Business Process Archives | Excelerated Business Solutions

Archive for the ‘Business Process’ Category

You are here: » Business Process, Sales & Marketing, Strategy

The most common productivity advice is to begin with the easiest tasks first and then move to the more difficult ones. This is to help create momentum to push us to become more productive.

But is it really the most productive way of tackling our to-do list? In this video, I explore what productivity experts are saying and why doing what is contrary to the commonly held advice might lead to better productivity.

People tackle different types of tasks every day. Some tasks are more important than others. People make decisions on what tasks to tackle first in their daily to-do list. Some tasks are easily accomplished, and some are more complex and take a bit more time.

As we go through this list, we make the very conscious decision on how to prioritize the tasks so that we can get as much done as possible. The goal is not to appear busy—the goal is to be productive and to get as many tasks ticked off the list as possible.

The question now is, what is better for productivity? Do we tackle the easy tasks first, then proceed with the more difficult, more complex ones later? The short answer, according to productivity experts, is to address what is difficult first. Doing so is better for the long term.

Now you might ask: if the goal is get as much done as possible, why tackle what takes a long time to do? Let’s take this step by step.

We already know that tasks aren’t created equal. If we go by the urgent-important matrix, more commonly known as the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, there are 4 kinds of tasks.

  1. Tasks that are both important and urgent
  2. Tasks that are important, but not urgent
  3. Tasks that are not important, but are urgent
  4. Tasks that are neither important nor urgent

How do we prioritize these tasks?

Productivity experts say that if the task is …

  1. … neither important nor urgent, you should stay away because these are distractions.
  2. … not important, but urgent, you should delegate to someone else.
  3. … important, but not urgent, you should do this later.
  4. … important and urgent, you should do this immediately.

To understand why we should focus on the difficult tasks first over the easy ones lies in understanding the last two tasks. Important but not urgent tasks are usually tasked long-term tasks, while the important and urgent tasks are short term tasks.

However, we also need to be mindful that some tasks become urgent today because we didn’t plan out for or didn’t accomplish them yesterday or last week or last month or even last year, when they were clearly not urgent.

The problem with prioritizing urgent tasks today is it makes us more reactive, than proactive. I will acknowledge that there are some factors that are out of our control that contributes to the urgency of some tasks, and so we need to focus on these urgent and important tasks immediately. But the context of our discussion is on the important tasks that we have set aside because they were not yet urgent at that time and because they were probably difficult and complex that we decided to put it off for another day.

Why do we do this? Why do we favour the easy over the difficult?

We tackle them first because they are easy and getting these tasks out of the way gives us a sense of accomplishment—we get more done in half the time. The problem is when we hide behind these tasks because we are procrastinating on the more important and more complex tasks—focusing on the easy tasks now become counterintuitive. We think we’re accomplishing more, but it takes time away from tackling what truly matters.

If you feel that this is you, you are not alone. A lot of us do this for many reasons. One significant reason why we put off the difficult but important tasks is that it takes us more time to do, and we’re more likely to make mistakes in the process vis-à-vis doing what is easy.

So what should we do?

The first thing we need to keep in mind is to focus on what is important. You don’t necessarily need to ALWAYS choose the difficult over the easy—but you need to be conscious about what is important for you and your business both in the short term and in the long term. Then find a balance so that you can address both needs.

You also need to change our mindset about how much time it takes to finish a difficult task. Yes, it takes more time than usual. Yes, we’re likely to make a mistake or two (or even more). But don’t think of that extra time as a wasted resource. Think of it as our time investment towards learning the task. Mistakes are great teachers—and if we learn our lessons well, then we’re likely to do better as we progress in the task.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

Read more >

While being professional entails knowing how to manage our emotions to allow us to work despite pressure, studies have also shown that emotions influence productivity. Happy employees are more likely to be professional.

In this video, I explore what determines an organisation’s emotional culture and how this impacts team performance and team productivity. I further discuss what team leaders can do to nurture a positive emotional culture.

One of the pillars of professionalism is self-regulation. This means that we need to have the ability to work under pressure. However, the flip side of this coin involves what experts now call psychological safety and the need to take care of our mental health.

