what others say or which obstacles you come across because it can’t be put out! It took Brent Hayden three Olympics to stand on the podium, that is 12 years. Since he was young double leg amputee Oscar Pistorius has had an intense desire to run in the Olympics; Friday he did and reached the semi-finals of the 400m in Track and Field! Having a meaningful reason for reaching your business goals keeps you motivated.

Set Performance Goals

Athletes set performance based goals, not results based.  To reach the Olympics athletes must meet specific performance criteria to qualify in events preceding. In a business goals of $X income or $Y profit (which are results) need to be broken down into what needs to be done on a daily basis to achieve them. For example how many widgets do need to sold or how many clients need to booked or called?

Be in it for the Long Haul – Celebrate Everyday Wins

Olympians don’t step onto the field of play without years of dedication to their sport. Entrepreneurs need be in it for the long haul. Starting and growing a business is not for the faint of heart, but it has been the most enjoyable part of my working life.

Sure, some businesses launch and have tremendous success early on, then they burn and crash like those rockets we made as kids. Instead ride a the wind like a kite. Keep your hands on the string, but as the winds change learn to change strategies with it so that you can soar for as long as possible.  Each day has at least one success; smile and celebrate it! Be patient, long-term success is much more rewarding.

Do Just Enough with Appropriate Volume and Intensity

Olympians do put a lot of effort into their training, however there is always a balance between stressing the body enough through training for it to both physically and mental adapt and incorporating appropriate recovery strategies. Entrepreneurs need to do the same to avoid mentally breaking down; they are notorious for neglecting vacation time.

There will be times in business when you have to do more work to get a project completed or launch new producted but, with appropriate planning you can add periods of recovery after these intense and volume laden times. Pushing too hard each day in training often leads to over training or injury which sets athletes back weeks or even months. The art is to do just do enough to keep the momentum rolling so that the joy remains.

 

Keep it Simple

Business growth always adds complexity. Greater complexity adds to the mental strain so, keep examining your business to create more simplicity.

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4 Ways to Simplify Your Growing Business

Keeping things simple in an increasing complex environment is quite challenging.  In the beginning my business was quite simple, because everything was completed by me and I was the only person involved. However, as it grows it becomes increasingly layered with more complexity because there are more people and more processes to manage.  Even the concept “Open New Studio,” which seems simple has many steps and more things to consider than I initially thought.

My goal is create a culture where we are always striving to find new ways to eliminate steps so that our business becomes more efficient and less physiological and well as less psychologically taxing.  Moving, hiring new staff and opening a new space have made become acutely aware of the levels energy required when things are complex. So, this week I took some steps to regain control and simplify.

1. How to Create a Consistent Brand Image

 Our brand image is very important to me. Everything has to have a consistent level of professionalism, clean design and colours to it.  So, creating templates for our staff to write reports and programs was part of this. These templates are in word and include a style sheet.   We have particular colours, so those colour numbers (pantone, RGB and CMYK) need to be communicated to everyone who uses them.

 Paint companies don’t use pantones so, last Thursday I went to Dulux paints and colour matched three colours that are part of their permanent colour collection with our Pantone colours. This made it easier for the painters to pick up specific numbers and easier for us to match in future locations while increase my confidence that I would be happy with the overall design.

2. Hire a Payroll Service

I have been doing all our payroll which includes adding everything up, creating the paycheque in Quickbooks, sending out statements and paying payroll taxes. All of this takes time away from other activities I could do like gain new clients.  This week I decided a payroll service would suit us better because all I have to do is enter the pay information in the system and then enter a general ledger statement into our accounting system.

3. Pricing, Services and Product Offers

If you have more than one SKU – then you know how complicated it can get.  Last Friday we sat down to figure out our pricing schedule for new and current services. Making it as simple and straight forward as possible makes it easy for new staff to sell and deliver. Also,  our clients will more easily understand what we offer.  Alleviating confusion and reduces chances of someone being over or undercharged.

