Business tips

Below are our business tips.

These tips are prepared by Lesley Ann Grimoldby, Managing Director of Switzer Business Coaching. For a free business assessment with a Switzer Business Coach, contact 1300 794 8937.

We are business coaching specialists and we have proven, guaranteed systems for helping business owners achieve the life they truly want for themselves through their business.

Whether your frustrations be lack of time, money or good people (or all three) we show you how to resolve them once and for all, so you have a business that works for you, not because of you.

11 tips: leadership
June 2009

Looking for the last word when it comes to leadership? We consult the experts for inside advice

1. “I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job.” Darwin Smith, Kimberly-Clark (former CEO).

2. “If your door is always closed and you are never available, your people will become disconnected from you and from your vision.” Peter Irvine, Gloria Jean’s Coffees.

3. “The three most important qualities of leadership are vision, courage and tenacity. Other qualities are important, but lacking those three nothing will work.” Brian Tracy, business author.

4. “Planning growth in your business also needs you to work on developing yourself as a manager and a leader. Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone and grow as a person as your business will be a reflection of you.” Duncan Lugstein, Corporate Technical Services.

5. “Compared to high-profile leaders with big personalities who make headlines and become celebrities, the good-to-great leaders seem to have come from Mars.” Jim Collins, author of Good to Great.

6. “The secret of success is determined by our daily agenda. Successful leaders understand that the success of a company is determined by the daily practice of what’s on that agenda.” John C Maxwell, author and leadership expert.

7. “Leadership is definitely something that can be taught – but you need the confidence and the people skills to truly lead.” Anne-Marie Syme, FAST.

8. “The most important thing in life is to be authentic and true to your own values, beliefs and personalities.” Tanya Plibersek, Federal Minister for Housing and the Status of Women.

9. “Entrepreneurs have the ability to dream about not only what is, they also dream about the possibilities of what is not.” Jane Mara, Intuitive Thinking.

10. “The breakthrough was recognising that while I had a flair for the industry, success would only come from hard work and a strong sense of purpose” Sue Lloyd-Williams, Victoria Racing Club.

11. “Power is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, then you aren’t.” Margaret Thatcher, former British PM.

Watch your time
June 2009

  • Learn to use your weeks, days, hours effectively
  • Write down everything you do for a week to see where your time is going
  • Your time is finite. Make sure you use it to your best advantage. Don’t waste it! .

Seven sure-fire tips: sales and marketing
May 2009

Looking for the last word when it comes to sales and marketing? We consult the experts for insider’s advice.

1. “You need to market your firm to potential employees with the same vigour you use to attract customers.” Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits

2. “Networking is about listening. It’s not about shaking hands and kissing babies and handing out a confetti of business cards.” Troy Hazard, The Edge

3. “The communications plan started from day one.'' Janine Allis, Boost Juice

4. “It was very hard to break into the local market with all the established swimwear brands, so we decided to go online. And we’ve never looked back!” Sean Ashby, AussieBum

5. “If you look at any growth company, they’ve always taken a different angle or a different value proposition to the incumbents because they can’t take the incumbents head on.” Richard Noon, Webjet

6. “Every impression you create should be a good one. Anyone in business must live in fear of creating a bad feeling in customers. This bad feeling is very bad for business.” Peter Switzer, Switzer Media

7. “It is hard to convince banks to do something that hasn’t been done before. You have to give them a good argument and show them it can be done.” Mary Nenke, Cambinata Yabbies

Look outside yourself for inspiration
May 2009

  • The big players don’t have to rule
  • Look for gaps in the market and you will find them
  • Brainstorm ideas. You never know what can come out of people’s minds, even over rugby and a beer!
  • Copy the best in business. They set great examples.

11 tips to get the best from your staff
April 2009

Make sure your team is a winning one. Encourage your employees to exceed expectations for their own growth, and for that of your business.

1. If you develop and encourage them, your staff can be an inspiration.

2. Hire sales people who really know clients or train them so they do.

3. Train management and staff regularly: it is an investment for your business.

4. Empowering your staff makes them feel they can make some decisions in the business and have a degree of ownership.

5. You can't expect to retain good staff unless you reward them.

6. Create a ‘family’ atmosphere to reduce staff turnover. Many people are happy working for others as long as they feel valued.

7. Have regular training to teach your business system.

8. Delegate key management tasks so staff understand everyone's role, including that of the principals. You can't hold on to or do everything yourself in your business and the art of delegating is something that needs to be learned.

9. Don't use half-measures with training. If you can't afford training in the early days then pass on as much information as you can to your staff. Then allocate part of your profits to training. It is always an investment in your business.

10. Use a staff mentoring or buddy system where experienced staff train new staff. Never leave a new member of staff to fend for themselves.

