FREEZING, THAWING AND REFREEZING!

Over recent weeks we've delved into various facets of change that impact the way we run our businesses. In particular we've looked at the effect of the ever changing environment, not just the 'green-type' things but the economy, the political landscape, legislative change, technology and those ever present competitive forces.

Pages and pages have been written by often brilliant change practitioners, some of which can be quite complex at times. Our focus has been on keeping it simple and so, to wrap up the topic of change before we all head off for a well deserved Christmas break, let's share in a very simple, tried and tested, 3 step theory of change developed some 60 years ago (Kurt Lewin 1958). Indeed, we can take this wisdom with us into the New Year and beyond:

Unfreeze; this applies when we take stock of the old ways we have been managing our business and, in doing so, create a sense of readiness where we need to confront a new changing environment. This is supported by proper diagnosis which,in turn, strengthens the very need for change in the way we do what we do.

Move/Change; this is where the hard work kicks in mainly through our setting out an implementation agenda in order to propel all necessary change interventions to maximise our effectiveness.

Refreeze; this is about stabilising the new behaviours as we embed them into our culture, practices, norms and values and, most importantly, ensure we have mechanisms in place to avoid slipping back into those ever comfortable old days and ways!

It would be nice to think that it all ends here but, as we said in a previous posting, change is very much a continuous state of affairs in the modern world. Once that refreeze is locked in, lo and behold, so often we're back again into thawing or unfreezing mode, and so the process starts all over!

The good news is that, by embracing change with enthusiasm and positivity, the more we deal with it, the easier it becomes. And so, for example, if we want to expand, re-brand or add a new feature to our product or service range, we have already embedded into our practices the versatility, energy and attitudinal qualities to enable us to proceed with all the changes associated with those strategies.

So there's some food for thought as 2018 comes to a close accompanied by all our very best wishes for a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Ted Beecher
BLA Director



Christmas comes but once a year!

In both our business and personal lives, Christmas time has an impact of some sort, positive or negative.

So, before all the stress and frenzy takes over our lives, (which it probably has already!), let's all just take a deep breath and quietly ponder on what that impact is going to be. Next, we have to take control of it and, should it be gradually edging us towards the 'Dark Side', make it change direction!

Take heed of some key words like 'Joy', 'Generosity' and 'Giving' . That way we, along with our families, are more than likely to end up in the right place. To get us into the zone, there are many, many quotes about Christmas, some inspiring, some cynical, some funny and some downright depressing.

Here's a random selection coupled with BLA's Christmas wish that only the inspiring ones will make the grade for you this season:

The Good (and very true)

"We should make the Yuletide season an occasion not merely for the giving of material things but an occasion for the giving of that which counts infinitely more … the giving of self"— J. C. Penney

"Christmas day is a day of joy and charity. May God make you very rich in both" — Phillips Brooks

"Your children need your presence more than your presents"— Jesse Jackson

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give" — Winston Churchill

"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other” — Burton Hills

"A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great" — Proverbs 18:16

“To be rich in admiration and free from envy, to rejoice greatly in the good of others, to love with such generosity of heart that your love is still a dear possession in absence or unkindness – these are the gifts which money cannot buy" — Robert Louis Stevenson

The Not so Good (but sadly also very true!)

"Even before Christmas has said Hello, it’s saying ‘Buy Buy.’" — Robert Paul

"Christmas is the season when people run out of money before they run out of friends"- Larry Wilde

"What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer." Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens ‘ "A Christmas Carol"

"The Christmas season has come to mean the period when the public plays Santa Claus to the merchants"— John Andrew Holmes

"Wretched excess is an unfortunate human trait that turns a perfectly good idea such as Christmas into a frenzy of last-minute shopping" — Jon Anderson

The Funny

"One good thing about Christmas shopping it toughens you for the January sales". — Grace Kriley

"Let me see if I’ve got this Santa business straight. You say he wears a beard, has no discernible source of income and flies to cities all over the world under cover of darkness? You sure this guy isn’t laundering illegal drug money?" — Tom Armstrong

The Thought-Provoking

"Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don’t quite know how to put our love into words"— Harlan Miller

Ted Beecher
BLA Director

Smart Goals & Know Roles

As businesses dealing with a world of constant change, we are now going to take a quick look at a couple of the things we need to embrace in order to remain truly effective. Let's dive into the important subject of goals and roles.