4. Electronic Funds Transfers for Better Cash Flow

To manage cash flow, make it easy to pay bills and have invoices paid. Often regular clients means that you have regular cash flow.   This is especially important in the fitness club and personal training environments.  With EFTs clients have a predictable payment schedule and you, the business owner can build your EFTs up to point where it at least meets your fixed expenses.   We also decided to have one of our third party payers complete EFTs so that our payments are not delayed by mail delivery or having to go to the bank to make the deposits. It is also possible to set-up direct debits for vendors and employees or sub-contractors  (you don’t have to wait for them to receive and cash the cheque).

These are just a few ways to simplify your business. Can you think of any others?

Thank you for reading my 75th article on this blog. 

Reducing Drag Increases Profits

Do you ever feel as though you and your profits are being dragged down by inefficient processes? I do. With a new location opening soon we have been thinking a lot about new service offerings, how to price them and how to complete them efficiently to maximize profit while maintaining quality.  There are several types of drag psychological, physical and systematic that all reduce profits, employee motivation and productivity.

Figuring out what best prices are reflects the value the services provide as well as how much time it takes to provide the service. Measuring profitability is usually done with a break-even analysis and a contribution to margin, however one way we have been thinking about it also what resources (variable expenses) including provider time each service uses.


Reducing Systematic Drag to Increase Profits

We have never priced based on time, but more on value. Our focus is to provide more value to our clients by leveraging our time effectively. It became very apparent recently  that even though our billing rate for one service is high, it still takes  an enormous amount of time that could be used to provide other services to more clients.


 I spent about four hours trying to format a report versus the one hour it should have taken to simply review it, sign-off on it and then send it. This still didn’t account for the additional time it took our staff to create the report which was much longer than it should or could have been.  Entrepreneurs are meant to be creating business rather than working soley in the business. 

How to Reduce Completion Time While Maintaining Quality

Systematic drag occurs when processes have extra steps, steps that take too long or steps which eat up valuable resources. Like those of the business owner.  Entrepreneurs rarely account for their time in financial terms. If my billable hours are at $80 per, then 4 hours is $320.  There goes nearly half of our profit on that service.

Another area I noticed that reports were taking too long was that our template was very slow to edit, which forces staff to first write in a basic word document then cut and paste with the final step of me going through it and editing it. This template was also not allowing us to create documents larger than three pages.  Writing reports quickly become onorous and staff become unmotivated (including myself).

As leaders of organizations it is our role to reduce the amount of drag in our business so that our employees and our profits benefit.  This weekend I decided to stop being scared of MS Word templates and make a project of creating templates for us to use which was easy do and cost effective. We are now able to write directly into these templates which also create multiple pages. This investment of a few hours is going to pay off big dividends in the future.

In my example by saving 3 hours, we increase profits by $240 on that service alone. This also frees up an additional 3 hours to focus on other revenue generating activities like meeting with referral sources.  As well, these templates make it easier for our staff to complete the activity, thus reducing the time to completion so that they can book other clients in the newly freed time.  


Simply put:

If you charge $100 per service and it takes 2 hours to complete you are billing $50 per hour.
If you pay someone $50 to complete it then they are earning $25 per hour and so is the business.
Reducing the time to completion by 1 hour means that you now earn $50 for the first hour and have capacity in the second hour to earn another $50, thus doubling both your profits and the income of the employee.


Now multiply that by the number of times you provide the service over the year. That is your net increase profits.


Resources

How to create a custom  letterhead template in word – click here.

To make it fully functional ensure that you also save a custom style with your brand colours and fonts that applies to all documents created with the template.


Can you think of any other ways to increase efficiencies?

Facing the Cold Hard Truth for Enough Growth

While supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement complain of excess spending and compensation packages of corporations and banks I have been wondering what is Enough?  Part of question comes from trying to figure out how to protect my business and myself from the financial Aftershock.  To answer this I have to continually be ok with facing the Cold Hard Truth about my particular situation and the economy. To succeed I have to come to Common Purposes with my fiancée, my family, our clients and my staff.

All of these are books I recently read that have given valuable insight into how prevent personal and business financial crises, grow my business and lead into the next few years.  Does my business need to grow to become a large organization like some big box gyms with twenty or more locations? No, but a business does need to grow, evolve and remain profitable as the markets, society and environments change. This growth needs to be done at manageable so that the owner and staff stay sane and don’t have their own meltdowns.

