SMB Insights

Most people simply associate the end of the financial year with the lodgement of tax returns and hopefully a bit of a refund at the end. And while the 30th June date does differentiate financial years there is so much more that business owners should be doing to ensure ongoing success.

As a certified advisor I talk to people from all different backgrounds to understand not just their aspirations but the challenges that they face. While each business is unique, taking the time to complete these three tasks will help keep your business on a path towards continued success.

Evaluate your performance

Now you should be monitoring your business performance on a regular basis, but if you haven't done so then now is the perfect time to evaluate things. I get it... there can be comfort in the unknown as it means that you don't need to acknowledge any shortfalls or accept responsibility for how things have gone. But isn't the definition of insanity doing the same things while expecting different results?

Historical data is often only reviewed well after the event by your tax accountant, and while it does serve a purpose of meeting your compliance obligations it is far too late for you as a business owner to gain any relevant insight from it. But when the same historical data is reviewed in a timely manner it can open up Pandora's Box, helping you understand what is working well and where your focus should be.

This often poses an issue however when I hear statements such as "but my financial data is not up to date" or even worse "my bookkeeper takes care of that kind of stuff". Just raise your hand and declare that you are just guessing with your business, and let me tell you there are plenty doing just that. So what advice can I give if this is you? Make it a priority right now to get things in order and understand how you are positioned. The future of your business may depend on it.

Through the evaluation process you may find that your business has absolutely crushed it. Great news right? While you are relishing in the success what you may fail to realise is that this success could be accompanied with a surprise - a larger than expected tax bill! People put off speaking to their tax accountant out of fear of what may come from it (just like that dentist appointment people never make). But in all honesty, the outcome isn't going to change and all you are doing is making matters worse while allowing it to play on your mind. Schedule an appointment with your tax accountant now to understand what options you have. Leaving it until after 30 June is expecting a miracle.... and I don't like your chances of that happening.

What is measured gets managed. Set a budget!

It amazes me at the number of businesses that do not have a budget set. Or they have one but it is in the original business plan that no one can locate and was from five years ago.

If you have taken the time to evaluate your business performance you will now have some valuable insight that you can use in establishing your budget for the year ahead. This will include both revenue and expenditure targets as well as expected debt reductions and the all important cashflow forecasts. Don't be scared of getting dirty in the detail throughout the process as it will ultimately help you evaluate your performance next year. For example, $10,000 in revenue each month sounds great but how are you going to achieve this? What products or services need to be sold? How many new customers will you need to achieve this? There are so many more questions that you need to answer which is why getting to this level of detail is essential.

Unlike your last business plan this budget isn't ready for filing once completed. Make sure that it is reviewed at least on a monthly basis and that you compare it to your actuals to highlight any problem areas.

Assess that business spark

You remember that spark you had when you first went into business? All that enthusiasm, the excitement of the limitless possibilities and the adventure of the unknown.... how would you rate that spark now? The spark in your business is what gives you the drive to achieve your goals and without it your business may find itself in a downward spiral.

The impact that your business is having on your personal life and relationships is also important to assess. The business was meant to make everything so much better for your family yet is that what has actually happened? Things such as personal enjoyment and work life balance are so very important. While the health of your business is essential to success it goes hand in hand with your own personal state - you must take care of both.

For those of you that realise the importance of acting now but may be unsure of where to turn to next, please do not hesitate to get in contact as Synergise My Business are here to help you. I hope that you all enjoy the Easter break and spend valuable time with your loved ones. If you find yourself too busy to be able to enjoy it then maybe you should check out my earlier insight "Will a break from business break your business".

If I was to ask you to give me the top 3 reasons for a breakdown in a relationship what would you say? What about coming up with 3 main causes of conflict within a family business? I am certain that there would be consistency in the answers provided, yet even armed with this knowledge we often decide not to put any preventative measures in place. Is it that we simply take the "it will never happen to me approach" or is it really that hard to discuss these things?

To make sure that we are all on the same page I did a little research which identified the 3 common reasons which I have detailed below (being very similar for each).

 



Relationship Breakdowns

Financial Stress
Communication Difficulties
Difference in Expectations & Values

 

Business Conflict

Financial Stress
Communication Styles
Future Visions & Goals [including Succession Planning]

While I am not going to turn relationship expert I would suggest reading "The Barefoot Investor" by Scott Pape. A great read with very straightforward actions to help open the lines of communication with your partner, which I personally use and have greatly benefited from. When it comes to your business however..... that is something that I can help with!