11. Integrate your staff cultures for better understanding and then better productivity. Tell people what you expect from the start, putting your goals and objectives in your mission statement, as well as any internal policies in writing, and prominently display them in your business. You will be surprised how staff will support them.

Get into action
April 2009

If you’re frustrated by government red tape, complain. It might bring about change that could make your life easier

Do a taskforce on yourself. What are you doing to frustrate your own business and personal growth?

Remember: if you want things to get better, you’ve got to get better at doing things

15 tips to get your message across
March 2009

Take on board these communications tips to make sure you attract customers’ attention – and keep it. We show you the secrets to be sure your business writing is spot on.

Good communication is fundamental for the success of your business. Without it, you can’t effectively reach those you need to reach, and you can’t sustain the relationships that, in turn, sustain your business.

Not every entrepreneur, though, has a Masters in English. For many, communication can prove to be a challenge at the best of times. And even for those business owners with a copywriter on board, they still have to draft emails and communicate effective briefs.

Your communication is an extension of your business, a representation of your brand. First impressions are said to last and few would like their first impression to be one riddled with spelling mistakes, poor grammar, and sentences that confuse the issue at hand rather than clarify it. It’s more important than ever to get potential client’s attention, and, more importantly, to hold it.

There are many reasons to make sure your business writing skills are on the money: relevant, informed and concise writing in the public sphere (this includes your website) positions you as an authority regarding matters pertinent to your industry. This is a great low-cost method for creating publicity for your business.

1. Plan what you need to communicate. What is your objective? Be sure not to dilute your message. If you’re likely to be distracted, write it in point form, and expand these points as necessary.

2. Don’t overcomplicate the issue. Keep your communication short and simple – consider it an economy of writing. The purpose of your efforts is to communicate an understanding, not to show off your literary prowess or your ability to quote the thesaurus verbatim. Time is money, so respect both your readers and yourself, and don’t waste time constructing superfluous sentences.

3. Be specific and avoid generalisations. By keeping your communication concise, you can direct your reader’s attention to where you want it to be and get your message across.

4. Avoid double negatives, such as ‘not unlikely’, ‘not unattractive’. These often impede understanding.

5. Spelling, grammar and punctuation are important. Fortunately, there are a lot of easy-to-follow style guides on hand to assist. Highly recommended is the Australian Style Manuel (John Wiley & Sons) Remember, spell check is not always spot on. There are a lot of things that can slip through to keeper, some common offenders being there, they’re and their, it’s and its and US spellings.

6. Structure your document in a way that encourages people to read it. Use headings, subheadings, numbered sections and bullet points where necessary. These should help communicate understanding, not hinder it. For example, a list is best communicated in point form, as you risk losing important information in the structure of a paragraph.

7. Engage your audience. Unless the occasion calls for a formal register, do not be afraid to use personal pronouns, like ‘we’ and ‘you’. Remember, communication is about building relationships.

8. Keep an eye on the length of your sentences, and don’t be afraid to use a full stop instead of a comma. The ideal sentence is 22 words long, so it’s a good idea not to stray too far from this as a general rule. A collection of long sentences can prove tedious, while consistently short sentences may be considered abrupt. While it’s important to vary your sentence length, clarity and precision must be the motivating factor. If you’re unsure, read your sentences out loud. If you run out of breath, your sentence is too long. If this is the case, consider breaking it up, or shortening it.

9. Similarly, if paragraphs are too long, it is easy for readers to lose your message and become disinterested. Ideally, keep paragraphs to between three and five sentences.

10. Avoid buzzwords, particularly their repetition.

11. Use sentence case for subheadings. This way, there is no need to worry about which words are proper nouns.

12. Use single spaces between sentences. Double spaces are dated and unnecessary.

13 Nothing is more unprofessional than mistakes in business documents. Play to your strengths instead of catering to your weaknesses: the cost of a good proofreader is nothing when compared to the damage you can invoke on your brand by skimping on their services.

14. Keep your writing relevant and informed at all times. In the public sphere (and this includes your website), good writing positions you as an authority regarding matters pertinent to your industry. This is a great low cost method for creating publicity for your business.

15. Consistency, above all, is key. This is at the crux of brand management and should not be underestimated.

Make yourself available
March 2009

Have business cards and distribute them frequently

Always be contactable

Always attempt to return calls, emails and faxes within 24 hours

Answer the phone with a smile

7 tips to improve your cash flow
February 2009

In the end, all the forecasts and accounting programs in the world are no compensation for getting more cash in the door. Here are some tips on how to improve your business’s cash flow. By Peter Switzer

Set your credit terms carefully. The need to extend credit to customers is a fact of life for most businesses, but it is important to set clear limits. Carefully research the standard credit period for your industry and make an honest assessment about the consequences of shortening your credit terms. Reducing your payment period from 90 to 60 days might lose you one customer, but if the other 99 will pay more quickly it could be worth it.