A recent study by Google concludes one key factor that differentiates mediocre teams from high-performing teams is psychological safety. These findings suggest that emotional culture play an important role in organisational performance as emotions affect team productivity and performance.

What is emotional culture?

There are many facets of workplace culture. The most recognised facet is organisational culture, which defines a set of understanding on how to do things to achieve a goal.

But there is also emotional culture which “predicts many important work outcomes, including employee absenteeism, teamwork, burnout, satisfaction, psychological safety, and objective performance outcomes like operating costs.”

What determines emotional culture?

Emotional culture is contagious—and it trickles from the top. How managers behave and react to different circumstances sets the tone for the team’s emotional culture.

How does emotional culture affect productivity?

Imagine what could happen if you have a manager who consistently reacts negatively to mistakes. Or, what if this manager is prone to blame members of the team for mistakes caused primarily by circumstances out of their control? What if this manager focuses on putting blame rather than using mistakes as opportunities for team members to learn and improve? How do you think the team will react?

  • Team members will be afraid to make mistakes or try new things. This instantly “kills” the growth mindset.
  • Team members will be more focused on doing what they think the manager thinks is right and appropriate, rather than what is good for the team. They will afraid of disappointing their manage. When things go wrong and team members are afraid, it sets off their fight-or-flight response, which instantly “kills” their ability to be creative or innovative.
  • When team members are focused on “not making a mistake,” they’re likely to only focus on just the job or task at hand, and not finding new ways to improve the process. This kills productivity right away.
  • There is no psychological safety because no team member will feel safe in taking risks and making mistakes and doing things differently. If team members are not allowed to learn, grow, and be innovative, there is no incentive for anyone to perform well.

If you have a team leader who consistently focuses on mistakes and putting blame, you are unlikely to build and nurture a high-performing team. What you have is a team of robots or “yes” people who will do only what they are told and nothing else.

And when the environment becomes even more unbearable, team members are likely to jump ship and find work somewhere else. In this scenario, you are more likely to lose the best people in the organisation.

How do you nurture a positive emotional culture?

  • As a leader, keep your emotions in check. Observe how you react and see how your own employees react.
  • Replace blame with curiosity. In my video on How to Build High-Performing Teams, one of the key things to change is mindsets—and one that redirects the focus on issues and root problems, rather than on people.
  • Take a step back and take care of yourself, the leader. Perhaps you are stressed, which is affecting everyone else in the team. In the video, Maximising The Best Asset in Your Business, I discuss how rest is important to encourage creativity and problem solving in the long run.
  • Ask for help. When we have been doing the same things for a long time, it is easy to develop blind spots. Because of this, we tend to think that how we do things is “normal” and “acceptable.” Perhaps they are, but there may be things that are not as acceptable or maybe some things that need improvement. It’s hard to see beyond our blind spots, so we may need someone—a person looking from the outside in—to show us what we don’t see. This someone can be a mentor, a trusted colleague, or a business coach.

Do not let your pride limit you on what you can do in your business. I personally seen successful businesses be ruined by the business owner due to the individual’s perception that only he knows what is best for the business. I have seen his team members leave the organisation, and yet he stubbornly refuses to change his mindset about the business. The result? He is now working alone on his business and struggles to make ends meet. Please do not make the same mistakes as he did—ask for help.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

Read more >

Do you delegate your work to others so that you can do more? Do you find delegating easy? If you find handing over control over certain tasks difficult, this video might be for you. I discuss mindsets that prevent us from delegating and how we can overcome our resistance to delegating.

Do you resist delegating things to other people? Do you like doing things yourself? Perhaps it’s time to reconsider and be more open to ‘delegation’.

Sir Richard Branson famously said, “If you really want to grow as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to learn to delegate.”

One important reason to delegate is that it frees up your resources as a business owner. Time is a very important resource—and so is mental space. When you delegate tasks to others, you are not only freeing up time but also your mental capacity to focus on the important things. When you free up your resources, you’ll have more resources to use for the most important things in your business—matters that only you, as a business owner, can do or decide on.

But why does delegating still feel so difficult? I’d like to share with you some statements that I found in my research that support the notion that delegation is difficult.