GOALS invariably sit at the top of the list of any good manager; also you'll get the same vibe if you talk to a change practitioner. Not surprisingly, therefore, much has been written about the subject. One of the most popular, well tried and tested theories is presented as the mnemonic, 'SMART'. What it simply tells us is that our goals need to be:

S=Specific
M =Measurable
A= Achievable
R=Relevant
T=Time bound

Here's an excellent link offering more detailed insight into this useful topic; please make sure you have a good read of it!

Moving on, let's ask ourselves about what our ROLE is in all of this? Even if we are a one-person-band, the interactions we have with our stakeholders are critical to the success of our business. So, here's a few pointers:

Networking skills - we need to establish the right contacts both internally and externally to our business, making them feel part of our decision making and goals.

Being champions of good communication, including listening, means we can effectively transmit and receive vital information which is important to our business.

Always foster ENTHUSIASM towards our planning and ideas to encourage participation, motivation and commitment. It also can be fun!

Remember to regularly hone those negotiating skills and other areas where influence is the key to getting things done.

From time to time pull back and then hover, yes, hover! This will give a 'Helicopter Perspective', taking us beyond our immediate focus and thus be able to spot new challenges and opportunities in good time. It also enables us to see what's working and what's not, things that we can easily miss when we get too absorbed in routine 'stuff'.

So there we have it for this week, a brief run-down on goal setting and some of the disciplines that will bring it to life and, in doing so, keep our businesses ahead of the pack!

Ted Beecher
BLA Director



Rising Influence of Stakeholders on Change

Stakeholders can be defined as individuals, groups of people or other organisations that can influence the functioning and success of a small business...

So, who's in charge here?

By now, we should all be in agreement that our small business world is constantly under the influence of change. In the last couple of postings we reviewed our readiness for change and how that can be fuelled by the simple art of asking questions. Let's just park that for a moment and consider exactly where lies our power base. This is really important.

Compared with 30 or 40 years ago, there has been a marked shift of influence within the Australian business community. That influence has diminished the power that a business owner could once wield in the market place. This is due to, not just that power shift towards other stakeholders, but the rise in the number of stakeholders that can impact our businesses, either positively or negatively.

Now, every business is different and, particularly with small or micro-businesses, the stakeholder mix can vary and, in some cases, only include:

  • the business owner

  • his or her customers

  • his or her suppliers of materials and/or services (including admin, accounting etc.).

Of course, that mix can easily change as fast as marketplace operating conditions change. As a result it is always a good idea to keep firmly in the back of our minds a list of other possible stakeholders, such as:

  • Employees

  • Shareholders

  • Competitors

  • Special interest or community groups (especially those who may have concerns over the effect of your business on the environment or the economy)

  • Politicians; Unions

If we look closely at this list it can be seen that stakeholders can represent both internal and external forces for change. In some cases, though, they can be significant forces against change!

And so it is that, when considering people's response to an impending change, we need to use this broad range of stakeholders as our litmus test to assist in determining growth opportunities as well as foreseeing obstacles.

So...

Keep probing, asking questions and, in doing so, continue to strengthen that wall of readiness to help manage the inevitability of change in your workplace.

This is just one way to ensure YOU stay in charge!

Ted Beecher
BLA Director

Make A Habit Of Asking Questions

A lot of the work of a good detective is centred on the list of questions he or she has to build from statements, suspects, witnesses, forensics and CCTV etc. Just look at almost any TV cop show or murder, mystery movie. Of course there's heaps more to it than just the questions. There's all the preliminary research, retrieval of historical evidence, pre-interview preparation and the like. Then it's all down to finding out what is behind the answers to those questions and what links with what.

Simple? Probably not…

At least we now know why our law-enforcement bodies undergo such rigid training and role playing before they are launched fully into the ever challenging and often feisty investigative world.

The whole 'question' of 'questions' needs to be a constant feature of our small business environment. All questions are important - the what?, the how?, the which?, the when? and finally, the why?, possibly the most dynamic of all the questions. Here in Australia some of us are old enough to remember watching the kids' science shows hosted by the late Professor Julius Sumner Miller. Remember, his catch phrase, 'Why is this so?' It prompted him to explain the scientific rationale behind the experiments he shared with his young audience.