Make your debtors pay quickly. It is vital to master the art of debtor management. One suggestion is to ensure debtors know how much time they have by sending payment notices on different coloured paper – with 30 days to go, send a blue notice, 15 days an orange notice and bright red when payment is required immediately. Talk constantly with major debtors as payment deadlines approach, and perhaps pass by; the squeaky wheel often gets the oil. A small discount for early payment can also provide an effective incentive to put that cheque in the mail.

Pay your creditors slowly. No one ever said business was fair. Take advantage of credit terms where you can and prioritise costs according to the severity of the consequences for not paying. Wages, taxes and direct debits are at the top of the list, key suppliers second and everyone else last.

Smooth out the lumps. Know when lean cash flow patches are coming and plan accordingly. It is invariably more difficult to get debtors to pay at BAS time and over Christmas, so make sure you have a bit of leeway in your cash accounts to pay wages and other inflexible expenses during these periods. Equally, avoid funding major purchases from your business’s working capital unless you are sure you have the cash to cover it.

Use finance products effectively. Overdrafts, premium funding, lease facilities and cash flow funding products can all be excellent tools to help match a business’s cash supply with planned outlays if used sensibly. Even the business credit card can be a good way to ease the squeeze as long as you are sure the debt can be paid before interest kicks in.

Do not incur penalties. The Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Securities & Investments Commission both impose penalties for late lodgements or payments in some circumstances. Paying these debts first will save you money and stress.

Keep your hands out of the till. Discipline yourself to make cash drawings only in line with conservative cash flow forecasts. Cash drawings are effectively just another expense for your business and should be treated accordingly.

Take time out in order to save money
February 2009

Try to sometimes free yourself from your business so you can take a good look at what’s going on

Working too hard can mean you pay for things you don’t need. Slow down and see what you can save

If you can’t wrench yourself away from your business, get other people to do cost saving activities for you – such as a cost audit.

Ways to make service sparkle
January 2009

Outstanding customer service is one of the key ways to make your business grow. Peter Switzer shows you how to make sure both you and your staff are up to scratch.

Speak to customers – be cheerful and smile at people (frowns use more muscles than a smile does). Where possible, call people by their name.

Listen to your customers to find out what they really want from you.

Do things the way customers want them done.

Train your staff to treat your customers in a manner that you want them to be treated.

Make sure your customer knows what product or service you provide so they know exactly what they are getting from you.

Handle customer complaints with care and concern. Make sure they feel their business is important to you. Fix up possible mistakes and let your customer know you have.

Always return phone calls to customers.

Have a policy for telephone service and make sure it’s carried out by everyone in your organisation. Service involves the way the telephone is answered, the speed of response to a query and all aspects of contact with the customer.

Always turn up on time for your customers. If you are in the trades, or provide a service and you know you are going to be late delivering that service, call the customer and explain the reasons why you will be late.

Make sure you are always your customer’s first choice.

Don’t make promises to customers that you can’t keep.

Add value. From time to time, and within budget, provide your loyal customers with extra support or rewards.

Ask your staff and your customers what kind of service they would like and try to find ways to put any of these suggestions into practice.

Remember that there is consumer protection in Australia (The Trade Practices Act 1974 and fair trading legislation) and the last thing your business needs is to be in a court or tribunal for deceptive trade practices.

Thoroughly research your customers to gauge their needs and wants. Build a profile of the different types of customers you may come across and use this to tailor your service to meet their requirements

Be an expert on your service and industry. Your customers should be able to look to you and your staff for expert advice.

Add value to your service where you can. It may be as simple as offering a customer a cup of coffee when they visit.

Be predictable. Customers like to know what they should expect. Make sure your service is always of a consistently high standard.

Try to build morale with your regular customers. Everybody enjoys service when they feel it is personal.

Brush up on your communication skills. In today’s busy world many people forget their manners. Customers notice when staff are courteous and pleasant.

Always ask for feedback on your service. If you know your strengths and weaknesses, you have a much better chance of improving your service at large. And don’t think that because there hasn’t been any complaints, that your customers are all happy. You have to ask to find out for sure.

Start 2009 with a plan
December 2008

If you don’t already have one, set out a plan for each week in January 2009.

Set up your goals for the year ahead. Whether you think in calendar or financial years, January is either the beginning or the halfway mark and the time to think (or rethink) your plan.

Switzer business coach, Lesley Ann Grimoldby shows you how:

Set out what you want to achieve and your strategies for doing it.