Financial Stress

  • Take the time to establish an annual budget.
  • With the budget in place make sure you measure against it on a regular basis. This will help you identify any areas of concern and remember that what is measured is managed.
  • Ensure that you understand the financial drivers of your business.

Communication Styles

  • Understand that people have different ways on taking in information. Some people are much more visual "I can't see the problem you're talking about", while others prefer a verbal approach "I hear what you are saying".
  • Always understand the position of another before passing judgement.... could it be possible that you are both right?
  • We are so programmed to provide input when having a conversation (be it our experience, a solution to a problem or simply just our thoughts). Instead just try to actively listen and be present with the other person, giving yourself the opportunity the clearly understand their perspective.

Future Visions & Goals

  • I have said it before and I will say it again..... get that business plan in place and if you already have one then try and locate it and blow the dust off!
  • Commit to an annual strategy session to assess how things have gone and agree on any goals that need to be realigned.
  • Establish a regular forum to discuss the future vision and goals while providing a safe environment for any issues to be raised. Be sure to clearly document any agreed upon outcomes.

The best piece of advice I can give you is to make sure you have these hard conversations, and the sooner the better. The little bit of pain right now wont even compare to the issues that may arise later if you don't start talking. And if you have no idea where to even start then please get in touch and we will be able to structure a solution that is right for you.

A good workplace culture is crucial when it comes to business success yet it is often put in the too hard basket when it comes to improving it. When we first start a business the main focus is to simply get it off the ground and be viable in the short term. Culture was not something ever needing to be considered as part of this process. But through business success the need to employ becomes essential and a culture starts to form. This culture takes time to develop and mature with every business being very unique. Unfortunately there is no quick metric or dashboard that can be implemented to measure and manage how the culture forms so it can often feel like this is just the way it is going to be.

With all the complexities and time involved in the development of a culture could you be the simple explanation as to why it is the way it is?

So lets cover off on what workplace culture actually is. Essentially it is the personality of your business ("the way we do things here"), and it can be an important contributor to not just your overall success but be your point of difference. It is built on a shared set of values and beliefs, that feeling of togetherness while having aligned goals, while embracing a set of assumptions for how the business operates. Taking steps to improve your business culture can be as simple as;

  • Creating that Business Plan - and share it!

I have raised this on previous insights and really if you haven't found the time to start this process then you need to do it now. As the visionary for the business how is anyone going to know what direction they are to paddle when you haven't communicated what the journey looks like? How are they to know the standards to which they are to operate or the reason particular tasks are so important? One document that communicates a consistent message to the entire team will help align the culture.

  • Helping your team see how they fit with the bigger plan - set them goals

We all want to feel like we matter and every team member is key to the success of any business. Setting goals and linking them to Key Performance Indicators will help achieve this and give each position within your business a real sense of importance. You will be amazed at what people can achieve and this will be a powerful tool for their personal growth.

  • Having regular interactions as a team - not just a drink in the office on a Friday

Yes, everyone is busy. Yes, there are not enough hours in a day. But making the time to spend together as a team (whether recreational or giving back to the community) will go along way to forming strong bonds. Getting to know people on a personal level allows them to be seen in a different light, sparking common interests and eliminating communications that are simply to achieve an outcome for the business.

  • Leading by example - and expect the same from your management team

For me this is the most important of them all and drives how the assumptions for the how the business operates are formed. Fail here and it can be very difficult to stop the culture nose dive. As a leader you set the tone for your business and this can either be in a positive or negative way. Actions always speak louder than words and it is these actions that your team will pay attention to.

Observing what actually gets noticed. 

A great example here is with workplace safety. Having someone performing a task in a dangerous manner and being pulled aside by management sends a positive message that safety is taken very seriously within the business. On the other hand, not saying anything or maybe even performing tasks yourself that are unsafe sends a message that it doesn't matter and to just do whatever it takes to get the job done. 

Observing what goes unnoticed.

Ever worked with that person that would never arrive on time and was always the first to leave? We all know what happens next if the issue is not addressed and that is other team members acting in the same manner or even worse loosing their drive and commitment. As a result of leaders not wanting or being able to have these tough conversations to address the issue the culture is negatively impacted.

Observing what gets said versus what gets done.

Stating something such as "we are a business that really values employees having a work / life balance" which is followed by the business having insufficient resources to complete the tasks required resulting in team members consistently staying back late and working weekends. Embrace the standard that "we do what we say we are going to do" and have it apply to both internal and external relationships. If your team doesn't believe a word that comes out of your mouth your culture is going to be the least of your problems.