  1. I’m used to doing things myself and worry whether someone else can do these tasks the way I would do them.
  2. It will take me a lot of time and effort to train someone else before a task is done the way I do it.
  3. My business operates on a very limited budget and I may not be able to afford to employ new heads to delegate these tasks to.
  4. I love doing these things, and I do them well!

Do any of these statements apply to you?

I am not immune to the resistance to delegating, and I can identify with a few of them, especially on point number 2. I admit it, I am with everyone else on this. But how can we change this thinking? How can we shift the mindset that is preventing us from delegating work to others?

Instead of thinking about and concerning ourselves with what we will lose in the process of delegating or outsourcing—control, we focus on what we would be gaining if we let of certain tasks. Take a sheet of paper and write down the pros and cons of delegating tasks to other people.

One disadvantage of delegation is losing absolute control. It sounds like a dictatorship, doesn’t it? But it’s true! There will an increase in costs and there will be a variation in the results, which can frazzle you if you are a perfectionist.

But the advantage is less stress and increased free time, a resource you can use to focus on your business—and focus on growing your business. Your free time can be used to work on your business, rather than working in it.

Here are 4 ways to shift that mindset of giving up control into gaining time and mental space:

  1. You may think that you’re the best person to do certain tasks—and perhaps that’s true, for now. But what if you find someone who does it just as well as if not better than you? Wouldn’t that be better for the business? Instead of using your time to do all of these tasks—and using up so much mental space on so many tasks that someone else can do, why not use your time and mental energy to plan for growth, to strategise, and to execute these plans?

In my video, Your business can only grow as big as you can manage, I discuss how you—yes, you, the business owner—can be holding your business back by continuing to do everything. The reality is, the business owner alone cannot manage all of these areas singlehandedly. Your business can grow no bigger than what you can effectively manage.

What can business owners do instead? Take things off of your plate and retain only the things that will help you achieve your goals. Delegate or outsource the rest!

  • It does take time and it does take effort to train people to takeover certain tasks. Some people may need more time than you probably needed to be efficient in these tasks. But instead of thinking about it as time and effort wasted, why not shift that mindset and think of it as investing your time on something that can help free up your time in the long run? Time is not wasted when there is a return—and regaining back that time is a worthy investment!

Time is the most valuable asset—it is limited and non-renewable. In my video, Managing your business’s most important asset – your time, I provide tips on how business owners can make the best use of their time by focusing on the tasks that matter the most—the tasks that only you, the business owner, can fulfill and accomplish. What to do with the rest? Delegate, of course!

  • You don’t need to employ people full time to get help. There are many ways to get help without increasing overhead. You can hire someone part time, or hire a virtual assistant through online market places such as Upwork or Freelancer.

Outsourcing is one if the three things you can do to take your business to the next level as I explain in my video, 3 ways to improve your business today. Many times, particularly for small businesses, it makes much more sense to outsource certain areas of the operations (such as IT and database management or even payroll and bookkeeping) rather than upgrading systems or hiring new staff, which will only increase overhead costs and erode profits.

There are also many small businesses in Australia that outsource non-core operations to other businesses or professionals. For example, Whole Kids Australia (link to video forthcoming) keeps their operations small by focusing on what they are great at—and that’s marketing and product development, and delegating the rest, such as warehousing and distribution. In this way, they keep their operations small, which is their vision, without compromising on the quality of their products.

  • For any entrepreneur, time is an important asset—and so is your focus. Multitasking hurts you more than you think. In my previous video, Is multitasking hurting your business?, I share what scientific studies say about multitasking (hint: it’s not good for you!), and what you can do instead, which is to focus on the important tasks and delegate the rest!

So, think about what you can delegate and then find the resources to invest in that process. This will be the start of your continued business growth.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

Read more >

Small businesses can do big things. In this new series of videos, we will look into small businesses in Australia—their humble beginnings, their growth story, and the lessons that we can learn from them.

Today, we will look into the story of Whole Kids, a family-owned organic snack small business based in Melbourne.