Study the business – do a SWOT. Write down the business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Identify priorities to address. That is, the issues that have the greatest impact on the business and those which you have the highest ability to fix should head your list.

Make a list.

Put dates beside each item to show when each action will be done.

Motivate your staff
December 2008

Encourage your staff to better themselves

Let your staff know that you believe in them and their ability

Delegate jobs to staff, not just the bad jobs

Boost their morale by taking the time to talk to them and show them how to do tasks.

Get the balance right
November 2008

Do you live to work, or work to live? Many business owners would have a hard time answering this question, and an even harder time finding the time to do so! It is very easy to justify long hours in the name of growth, and maintaining that ever-elusive work-life balance can be quite the struggle. Here are some tips to make sure you stay on top of your business and not the other way around.

Learn to say ‘no’. Simple, yet incredibly effective.

Schedule your breaks – and take them! Just as you would schedule a conference call or a meeting, schedule some time away from your desk (and your work). Make sure that each day you do something that you really enjoy – go for a walk, do the crossword, or catch up with a friend. Stress accumulates and can hit you badly if you don’t do things to take the pressure down.

Turn off your phone and email for a set period every day. Blackberrys and the like are both a blessing and a curse for business owners – make sure that you control your business, and not the other way around.

Plan your longer breaks. Include your holidays into your business plan and religiously take them. It may cost you, and you will have to perhaps pay for someone you can trust to run your business while you are away. This is a difficult area for many in business, but the lesson here is – you are your business. If your health fails because you push yourself too hard, your business could end up failing too.

Eat right. A poor diet means you will have no energy for work or play. Steer clear of too many business lunches, and don't get caught in the take-away meal trap.

Get some sleep. Being well-rested means you’re ready for the challenges the day ahead brings. Make sure that you’re not burning the candle at both ends – this is doing you and your business few favours.

Keep a ‘to do’ list. If you are overwhelmed by your workload, write a list of all the tasks you have to achieve and prioritise them. This way, you know exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it by. If the list is too long, you can see how unrealistic you are being and learn how to manage that time better.

Plan and set goals for the future. This applies to both your personal life and your professional life. Remember – a goal is just a dream with a date attached to it.

Know how to relax. If you don’t know what does it for you, try different things to see if you can strike a winning combination – go for a walk, take a yoga class, or join a sporting team. This last one is a winner – if you have an obligation to a team, you will be more motivated to turn up to games on a weekly basis, achieving dedicated time away from your business.

Get a coach. In keeping with the sports theme, a business coach will be able to show you where you are spending your time unnecessarily and how you can run your business better. This does not mean that is will be easy – engaging a business coach and not doing the work is like saying, “I bought the diet book, so how come I haven’t lost weight?” – but it will be worth it. Remember, coaching is an investment, not an expense!

Go outside the office
November 2008

Look to others for inspiration

Speak at conferences to get your business out there

Get people in who know what you don’t

Know when to hand over control.

 

Must-reads
October 2008

Great books to help you grow your business, no matter your needs – for everything from system development to strategic direction, from people problems to being in need of a little pick-me-up.

For help with system development … read Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited (HarperCollins). Develop systems to develop your business, so you can work on your business, not in your business. To be successful you have to free yourself from technical day-to-day work to take on the true role of the entrepreneur and grow your business. You can only do this with good systems in place.

For strategic direction … read Jim Collins’ Built to Last (Arrow) and Good to Great (Century). Building a business takes hard work and a clear vision, and like-minded people within your organisation to make a good business great. Collins shows you the best way to do this with his catch cry of “disciplined people, disciplined thought, disciplined action”.

To understand the marketing message …  read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow (Penguin). Learn how a point of difference can transform business.

If you consider yourself a leader … read Bob Garratt’s The Fish Rots from the Head (Profile Books). Taking its title from an ancient Chinese saying, this book proves that a company’s success depends on the performance of its board and, more specifically, its director. In light of recent times, no executive can afford to ignore this message.

To know what not to do … read Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind’s ENRON: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Penguin). This cautionary tale warns against a corporate philosophy devoid of morals, and reveals the almost unbelievable personal excesses of the upper Enron echelons, charting their rise and, more importantly, their spectacular fall.

If you need a little pick-me-up … read Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity (Random House). There isn’t a valley low enough, nor a hot air balloon high enough to keep the insatiable Branson from chasing his dreams, and that ought to be a lesson to everyone in business.

If you’ve got people problems … read Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People (Ebury). As relevant and useful today as it was almost seven decades ago when it was first published, this gem covers the fundamentals of communication and teaches you, well, how to win friends and influence people.