Making a habit of asking the 'why' question can be a great discipline, especially in business. After all, not taking things for granted is simply a must, especially given that what is true for today may not be the same tomorrow. By asking the 'why is it so ' question, the answers will usually give you up-to-the minute clarity and perspective. Don't necessarily stop at that first layer as there may well be another 'why' that must be explored to address the answer to that first 'why!' And then another and another.......

Just drill down until you're satisfied that you can go no further to the point that, with reasonable peace of mind, you're back at your desk hopefully enjoying a thriving business.

FOR THE MOMENT THAT IS...

By regularly revisiting these 'Why' areas you become alert to what is changing on the outside, perhaps situations over which you may have little or no control. However being in a position to meet these changes head -on and then make the necessary adjustments in your own business will, over time, become a useful , healthy and fruitful habit.

In the meantime and maybe just for old-times' sake, you can easily find the late Professor's snippets of wisdom on YouTube, so enjoy!!

Ted Beecher
BLA Director

Are You Ready For Change?

…'If it ain't broke don't fix it'
...'Don't change a winning team'
...'Don't change horses in mid-stream'

How often we see these kind of phrases and, let's face it, they can make pretty sound sense in their own right.

HOWEVER, when small business people like us stick with these WITHOUT taking regular temperature checks in our work and market places, things can come up and bite us (and invariably do when we least expect it!).

So, what should we do? Here's a few basics:

  • Talk regularly to customers in order to keep up to speed with the quality of our products, services and processes. Continually review their needs and draw intelligence from what is really going on their worlds, not just what we think might be.

  • Listen to suppliers on things like the effects of changing market trends or shifting environmental factors. Let's make them feel like we are true and curious stakeholders in their business (and them in ours, of course).

  • The same applies to our staff and, above all, keep them in the loop in an honest and open way. Not only does this engender team work but you never know what they pick up during the day which might have a major impact on the way we run our businesses.

Some people might refer to all this as simply risk management (an important subject for another time!); for others it's a natural default position founded on common sense and a hunger to make their businesses the best in the field.

Whatever we want to call it, one thing we can be sure, it creates READINESS for change. In other words it means we are ever alert; always on the starting blocks just waiting for that gun.

So how ready are you? To get some answers to this, just take a little time out to look at some of the questions you may need to ask yourself first.

Ted Beecher, BLA Director

Adopting A Mindset For Change!

In our last posting we spoke about the need to be able to change ourselves in order to cope with all those other changes over which we have little or no control but which, nonetheless, influence our personal and working lives.

Sticking with the whole change theme (which we'll be covering over the next six weeks or so) what we have to remember is that this is not about the one-offs; neither is it about the occasional adjustments we need to make, believing that they will comfortably stay with us forever.

No way!

Once you've implemented one change and started to manage its effects in those key areas of your life and business, rest assured, there will be another one waiting round the corner, poised and ready to land bang in the middle of your circumstances!

We just have to get used to it!........

The good news is that, even though change may hit you as a moving and frustrating feast of constant volatility, the more it confronts you, the better you will manage it. It's kind of like most sports. The day we can cast into our sub-conscious the need to keep the eye on the ball, the hand on the club, the pressure in the shoulders, wrist or whatever, the more we improve and hone our competitive toughness.

The not-so good news is that, by not facing change and readjusting our methods accordingly, some small business owners will wake up one day and find that everyone else has moved on. How depressing it is to see your competitors adopting those changes leaving you high and dry facing dwindling turnover, unhappy customers and, worse of all, the negativity of it all impacting your family life.

So let's not let this happen but rather embrace change as a fact of life. The other piece of good news is that change doesn't have to be a transformational firestorm that knocks all your stakeholders- staff, customers, suppliers et al - off their feet. No it can be managed in bite sized chunks once it becomes part of your way of life.

We'll be talking about effective planning for change later on but, just to whet your appetite here's a link to one of the several practitioners operating in this area covering the kind of topics that are all part of the rich change arena.

Ted Beecher
BLA Director

Sometimes We Have To Change Ourselves First

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves.” Leo Tolstoy

The following link will help us unpack that wisdom a bit further.