Their story

Whole Kids launched their first organic snack range in 2005 in response to a gap in the market. The couple, Monica and James Meldrum, who at that time were not yet parents, could not find delicious and healthy snacks to buy for their nieces and nephews. They found that the range of “healthy” snacks available in the market at that time were not necessarily healthy—they thought many of them were filled with potentially harmful preservatives and were poor in nutrients.

They decided to create their own range of snacks that focused on nutrition and also making sure that they were free from common allergens. The Meldrums spoke to organic growers in Australia and worked with a dietitian at the Royal Children’s to understand what some allergies were.

They also decided early on about what kind of business they were going to set up. They wanted a business that focused on healthy products, on having an impact in the community, and on sustaining a small, family-run business that is fun, friendly, and fulfilling.

In the beginning, the Meldrums worked more intuitively. As the business expanded, the couple wanted to articulate their purpose and values in a statement, and so they engaged a consultant to help them formalise their statement.

Their values and purpose reflect on how they recruit talent and how they source suppliers. They recruit and source based on how they fit with their values and align with their purpose. This, in turn, helped them focus on what they are best at, which is product development and marketing. By working with competent employees and by outsourcing work to suppliers who share their values, they are able to keep their operations small, nimble and family-run—the kind of business they set out to build and nurture.

Today, after using AU$100,000 in savings meant for a deposit on a house, Whole Kids is Australia’s largest certified organic snacks manufacturer for children with an estimated annual turnover of at least AU$6 million. It exports to the Middle East, South East Asia, and most recently, China.

Monica Meldrum is considered as one of the country’s most influential female entrepreneur. And yet they still consider themselves a small, family-run business competing with large, multinational corporations. To date, they supply large orders of kid snacks to large airlines, such as Jetstar and Qantas.

What we can learn

Their business model—that is, small operations catering to large corporations—presents unique challenges, which I think that small business owners, such as you, would be able to relate to and even appreciate.

Here are three lessons that the Meldrums share about running Whole Kids:

(1) Be honest with your customers

Any business will run into supply issues—but because Whole Kids work with organic and seasonal ingredients, ensuring a stable supply of raw ingredients makes it even more challenging.

Whole Kids work with fresh natural and organic ingredients, taking into account not just overall nutrition but also common allergens. Some items are seasonal and some items need to pass certain standards—so they can run into supply challenges. This means that they may not always supply the same product in every flight or that they can deliver large batches of particular product units all the time.

What do Whole Kids do? They communicate closely with their clients.

With any supply issues you think you may run into, give your customers a heads-up – it’s much easier to work through that than be caught out last-minute.”

(2) Do the research

When launching a business, especially one that tries to cater to gaps in the market, it is important to understand what the market truly wants in order to create and supply the right product or service. In the case of Whole Kids, the founders spent a lot of time and effort in understanding not just their market, but also ingredients and processes that may affect their product offerings.

Because I spent two to three years researching the market, I understood what ingredients were available and what product gaps there were. It enabled me to launch the product and minimise the risk.”

 (3) Focus on what you are good at and delegate the rest

The founders of Whole Kids are parents to a young family. The operations of Whole Kids remain family-owned and small. In the early stages of the business, their impressive growth stretched them out too thinly. So the couple decided to focus on their core competencies, product development and marketing, and to delegate to other people who specialised in warehousing and distribution.

We immediately thought we needed a warehouse and needed a good distributor and took that on ourselves but it stretched us really thin. We realised there were other businesses that could oversee that side of the operation better than we could. At the five-year mark, we realised we could do things smarter so we could focus on the marketing and the products and leave distribution to someone else."

One other notable thing that Whole Kids focuses on is their vision. They are an example of a small, family-owned business that has a clear vision of what they want to be, what they want to do, and where they want to go—and one that keeps to that vision to drive their growth.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

Read more >

Small businesses can do big things. In this new series of videos, we will look into small businesses in Australia—their humble beginnings, their growth story, and the lessons that we can learn from them.

Today, we will look into the story of Mountain Bikes Direct and it’s unique business model that allows employees to work while pursuing their shared passion for mountain biking.

Their story

Mountain Bikes Direct is an Australian-based online business selling mountain bikes and related products, such as parts, accessories, and clothing. It considers itself as a pure play company or a company focusing merely on a specific niche—in this case, products related to mountain bikes.