If you need to lift your game … read Jacques Van Schalkwyk’s On Track to the Top (McGraw Hill). Combining the best of sports psychology and business leadership in a single practical manual, this read aims to help you achieve excellence by harnessing the skills that Van Schalkwyk insists are within us all, but are used by only few of us. Be inspired by words from former Australian rugby union captains Nick Farr Jones and John Eales.

Customer Service
October 2008

Meet and exceed the clients needs

Provide added-value by bringing the customer more than they expected upon their arrival

Listen, listen and listen some more

Always show integrity

Customer Service 101
September 2008

What is customer service? Or better still, what is good customer service?

Customer service is all customer correspondence – it’s how you and your staff answer telephone calls and emails; it’s the way customers are treated when they purchase a product or service; the way complaints are handled and problems are resolved. Customer service is the overall impression the customer has of the company's employees, premises, products and services, and even the way staff members talk about the business to family, friends and neighbours.

Make yourself available. It is simple things like avoiding the phone ringing more than three times that make a difference. When speaking to a customer, forget whatever else you are doing and focus completely on them.

Know your business. “I don't know” is a phrase that customers should never hear. Ensure all staff are informed and empowered.

Don't let your phone ring out. Voicemail was invented for a good reason. If a customer can't reach you the first time they call, they might not try again.

Under-promise and over-deliver. Apply this rule to every aspect of your business: order processing, call outs, delivery times. Give yourself a competitive edge by aiming to return calls, emails and faxes within minutes rather than hours. Remember that customers need to feel important and nothing is more important to your business than your customers.

Answer all calls, not just the ones that you want to take. Many organisations really lack communication skills and do not train their staff on how to return calls and emails – even unwanted ones. Consequently, their staff just ignore these messages, which is not only rude, it also sends the message to the caller that you don’t value them at all.

Customers aren't psychic. Customers don't come equipped with functioning crystal balls, so be sure to keep them informed with every step of the fulfilment process.

Follow up to ensure your customers received the order and that everything is to their satisfaction.

If there's a problem, or a customer has a complaint, resolve it. When you make a mistake, correct it without delay. Don't ever be too proud to say you are sorry.

Value all business. Treat small orders the same as large ones. Small customers become big customers, and new customers are unlikely to give you a big order until you've proven yourself. Opinions are formed after the first transaction. Your first chance may be your last.

Show your appreciation. This does not take you a lot of time, but it can pay big dividends for your business. Write ‘thank you’ notes, send small gifts, provide frequent-buyer benefits such as discount coupons or specials and reward those who refer new clients.

Leadership
September 2008

Leadership is as important in small business as it is in big business.

Most people are not trained in the role of leadership. You can learn to be a leader!

Be objective about yourself. Do a S.W.O.T analysis on yourself.

Concentrate on the ‘F’ word. Focus on yourself and make yourself as strong and as competitive as you can be.

How to be a good boss
August 2008

Remember that boss you had years ago who made your working life miserable? Who was reason enough for not wanting to get out of bed of a morning? What about your own leadership style? Do you ever have moments of déjà vu? Or do they remain a constant textbook example of what not to do?

Good bosses understand the vital ingredient in the execution of their business strategy is the passion and commitment of their people. Highly effective leaders in these organisations work hard to connect employees to the business through effective communication, offer employees challenges and growth through their day-to-day work and future opportunities and build a differentiated high-performance culture that harnesses the power and passion of employees.

One of the greatest CEO’s of the twentieth century, Jack Welch of General Electric, used to cut 10% of his staff each year and he reckoned he did it to do his company and those sacked a favour. “They would often thank me,” he says. “They weren’t happy and they needed a push.”

A good boss must be able to negotiate with staff. One of the most common mistakes employers make is to assume that everyone is motivated by more money. It’s important to understand that different people are motivated by different things. A good boss finds out what motivates them rather than offers what motivates you.

Misunderstandings occur when we assume that everyone is motivated by the same things we are. When someone offers us more money when what we really value is flexible time, the result is still dissatisfaction.

Who’s the boss?

Here are some important questions for a boss to consider:

When was the last time you rewarded staff with time off when you saw them working long hours to complete a project?

When did you last write a personal thank-you note letting staff know how appreciative you are for them completing a task on time and within budget? Reward your staff when they excel.

Have you taken time out to have lunch with staff? It doesn’t have to be at the best restaurant in town, but simply somewhere you can spend time with them and you get to know them a little better? This could be used as an opportunity for giving positive, constructive feedback.

Do you have avenues for your employees to vent their frustrations? Can they freely give feedback without feeling that their job could be in jeopardy?

Do you take your staff for granted by not meeting your deadlines and meeting times but expect them to meet theirs? Show strong leadership – remember, a fish rots from the head down.

Are the conditions your employees work under satisfactory?

Do you take the time to enter your business in awards so your employees can share in the joy of winning?