Achieving Common Purpose

The original vision of Lifemoves, locations in at least one Fitness World in each community is no-longer. Fitness World’s new ownership and I were unable to come to agreement in May, so we are looking for new space and a new direction. This new direction has been set (which will be revealed in the appropriate time frame).  Engaging your team in discussions based on the question “what is next?” or “how can we improve?” leads to a two major values: 1. team members feels more valued because they are making distinct positive contributions; 2. the conclusions of the conversations become the common purpose.

On Friday, we had a very productive team meeting at a coffee bar that lead to an understanding of what our long-term goals and challenges are as well as knowledge of the steps needed to get there.

Facing the Cold Hard Truth

Growing up with parents who were both librarians (information junkies) and one who understood the power of databases (he created a school library system) means that I know the intrinsic value of having accurate searchable data. Our records give of an idea of what has happened in the business.  Accurate records enable a business to make appropriate analyses and decisions. Sometimes this data can be chilling.

Last year I hired a couple of new Kinesiologists with idea of floating the hourly rate with the current session fees that my other Kinesiologist was booking until the new hires were fully booked.  That all crashed when the original employee quit less than a month later taking much of that business with them. Action should have been taken a lot sooner to right this situation because it put Lifemoves in a financial hole that we dug out of, but it was an arduous and long task.

As we move from a single location to several remote locations I am thinking more and more about our records management system. How can maintain communications, accurate information and financial control?  I am always aiming to build this company so that we are mobile.  Adding more employees and more locations adds to the complexity of our systems. However we still need to continually evolve our records management system towards Canadian and ISO standards (which I discovered recently) while keeping it as simple as possible.  
Gaining the perspective of your employees also helps the business improve, create new initiatives and understand our strengths as well as our weaknesses.  Although, Aftershock primarily describes the future of the U.S. economy Canadians can still take home a few lessons from it.  The major one for me is how to position my business in the future. Health care will take hit in the coming years however, it won’t be as bad as discretionary spending such as retail. We need to shift further from a fitness company to a health care provider to continue to grow in a “melting economy.”

Figuring Out What is Enough?

Everyone will have their own determining factors for what is enough when it comes to life, money and business.   
  • Enough is being a market leader in several municipalities. 
  • Enough is being able to pay our accounts receivable on time.
  • Enough is being to able people full-time in a career which they are passionate about and in a company that they are thrilled to work for.
  • Enough is being able to provide appropriate benefits for our employees so that they are taken care of.
  • Enough is having zero commercial credit card debt – business and personal
  • Enough is having a flexible work schedule to enjoy recreational pursuits when I desire
  • Enough is being and to contribute more to my community
  • Enough is have $1.00 more than I need.
  • Enough is feeling like my family and I are financially secure and will be secure as we age.
  • Enough is having loving, trusting, mutually supportive and meaningful relationships.

Please share what enough and the cold hard truth means to you? How are you going to protect your business and yourself from the financial meltdown?

References

David Wiedemer, Robert A. Wiedemer and Cindy S. Spitzer Aftershock: How to Protect Yourself in the Next Global Financial Meltdown

How to Keep a Clear Mind After a Computer Failure

People often panic after a computer failure for several reasons: 1. we have developed so much dependence on them and we aren’t sure how to live without them; 2. they don’t have adequate back-up systems; 3. they don’t have an alternative system in place that can be used.

As David Allen of Getting Things Done says, our minds become cloudy when know there is so much to do, but are not clear on all that needs to be done, how to do it or even where to begin. My mind became overcast when my laptop which I am dependent upon to conduct my business wouldn’t boot up at 9:00 PM on Sunday.

Just before I purchased the five year old Toshiba, I also bought a desktop – exactly for this type of occasion. Since the screen was at my work office I had to cart the tower, keyboard and mouse on the bus to North Vancouver. After booting it up, I discovered that it had not been updated in a long time. Nor did I have a written system for getting back up and running.