There are numerous theories, books and papers on the subject of change which can sometimes baffle us and make things appear complicated. So let's have a go at fixing this myth...

As we all know from experience, our businesses are constantly affected by change, e.g. environmental issues, competitive forces, government legislation, the highs and lows of the economy etc.

To adapt to these changes, we should all know that we don't just react and then blindly surge forward. We have to take into account how it is going to affect, not just the balance sheet, as important as this is, but things like our processes, customer service, pricing, staffing and culture.

The same type of approach applies to changing ourselves. Again the 'panic' approach is almost certainly doomed. Here we have to ask, 'What are the knock-on effects of a me-change'? Will it affect my health, my family and other relationships, not to mention the things I hold dear outside of my work space, like leisure time, sport, holidays? It's also important to ensure that my values, beliefs and principles are protected in all 'me-type changes'. After all this is my DNA which impacts on, not just the 'now', but the legacies I am going to carry forward for ever and ever.

Change is challenging but also exciting, and certainly stimulating if we want to make it so. For small business owners, by properly embracing change, and especially where it involves tweaking our own persona, we keep ahead of the pack and minimise the risk of future struggle or failure.

Ted Beecher, BLA Director

Will My Small Business Work Out?

In starting up a fresh Australian small business, the last thing you want to think about is what if it doesn't work out? The reality is that about one-fifth of small business start-ups in this country don't make the first year; and only about one third manage to survive ten years or more. That's all rather frightening...

So what are some of the key reasons for these rather depressing statistics?

  • Starting up for the wrong reasons: maybe a knee jerk reaction as a result of frustrations through working for a boss for umpteen years. Often the thoughts of a better work-life balance including more time with the family take precedence over the sheer hard work, dogged passion and resilience in the face of adversity that are absolute musts when setting up your 'own show'.

  • Insufficient Planning: a good workable business plan needs to be carefully thought out and realistic. In fact you must almost let it rule your life (well, within reason!). After all it will be based on all sorts of assumptions which will always be subject to the winds of change such as a volatile economic environment, your competitors and customer behaviours.

  • Weak use of technology: make no mistake, business success these days is dependent on having a good website, effective SEO and online marketing including a strong presence on social media. This way you can instantly highlight your professionalism, effectively promote your products and services whilst explaining points of difference over your competition alongside other 'reasons to buy'.

There are several websites on this subject which will be of great value to anyone thinking about starting a small business. However, at the other end of the scale, BLA exists to help struggling small businesses which may have fallen victim to one or more of the above situations. Other factors may have come into play like insufficient capital, overzealous expansion, ineffective financial control or risk mitigation. Whatever the case, our job is to work with struggling small business owners by helping them through the 'dark times' and its negative consequences, whatever the ultimate solution might be.

By Ted Beecher
BLA Director

How Business Life Australia Helps

When a business owner starts to experience a downturn in sales, a shortfall in profits, a 'drought' in orders or excessive predatory activity by competitors, that's when the anxiety sets in alongside other negative physical conditions. Does this sound familiar?

This is where BLA is fully equipped and ready to help!

So what's likely to happen next?

Firstly, we will assign a concierge to get alongside that owner and listen carefully to their story - basically little more than that at this first meeting. BLA's primary aim at this early stage is to establish a connection of mutual trust and to create an environment of hope, whatever the eventual course of action is most appropriate for that business owner's situation.

Using the information gleaned at that initial meeting, the concierge will consult with the BLA team, including our specialist service providers, in order to map out a pathway for the business owner. That pathway will usually lead to 3 possible outcomes:

  • Business recovery and restart

  • Sale

  • Closure

At the next meeting, the concierge will discuss our conclusions with the business owner and outline the next steps they need to take. Often this involves connecting them with one or more of our service providers who, for example, may have expertise in the accountancy, marketing, legal or insolvency space. Importantly, these providers understand BLA's 'heart' and will provide initial services free of charge.

At all times, the BLA concierge will remain the owner's friend in order to provide continuous encouragement and hope in their new journey. Typically, we will work with the business owner by getting them back into the driver's seat at the most appropriate time so they can reapply their skills and initiative. At the same time we see them using the experience as a learning tool as they strive towards their new goals.

By Ted Beecher, BLA Director