Are you proud of your work and your business? Do you openly communicate this to staff? Or do they only see your serious side?

Do you give adequate pay increases when the business has financial wins?

Do you give staff job titles that make them feel proud?

Do you communicate in a clear and open manner or are you aloof?

Do your employees know what’s expected of them at all times? Are your business systems sound and accessible so that employees know their job and to whom they’re accountable? Have systems in place so staff know what their job is and how it can be done effectively.

Have you ensured that you have covered off all legislative requirements in respect to occupational health and safety, harassment, discrimination, surveillance, etc?

Plan to Succeed
August 2008

Think about the problems and frustrations you have in your business life and create a system to eliminate them

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

Be prepared to pay experts for help – you can’t do it alone

View every crisis or complaint as an opportunity to do things better

Create a business that works for you instead of you for the business.

Help your employees achieve their best
July 2008

There are many things that you can do to encourage your employees to achieve the best they can – for their own growth and for that of your business. Here are some tips:

If you develop and encourage them, your staff can be an inspiration

Hire sales people who really know clients or train them so they do

Train management and staff regularly: it is an investment for your business

Empowering your staff makes them feel they can make some decisions in the business and have a degree of ownership

You can't expect to retain good staff unless you pay and/or reward them

Create a ‘family’ atmosphere to reduce staff turnover. Many people are happy working for others as long as they feel valued

Provide scope for staff equity to improve loyalty and commitment

Have regular training to teach your business system

Delegate key management tasks so staff understand everyone's role, including that of the principals. You can't hold on to or do everything yourself in your business and the art of delegating is something that needs to be learned

Don't use half-measures with training. If you can't afford training in the early days then pass on as much information as you can to your staff. Then allocate part of your profits to training. It is always an investment in your business.

On leadership
July 2008

have a vision

share the vision with your team

create core values for your organization

live these values

repeat these values regularly

Learn how to sell
June 2008

The price may not always be right but if you learn to understand your customer nine times out of 10, your sales pitch will be right on the money. Some sales people just have the knack, but for most people there are things to be learned about selling. These include:

develop a love for your work and pride in the product or service you are selling

believe in your product – you won’t be an effective salesperson if you don’t

be positive and create a positive attitude from the beginning

establish what the prospect really wants

always dress appropriately when dealing with prospects or clients

set aside time to meet to regularly meet with clients or prospects

prepare professional-looking proposals and presentations

test how committed a prospect is to your proposal

be confident and ask for the sale

On successful selling
June 2008

ask questions

solve problems

provide solutions

build relationships

know the outcome you need to achieve

keep positive

Time Management
May 2008

Effective time management is about establishing habits that make the best of your time and decreasing the number of factors that steal your time

You need to understand how much time is spent on productive activities that help you achieve the results you want, and how much of your time is spent unproductively

Tracking and analysing the way you spend your time, objectively looking at your habits and deliberately choosing more productive habits, enables you to create an ideal daily routine

An ideal daily routine is a daily objective - the way you want your day to unfold and the outcomes you want to achieve. It’s a guideline, not an inflexible template.

Source: Emyth Worldwide

Customer service checklist
April 2008

Use this checklist to ensure your customers are receiving the best possible service.

thoroughly research your customers to gauge their needs and wants. Build a profile of the different types of customers you may come across and use this to tailor your service to meet their requirements

be an expert on your service and industry. Your customers should be able to look to you and your staff for expert advice

add value to your service where you can. It may be as simple as offering a customer a cup of coffee when they visit

be predictable. Customers like to know what they should expect. Make sure your service is always of a consistently high standard

try to build morale with your regular customers. Everybody enjoys service when they feel it is personal

Brush ubp on your communication skills. In today’s busy world many people forget their manners. Customers notice when staff are courteous and pleasant

always ask for feedback on your service. If you know your strengths and weaknesses, you have a much better chance of improving your service at large. And don’t think that because there hasn’t been any complaints, that your customers are all happy. You have to ask to find out for sure.

Tips on customers
April 2008

look to the US – the home of customer service – for an edge

give the customer what the customer needs and wants

don't be too dependent on one big customer. If you lose him or her you could be up 'you know what' creek without the proverbial paddle

create a system for dealing with customer complaints

remember that the customer is always right, as long as they are the ‘right’ customer.

Getting your marketing in to gear
March 2008

Smart businesses constantly look for opportunities to market their business. Businesses that start to implement marketing plans are well on the way to setting themselves up for long-term success. So get serious about this now!