How much work that needs to be re-done depends on how often computer files are backed-up. Having redundant systems in place minimizes the amount of downtime businesses have when one system crashes. This past week this lesson hit me squarely. After nearly five years my laptop decided that it no longer wanted to boot-up on Sunday night. Luckily the last time I backed-up most of my files as a few days earlier and some of the work information is located on a cloud system, accessible from anywhere.

Operational downtime also included going to get the problem laptop diagnosed. It was really bad but, thankfully they were able back-up the hard drive. Since repairs would have been $500, even with an unstable computer it was time to buy a new one. Having the desktop enabled me to continue operations at a minimal level – because I had access to our cloud, the files on the external hard drive and our online booking system. This process was clearly going to take most of several days, days that I had planned to use for writing my articles for IMPACT.

My mind was cloudy trying to make decisions on day-to-day operational tasks because dealing with this situation required a multitude of decisions including researching laptops available then purchasing it, figuring out where all my software was to reinstall and how to retrieve lost passwords that are so often conveniently stored in the browsers. The process of getting the primary system back up and running was a big distraction which would have been a lot easier had I made sure that my desktop was updated at least once per year, had a systematic back-up and if I had printed instructions of what needs to be done to get a new computer loaded. In my boxes of original program disks it is difficult to figure out what is still useful versus what is left-over from past systems.

A regular back-up system needs to be in place to ensure that all non-program files are saved on a regular basis, maybe once a week or even once every couple of days. It really depends on how much data changes on a daily basis. Keep back program disks together in a box or if they download files now often file downloads on a USB drive and store with their registration information in a text file or spreadsheet. Solutions also include a larger external hard drive or investing in an online cloud so that back-ups off-site and are safe from fire and water disasters (think of Australia).

What did keep my mind clear is that my own physical training sessions took priority. Completing each session gave me confidence that something on that day was done well. Taking physical breaks clears the mind. Take heed, make sure that you have a system and where all files are organized in a systematic way. Also, think about how many different ways your business could keep running despite various disasters.

Doing so will drastically reduce your mental fatigue and stress level by giving you piece of mind when something does happen. After all, it is only a matter of time. Another piece to have organized is passwords in a safe secure place so that you only have to remember one of them to retrieve the rest. Having a system in place that deals with the initial computer crash all the way to reinstall will make the process a lot quicker, keeping your mind clear.

How to Build a Thriving Health and Wellness Practice: Review

Building a thriving and growing health, wellness and rehabilitation business is something I am always striving for.

As a Kinesiologist I know that we graduate from our Kinesiology or Human Kinetics programs with very few business skills; they all learned as we practice. During the last ten years I have had to learn through weekend workshops, business coaching , reading and watching videos or listening to podcasts as well learning from what succeeded and what didn’t.

This weekend I attended an all day workshop on how to build a thriving wellness practice at the Vancouver Yacht Club, organized by Lotus Counselling Services and Chasidy Karpiuk & Associates. This series of seminars started with accounting and bookkeeping, progressed through business planning and finished with building and branding. We also had the unexpected pleasure of having our headshot photo taken. I think it was well worth going to as an opportunity to network with a variety of health and wellness professionals including another Kinesiologist from Fort St. John. This was really a quick business bootcamp which gave wellness professionals a kick start and some of the tools to build their practice.

I remember being in the same place as some of the participants who were starting to transition from being employees to being the self-employed. This was when I was having great difficulty finding work in my industry so I decided to start my own business. This business struggled even after I participated in a Small Business BC Self-Employment program. I still didn’t entirely understand what it was going to take to succeed. Lifemoves® is my second business which I am very focused on making it a success. I folded my previous one I rebranded in 2007 the company brand no longer met my current personal brand’s needs.

Whether or not they stay on their own or build to multiple practitioners is up them and what they want to get from being self-employed. Building a thriving practice is a continual process of trying different things, searching for new knowledge and continually making changes as you progress towards greater success.