As a business owner all of the above directly reflect on you so chances are you are a big reason for the culture that you have in your business today. Thankfully you can also be this driving factor when it comes to changing them. While this might be something low on your list of action items it is said that a strong business culture can increase revenue five times more than other organisations..... so just maybe part of the strategy to improving your bottom line is to address your culture.

As we said goodbye to 2018 and felt the optimism attached to the fresh start that a new year can bring us, there is an expectation that resolutions should be made in order for our desires to be realised. But in the hustle and bustle of the festive season, is simply compiling a "Wish List" on the first day of the new year really going to get the job done? For me, I believe that there is one resolution we should all make and the good news is that it isn't too late to do it!

So what is this magical resolution you ask? It is simply that you take the month of January to really delve into what you want for the new year and develop S.M.A.R.T. resolutions that you will be put into practice from the start of February. This will give you the opportunity to not just enjoy the festive season with friends and family but also allow yourself the time to truly understand what is important to you - and get the right framework in place to achieve it.

We have all had the experience of coming up with a resolution and finding that by the end of January the wheels have all but fallen off and the drive is gone. All that is left is disappointment and the feeling that this is just the way things are meant to be. But it doesn't have to be this way, and whether it is in your personal life or in business there are things you can do to help keep you on track and ensure that year ahead is all that you want it to be.

Set S.M.A.R.T. resolutions

In the rush of a traditional resolution this is where we set ourselves up to fail. With the limited time committed to thinking about what we truly want it often results in a very vague and uninspiring goals being set. Instead we should be taking the time to set goals that are;

Specific: Really drill into what you would like to achieve and don't generalise things.

Measurable: Can you measure the outcome and define what success will look like? 

Attainable: There is no harm in dreaming big but make sure that your goal is actually realistic.

Relevant: Understand what really matters to you and your core values and ensure that your goals align with this.

Timely: Set a timeframe on things and increase your sense of urgency. You want this to happen right?

Document your resolutions

It is all very well to come up with a resolution but while it is stuck in your head it gets mixed up with everything else that you have to contend with on a daily basis. I am not saying to scribble down your resolutions onto different coloured sticky notes and plaster them in every room of the house either as these will just become part of your daily landscape. Since you have set aside a month to really think about what you want to achieve you need to commit to finalising the process and write things down in a journal or diary (I would highly recommend having a look at www.MiGoals.com). And remember to find a quiet place once a week to revisit what you have documented to keep you focused. People with written goals are 42% more likely to achieve them than people without written goals.

Have an accountability partner - and tell them why your resolutions are important

Failing quietly is so much easier as we simply experience some short term disappointment in ourselves.... no one needs to know and it wasn't really that important anyway. But the fact is that your resolutions are important and communicating why they are important to someone else that you respect will help to keep you accountable. We all have those periods when our drive can vanish or life just simply gets in the way, and this is where your accountability partner can really step up and remind you what achieving your goals will actually mean. People who tell someone about their goals are 78% more likely to achieve them than people who keep them quiet.

Use your willpower sparingly

Setting "relevant" resolutions will help you to increase your commitment to achieving your desired result but that in itself isn't enough. What I didn't realise is that we only have a finite amount of willpower that can be used each day. As we work through the day our willpower is called upon for a variety of reasons and due to this depletion we often find our hand around that chocolate bar later in the day although the goal was to eat better. Do things earlier in the day to  achieve your goals and use your willpower to eliminate temptation and distractions instead of battling with them on a daily basis. Some great examples are to use your willpower to not put the chocolate bar in your shopping trolley. If productivity and distractions are an issue use your willpower to activate an app such as Freedom.

Celebrate the successes and acknowledge the failures

If your resolution is both "measurable" and "timely" then you will not only know what success looks like but you will have a timeframe for being able to assess things. Set incremental targets so that the goal becomes a habit and make sure you celebrate each of these mini milestones. Change is positive and while you could have just kept things the way they were you haven't. While failures should be acknowledged they should not be held on to. It is important to understand why the failure has occurred but realise that each failure is simply a step closer to your success.

Enjoy the time in creating your vision for 2019 and while you are firing on all cylinders, maybe it is time to set up your business for the same success - business plans are key and we can assist you on setting up something you will be proud to share with other key people within your business.