Here some tips for getting your marketing into gear:

develop a 'relationship' based business, where good communications ensure all participants are heard and responded to, and are empowered by their role within the market.

join a powerful networking group to benefit from business contacts and brainstorming

embrace new technology for new marketing channels

giveaways to celebrities can give valuable exposure

pick up on social trends to keep your business relevant

if a better business name works think about the pros and cons of changing it

create local support for your business by sponsoring community activities

entering awards gives you the opportunity to take an objective look at your business

winning awards gives you a public relations and marketing boost that doesn’t cost you a cent

smart businesses even look at the reasons why they don't win awards and aim to win the next time around.

How to think about financial management in your business.
March 2008

The key financial focus in your business is to maximise its value .

Consistently delivering value to your customers is the best way to deliver value to the owner.

Customer satisfaction leads to profit leads to company value.

Business finance is not just focusing on your tax responsibilities, it’s paying as much or more attention to internal business management.

It’s not “finance” it’s business. The numbers are simply another way of understanding the business more accurately.

Budget basics
February 2008

It’s a familiar feeling that many business owners experience. A collection of invoices arrive, the tax man rears his head, a debtor is taking its time and the post-Christmas dent on the budget is starting to show.

It’s those situations where a financial strategy can help minimise the strain on your cash resources. Budgets are not only essential; they can make or break your bottom line.

Gavan Ord from CPA Australia recommends a business owner prepare three interrelated budgets to gain a comprehensive picture of the business: budgeted profit and loss, budgeted balance sheet and budgeted cash flow statement. Ord highlights the following as key requirements of preparing a budget:

tie it into the business and strategic plan

incorporate the financial parameters/objectives from the strategic plan

include the sales forecast

include relevant intelligence about the business, customers, competitors and the industry

include relevant market research

include information from suppliers.

“If you are in an existing business (it does not matter that you ran the business for a number of years or you recently acquired the business), past financial information will also help you construct a budget. Any assumptions that you make in preparing your budget should be articulated,” Ord says..

Running your business effectively
February 2008

These business tips are taken from the world renowned small business program the E-Myth Mastery Program.

your business is a way to get more out of your life. It’s more than just a job

view your business as separate from you - as a product of you - and you will be able to reinvent it. It’s about taking a step outside of your business and looking at it objectively

work on, not just in your business: The business as a whole is the product, not the things or the services the business produces. You need to be focused on building your business, not merely cranking out products or services
view your business as an integrated system. The system does the work, and the people run the system

the task of the owner is continuous development of the business through the ongoing process of innovation, quantification and orchestration.

All Switzer Business Coaches are trained in the Emyth principles.

Great holiday reading
December 2007

With Christmas just around the corner we thought the best tip we could give would be some great readings for your Christmas stocking. Here are five books that are must read for any business builder.

The Emyth Revisted: Why Small Businesses don’t work and what to do about it by Michael Gerber

The Purple Cow - Transform your business by being remarkable by Seth Godin

Good to Great - Why some companies make the leap…. And others don’t by Jim Collins

Built to Last - The successful habits of visionary companies by Jim Collins

Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey

Protecting your intellectual property
November 2007

Too many people in business have worked hard to develop a concept, nurture a business and create a name or reputation but have vastly underprotected themselves. Why? Because they have not formally taken out trademarks to look after their brand names, logos, original sounds and scents and even aspects of packaging. The 10 crucial steps for IP are:

treat intellectual property as a business asset and put a dollar value on it

understand the different types of IP. IP Australia’s website gives you more details at www.ipaustralia.gov.au

keep your smart idea confidential – until it’s protected

protect your idea using the IP system – wise innovators seek advice from an IP professional sooner rather than later

build a model to help prospective financial backers visualise your smart idea and its market potential

keep track of all your development and protection costs to help you put a value on your IP and give you an idea of how profitable the whole venture could be

research its potential market and understand its likely consumers, buyers, licensees, investors, manufacturers and distributors

commercialising your idea requires a variety of business skills. Take a course in business management or at least educating yourself via books or accessing information on the web is fundamental

there are different ways to make money from IP - you can sell it, license it or make products yourself. It might be more profitable in some cases not to manufacture it yourself. If you do this, get legal advice

protect your IP from unauthorised use. If this right is infringed you can seek legal action and even compensation through the courts against the offender. Keep an eye out for infringers.

Exporting products
November 2007

Is your product or service good enough to export? If so here are some tips that can help will help you get started.

access government support from Austrade, www.austrade.gov.au, other government agencies at state and federal level, or industry associations

apply for government assistance, such as export marketing development grants

prepare an export plan as part of your business strategy

look at options in addition to exporting, such as franchising, investments, licensing, joint venture or strategic alliances

if you are in sports or event management business (for, say, the 2008 Beijing Olympics in 2008) make sure you join the Business Club Australia, www.businessclubaustralia.com.au

read regular economics commentators such as Peter Switzer in The Australian and Tim Harcourt in BRW each week.