Keys to Building a Thriving Practice

  • Pay attention to your financials, in the beginning every month. This enables you to make adjustments as needed.
  • Maintain good bookkeeping habits. This helps your accountant at the end of each year to complete your taxes.
  • Set Goals, create a business plan with strategies to achieve them. Re-evaluate.
  • Be clear on who your market is and isn’t.
  • Save money by doing a waste audit. Sometimes it is time to pull the plug on a project that is draining resources
  • Be aware of your billable and non-billable hours. Earnings / Non-Billable + Billable Hours = Hourly Rate
    • Look for ways to be more efficient during your non-billable hours
  • What are your political, environmental, social and technological constraints?
  • Define your strengths and weakness. Play to your strengths.
  • Understand key threats and opportunities.
  • Build a story around your business which is the core of your business brand. Communicate that in as many ways as you can, but stay consistent.
  • Ace customer/client service – this is how you gain long-term clients as well as referrals.
  • Use social media as one portion of your 7 touch points: Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogs, YouTube, Twitter are just five ways to contribute to the conversation and communicate with your clients.
  • Have a website and blog at a minimum. Referred clients will search for you and evaluate your level of professionalism and whether or not you can provide the appropriate solution for them. This is part of brand a reputation building.
  • Use images that are appropriate to your market and that create emotion and connection. Ensure these are consistent with your brand’s story.

As an entrepreneur I always set goals, create a plan, evaluate progress and then redefine the goal or the plan. During these sessions we shared our goal and suggested different strategies to meet them, mine is develop a team of 5 Kinesiologists at the Steve Nash Fitness World in North Vancouver. This weekend’s workshop helped me to identify some areas where I can focus to take Lifemoves® to the next level. I do recommend that this workshop to anyone who is trying to start/build a wellness practice; click here to find out when the next one will be held.

Did you attend this workshop at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club? Can you think of any other ways to create a thriving health, wellness and rehabilitation practice?

How to Succeed by Winning Each Period

“Win each period,” was ingrained into my psyche while I was volunteering as a student athletic trainer for the University of Guelph Women’s Hockey team. This mantra re-told by their coaches during each intermission between periods, at every hockey game. When the team won each period, they won the game; this was about execution and taking appropriate action.

How do you “win each period” to succeed? Once the goal is set it is about doing everything in your power to execute the action steps necessary to get there. In ten years of kinesiology practice I always coached clients that by completing each step of their fitness or rehab program, their end goal will be reached.

This mentality is the same in business, life and sport. First, determine your goal, write it out and place it somewhere highly visible. Now take this goal and break it down into smaller action steps. How detailed you get is completely up to you.

What is a period? The periods are defined in various ways. David Allen of “Getting Thing Done,” fame asks people to align their 50,000 elevation goals with their runway action steps. In business your outcome is a result of your actions; even in-action is an action, because you are choosing to do something else. In sport strength and conditioning – your fitness level today is a measure of the training you have done in the 30-42 days previous.

A period is any length of time that you desire. Often in business we speak about Quarters, but quarterly reports are an after affect of what has happened in the months, weeks, days and hours that are part of that Quarter. Winning each period is about breaking down your goal into a set of actions, such as an Annual Plan. From there take the annual plan and break into to quarters, months, weeks and days.

There are often things that come up in the day that must be taken care of in that day however, set out each day and week with a few items that must get done for you to be successful. Ask yourself what are a few actions that you can take today that will progress you towards your goal.

How do I stay focused during each period? When evaluating new tasks and projects, ask yourself these questions –”will this _______ take me towards or away from my goal?” and “is this something that I can be the very best at?(my hedgehog)” We are on a path that is constantly diverging, with constant decisions to go left or right. How often do you evaluate that you are winning each period? Today I set out to complete a sub 40 minute Grouse Grind, in this case it is broken down in quarters. I knew that each quarter had a desired lap time. As well, that I had to be at the 3/4 by 31 minutes to complete finish under 40 minutes. At the start my Garmin Forerunner was set to alert me every 10 minutes. I had two places to evaluate my progress, every 10 minutes and at each quarter. Each time I reached a lap point or the alert chimed I adjusted my pace so that finished in 38:48.