Taking the step into business is a huge decision, with not just our own livelihoods depending on it succeeding but also those who have decided to join us on the journey. This pressure can often result in us not feeling like we can step away and is most likely part of the reason why a large portion of small business owners do not find the time to take a break. But in reality, is taking time away really going to be detrimental to the business?

After a very eventful 2018 my lovely wife pushed me to get away for a few days, and while I was sitting watching the sunrise over Wilson Promontory on the last day of our break it got me thinking of the benefits these few days had on me. Below are my top reasons to get away for both yourself and the business..... and also that amazing sunrise that got me thinking about all this in the first place.

Recharge those batteries

We have all had that feeling of being stuck in the same routine and the daily grind, with our drive lessening each and every day. That spring in our step is no longer as it was and that contagious enthusiasm that our team members and customers have become accustomed to has somewhat dulled. It is amazing what even a little break from the daily routine of business can do to bring these back to their former glory. You will come back reinvigorated and full of refreshing optimism which brings me to my next reason.

Start using the right side of your brain

The left side of our brain is said to control both logic and analysis and we can often become quite stuck in this mindset. But it is creativity and imagination that could be the solution to that pressing issue or what could help to develop that next big idea. Relaxation leads to creativity and as leaders is where we need to spend more time. Manage with the left side but lead with your right!

WOW! Look at that big picture

Everyone expresses just how busy they are and there are always more and more "urgent" tasks getting added to the list on a daily basis. It is no wonder that we get so bogged down in the detail that we miss the opportunity to step back and look at the bigger picture. We all know that when we are unable to work something out that walking away and looking at the problem with a fresh set of eyes will often resolve the issue - so why don't we do this with business? Get away and start to see the orchard again instead of just all those fruit trees.

Refocus on those most important to you..... and yourself too

Life is all about balance, and while we can get so focused on achieving our goals we can end up inadvertently neglecting those most important to us (as well as ourselves). Spend the time to reconnect with family and friends and more importantly reconnect with yourself. Pick up a book and learn something new (even if it is just a different perspective), or take the time to really engage with those close to you while you are not distracted with those business decisions. For me, I found that this was the most rewarding part of taking some time out.

Experience the now

Burnout is a real thing and can have a significant negative impact on both our personal lives as well as the business. Allowing ourselves to get outside and smell the roses, bask in the sun while listening to the ocean or just passing a lazy day in a hammock can really help to reassess our well-being. Experience the now without the judgement of the past or the concerns surrounding the future. Take the time to feel each breath while letting go of the stress and demands that we have placed on ourselves. You can almost feel things just melt way while enjoying the moment of being away.

These people are amazing

Delegation can be one of the hardest things to do, but in saying that it can often be one of the most rewarding for all involved. We all know that is makes sense to delegate but in the heat of the moment the control is comfortable. Making the decision to step away for a break forces us out of that comfort zone and allows others to flourish. When given the opportunity it is amazing what people can achieve and you may just be surprised at how incredible the people around you actually are.

From Synergise My Business we wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year. Bring on 2019 and maybe one of your resolutions should be to make that time to get away more..... it will definitely be one of mine!

While I am sure that working with the second largest confectionary brand in the world would provide many valuable lessons and business insight, the Cadbury I was actually referring to is this 12 year old Labrador who unfortunately was laid to rest this week. Through this tough time it had me thinking a little deeper and reflecting on the time we shared together. Looking back there were a number of both life and business lessons that this little guy had shown me, which while I had missed at the time I was fortunate enough to see at the end.

Cadbury was the runt of the litter that no one wanted, never grew into his Labrador body, had suffered random seizures that couldn't be diagnosed, went completely blind and ended up developing tumours. But from his time as that unwanted puppy through to the very end I have never seen a happier dog with a tail that would wag with such enthusiasm. He really had nothing go right yet he had everything to live for - making the most of each and every opportunity.

While I hope that no one experiences the poor luck that Cadbury did, it is inevitable that throughout both our business and personal lives we will experience some severe ups and downs. At the end of the day it is what we make of these times and how we react to them that ultimately dictates the impact they will have on us.

Do what makes you happy

This sounds so simple yet is often overlooked, and while I don't condone taking a shit in the foyer of the vets (yes, he did that to me), I do feel that people often go into business for the wrong reasons or over time get pushed away from their original concept. Doing what makes you happy will shine through in your enthusiasm and determination, it will reflect positively in your products and services including the experience of your customers, and it is contagious which will spread throughout your brand and team. Take the time to clearly detail your business vision and plan to ensure that you not just reach your desired result but that you enjoy the journey.... and regularly review. You simply can't correct and realign things which you do not monitor.