Introducing Systems to your Business
October 2007

Introducing systems to your business will enhance productivity and consistency, enabling you to provide a better experience for your customers and greater satisfaction for staff. Systems free you to do the work of developing your business, and ultimately, if you want, systems free you from the business itself. Some keys things to know about systems are:

systems reduce inconsistencies

systems enable employees to understand exactly what their responsibilities are

systems provide a formula for success, by creating an efficient workplace where all operational guidelines and procedures are clearly documented

systems produce results

systems enhance productivity by providing order, predictability and reliability

systems reduce the "stress factor" when employees leave the business, enabling a smooth transition when new staff come onboard in their place

systems allow you to spend more time working ON rather than IN your business.

Essential leadership capabilities
October 2007

Every business needs a leader and every leader needs four essential capabilities in order to be effective. These capabilities, as set out in the Full Spectrum Business Coaching Program are:

strategic thinking: the ability to formulate a vision, a mental picture of what is to be achieved

commitment to purpose: the determination, dedication and energy to make the vision a reality

right action: the ability to do what is most effective and conforms to an appropriate ethical code.

motivational influence: the ability to communicate the vision with enthusiasm, dedication and commitment.

Networking Knowhow
September 2007

Getting involved with a peer network will open your business up to like minded individuals.

Business enterprise centres (www.beca.org.au) work with and on behalf of the micro and small business sectors

The Entrepreneurs Organisation (www.eonetwork.org) is a global community in which business leaders can learn from others and share their experiences

The New South Wales Business Chamber (www.nswbusinesschamber.com.au)

The Executive Connection (www.tec.com.au) is an international membership which provides ongoing learning and development for business leaders

The Australian Businesswomen's Network (www.abn.org.au) serves women in business by raising their profile and providing free education.

Practice double vision
August 2007

A business owner has to keep everything in perspective, which means keeping the long-term interests of the business in mind while addressing the day-to-day pressures. We call this "double vision". It is about balance and there are five key areas in which "double vision" applies.

Long term vison

-

Short term actions

Entrepreneurial strategy

-

Operational strategy

People as assets

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People as individuals;

The Business point of view

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The Customer point of view

Your life

-

Your business

Walk in your customers' shoes
July 2007

When planning your marketing strategy, first put yourself into your ideal customer's shoes. Then, from that perspective, answer these questions:

What do they expect your products or services to do for them?

What features must your products and services have?

What positive and negative associations are generally held by your target customer about your industry?

What pricing strategy is appropriate and how will you convey a sense of value?

Is doing business with your company as convenient and easy as it needs to be?

Think from the top
June 2007

Think from the top of your business before you act, and after you have done the thinking, begin creating a business that will do what you want it to do.

Think about you 'whole business strategy' - then develop it.

Think about your marketing strategy - then develop and implement it.

Think about your sales strategy - then develop it.

Think about your financial strategy - then act on it.

Think about your staffing strategy - then follow it through.

Think about your life strategy - and live it

Get your recruitment right
May 2007

When hiring new staff, determine the qualities you want first, then interview for them.

You can teach skills; qualities influence attitude and the way that person will work and fit into your organisation.

Have your questions prepared and listen, listen, listen - rather than talk, talk, talk.
Before you throw people at a problem, throw systems at it first.

Desperation is a cruel taskmaster. The best time to develop your recruiting and hiring systems is when you don't need to hire someone.

Manage your time effectively
April 2007

Time is an irreplaceable resource; use it effectively.

Establish habits that make the best use of your time.

Don't postpone unpleasant tasks; get them done early in the day.

If your day is filled with interruptions, analyse them to find out what systems and information are missing to trigger the interruptions.

Plan and prioritise your day - the day before, so you start the day with a clear picture of what you are doing.

Set reasonable deadlines for all tasks and stick to them.

Review your values
March 2007

Remember: Your business is a reflection of you and your behaviours and attitudes.

Keep systems as simple as possible.

Respect and value complaints - they are opportunties.

Know the difference between delegating and abdicating.

Customers buy more on value and service than they do on price alone.

How well does your business measure up
February 2007

There is a lot of competition out there for almost every business. How well does your business measure up?

Assess your business through the eyes of your customers.

Compare yourself frankly and honestly with your competition.

Review the quality of your product or service to ensure that it is consistently excellent.

Review what you do to make the experience of your customer more satisfactory.

Listen to customers' concerns and deal with them on a timely basis.

Every complaint is an opportunity to do it better.

Commun ication is the key
December 2006

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

Talk to and listen to your direct reporting staff, one-on-one at least once a week.

Talk to and listen to your customers regularly. Hear what they want rather than giving them what you think they should have.