How closely do I monitor each period? Don’t forget to review. The more closely you pay attention to your own metrics, the more adaptable you can be to changing environments. A win can be the fleeting moment of reaching your goal or knowing that your plan is working and progress is being made. You don’t have to scrutinize every detail, but look for trends. Are you wandering away or towards your destination? I didn’t pay attention to my financial metrics for awhile and then it was much more difficult to get back on course. The lesson is that the more closely you monitor your wins/losses the easier it will be to get that next win and stay on your desired path.

Resources

(two of my favourite business books)

Allen, David Getting Things Done

Collins, Jim (hedgehog) Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t

How do you evaluate success?

Being OK with Sold Out

Today I had to tell someone there would be a two-week wait for an assessment because her limited time choices were not available. In the past, instead of holding my ground and sticking to my booking schedule, which does have other openings, I would have extended my day into the evening just to accommodate her. She decided to think about the assessment further before committing to a time that was on her day off. As a service professional and entrepreneur, I am learning to be okay with, “Sold Out”. As entrepreneurs we are in control of our own schedules and energy levels; this control is one reason I started my own business.
Health professionals have this deep desire to help everyone. Each time I speak with a potential new client, I feel empathy for their pain and feel their sense of urgency to reduce the amount of pain they are in and improve their functional capacity. However, what good am I to anyone if I myself am physically or mentally ill, or miserable and worn out?
I am still learning how to monitor my energy and the demands for my time. I have gone through cycles of being highly accommodating by booking clients during my own exercise times, as well as booking sessions into the late evening, just because I felt these clients “needed me,” to regaining a sense of balance and happiness that best suits me, so I give my peak performance during each session.

Part of managing my schedule and energy has been being clear with what time of day I am best at activities that require creativity versus those requiring detail, mathematics or logic. I have also learned how many sessions I can handle in a row, day or week. This means being okay with being “Sold Out”, telling people that I am booking for next week and keeping true to my own needs to maintain my physical, mental and emotional well being.
Being “Sold Out” or having a waiting list is something to be proud of, not something to mope about. It is a sign that you are doing something right, that you found a niche that needs to be filled and that you are in high demand. If you want to connect with and affect more people, try leveraging your time and expertise a little differently, such as hiring an assistant to pass on your knowledge to or write an e-book. Maybe you could teach a course/webinar or do group sessions. After all, there are only 24 hours in the day.
By looking at your schedule, booking time for yourself into each day and then placing everything else around you, you will be able to maintain your own standards, passion for your business and prevent burn-out. Be okay with Sold Out.

Grow Your Business by Becoming Its Architect

I have now been a Kinesiologist for 10 years. Most of that time has been working for others and solely focused on my own success. As a business owner and entrepreneur it is now time to figure out what I do on a regular basis that keeps in me in high demand, why I am respected by my peers and well regarded by my loyal clients.

Understanding what processes I have, how I deliver and where I am positioned will enable me to duplicate this and find others with similar skill sets who can succeed within my business. As a leader I strongly believe coaching our employees enhances our business.
It seems as though not many small businesses have their business processes documented. Lifemoves certainly did not. In 2009, I figured out that I needed to document all our processes so that we can effectively deliver the “Lifemoves Experience” which is our brand. We want every interaction anyone has with us to deliver a consistent feeling.
How we grow from two Kinesiologists to multiple locations without duplicating myself and keeping me as the creative entrepreneur is through business process management. I have started to document how I deliver my Kinesiology services using Lombardi Blueprint.
Blueprint is an effective and easy way to literally create a blueprint for your business, which you can communicate to stakeholders. At the moment I am not concerned with how I want my business to be, but rather how it is. We are focused on documenting the “As-Is” flow diagrams.
In the fitness industry it is widely known that members stay longer if they are involved in other services such as group exercise classes or personal training. We are including our clients, team members and others who are touched by our processes to fully understand how they perceive us and what their interactions are like.
This is a long-term endeavour, but intuitively I know it will have long-term payoffs. We will be able to implement systems that can be duplicated in other locations, document problems as well as make suggestions for improvement. This will remove a big well that stands between us and massive growth.
I encourage all business owners to take a look at Lombardi Blueprint and become an architect of your own business.