Set your own benchmark

Cadbury was happy day after day and this was something I really thought about.... what did he have to be so content about? The more I thought about it I realised that he wasn't trying to live up to the standards of someone else, he had set his own standard that he was happy with and that was his benchmark. Most days Cadbury would either meet or exceed his expectation and in today's society with there being so much emphasis on "Keeping on with the Joneses' it can dilute the positive experiences we actually have. That flash new piece of equipment that your competitor has just purchased might give you an initial positive feeling, but does it align with your original goals. In purchasing the same equipment also are you working towards your own benchmark or simply trying to keep up with someone else's?

Learn from others but don't be a follower

While it is important to learn from the lessons and experiences of others it should not be what constantly dictates the direction of your business, or life for that matter. As Cadbury's eyesight deteriorated he soon figured out that he could no longer make the same choices as the other dog, and that in doing so would be detrimental. He would learn to adapt to what was right from him, taking little snippets of information that were useful and relevant and not worrying about the rest. In business you need a strategic plan that will help develop this overall direction and provide guidance and stability through rocking times, as trying to simply do the same things as others can be a recipe for disaster.

 

Surround yourself with the right people

Such an important strategy and one that can slowly slip out of focus as business owners. Cadbury didn't choose who he surrounded himself with but the people that were there were able to assist and step up as things got harder, not just making his life easier, but to enhance the overall experience. Being able to attract, internally promote and retain the right people is one of the key ingredients of any successful business. But it is often one of the hardest things to achieve requiring some of the responsibility and accountability to be delegated and letting go a little. Through effectively communicating and setting clear and measurable goals you can still be sure that things are moving in the desired direction, while letting others enhance and make this journey in business easier and so much more fulfilling.

Take the time to appreciate the little things

A Labrador and dinner time... need I say more? Even a walk that might have just been in circles around a tree were the highlights of his day. We can all get so caught up in the bigger picture that the current moment is forgotten, but it is embracing the moment that can rejuvenate us. It is embracing the moment that can trigger that next great idea or fill us with the drive needed to get through that next challenge. Take time to appreciate the little things and feel the positive effects.

Always wake up and "wag your tail"

People don't just wake up each and every day in a positive mindset ready to tackle the challenges that will be presented. But by getting up and "wagging your tail" as Cadbury did, you will be establishing that can-do attitude that every business owner needs. It can be so easy to get down on yourself about how things are going (or not going) that you loose that drive needed to achieve your goals, but in all honesty there is always something positive there, something you have achieved, something you have created... you just need to look for it.

While Cadbury seemed to have things figured out it is not as simple in the business world. Through partnering with Synergise My Business you will be provided with not just the tools but the support that will help guide you move in the right direction and make that journey in business that much more enjoyable.

Thanks for the memories Cadbury!

With another fruit season on our doorstep the excitement around the possibilities of what the next crop could bring are endless. The seasonal nature of the industry and the upfront investment required can often make it difficult to draw a line in the sand and assess how your business has performed, but that doesn't mean that it should just be overlooked. With the constant pressure of being price takers within the market and the cost of production increasing year on year, it is not just important to understand how you have performed historically, but there also needs to be realistic targets set for the season ahead. To put simply, you can't control what you don't monitor.

This then leads into the cashflow requirements of the operation. Cash is the lifeblood of any business and we all know what happens when that lifeblood slows or even stops. Understanding how your business is performing combined with getting a grasp on the seasonal cashflow cycles is key to effectively managing any financial pressures. One of the biggest issues arises from the capital requirements of an orchard and the timing of these. While it might be easy to identify a poor performing block and make the decision to replant, it is not as easy to take into consideration the full impact of such a decision including nurturing the trees to the point of production. Can these costs be absorbed through your current business performance or do you need to develop a strategy to get through? How will these plantings impact the lifeblood of the business? What originally seemed to be a straight forward decision suddenly got a lot more complicated.

Fruit is a far simple and the end consumer will purchase that piece of fruit without taking into consideration the amount of time and effort that the grower needs to contribute. Without having industry specific experience it can be difficult for anyone to really understand your business and the challenges that you face. The good news is that Synergise My Business can help you with all this and more. Our unique Radar Reporting have options designed specifically for the orchard industry which will allow you to pick up blips with your business in a far more timely manner. You will be able to made informed decisions, have visibility over how your orchard is performing and start to feel in control again.

Is it time to start monitoring and take control or is this season going to be another one left to chance?

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