However, while this 8-year-old small business caters to a specific niche in the sporting goods market, it turned over AU$10 million in annual revenue in 2018.

This is impressive considering that this online-only company operates with only 14 employees—4 of which were only added in the last year. They pride themselves with their topnotch customer service. They are not only able to supply the largest range of mountain bike parts, clothing, and accessories in Australia, but they also provide expert knowledge to their customers.

If that’s not impressive enough, consider this little tidbit: this small team rarely even sees each other. That’s because Mountain Bikes Direct does not have a central hub or office—they all work remotely, but communicate and collaborate regularly through platforms like Slack and Asana. The team resides all over Australia: the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Melbourne, Mount Beauty, Canberra, and even Colorado, USA.

Every single member of the Mountain Bikes Direct team is a mountain bike expert who continues to passionately pursue their love for mountain biking, thanks to their unique culture and work set-up. They are all required to be online and at work at a pre-determined set of hours—but beyond these hours, team members are free to pursue their hobbies and interests. They are not even required to respond to queries sent outside of their work hours.

Each team member works remotely from home and provides customer support through chat. And because they are scattered all over Australia and with one team member based out in Colorado, the team is able to provide almost round-the-clock customer service support.

What we can learn

  1. Build a business model that supports your business and life goals.

Before setting up Mountain Bikes Direct, the four founders owned and ran a brick-and-mortar mountain bike shop. They realised the limitations and challenges of operating a physical store, and so they decided to sell the physical store and focus their attention online.

While an e-commerce business provided a different set of problems and challenges, they felt that this business model allowed them to pursue their business and personal goals. For example, being a purely online store meant that they could provide a wider range of parts to customers because they do not face the challenges of keeping inventory in a limited space of a physical store.

They also don’t need to deal with overhead costs associated with running a business in a physical space. This is certainly an advantage particularly because the cycling retail industry is a highly competitive industry, as large international competitors are increasingly slashing retail prices to earn market share.

The other obvious advantage of going online-only is that it eliminated the time restrictions of running a physical store. They didn’t need to show up in a bike shop day-in, day-out to run the operations during store hours—or stay after hours to check inventory and do back office operations. They instead used the time to pursue their hobbies and passions, and it provided them with more time to be with their family.

Jen Geale, one of the co-founders, said, “Over time we realised that we wanted to focus on e-commerce for reasons both business and personal, so Michael and I took the lead on creating a new brand, Mountain Bikes Direct, that was online-only.”

  • Provide the right infrastructure to support your business model

One of the challenges of having an online-only business is the lack of face-to-face interaction with customers. In the early days of their operations, people would call their hotline just to see if there were people behind the website and to check whether they were a legitimate operation. The team quickly realised that the best way to handle these issues was through better communication.

They re-designed the website to include many trust signals and answers to frequently asked questions. They eventually took out their hotline and replaced it with live chat that allowed the team to provide a personalised and real-time response to customer queries. Best of all, they are able to serve more customers. And thanks to the different locations of their team members, there is always someone you can have a live chat with at the Mountain Bikes Direct website 17 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Geale strongly believes that their structure truly supports the business goals they are trying to achieve. She says, “Being online-only means we can offer a more comprehensive service time-wise. We can help more customers. We can help customers simultaneously. We can provide expertise between six a.m. and eleven p.m. seven nights a week.

  • Hire based on goals, and keep them motivated

To make sure that they could grow the business sustainably, the founders realised that this meant they had to build a lean team of mountain bike experts who are passionate about nurturing a mountain bike community. This means that anyone working with Mountain Bikes Direct, including its founders, should have the time to pursue their shared passion, which is exploring the great outdoors on their mountain bikes.

How can you remain an expert in mountain biking if you don’t pursue a mountain biking lifestyle? It only made sense to create and nurture a team that works in a flexible environment: a team that “gets to work hours that suit their lives.”

This unique working environment is responsible for a staff retention rate of 100% in the last couple of years. Because Mountain Bikes Direct provides a flexible working arrangement with clear guidelines on what is expected of them, team members are motivated to work.

In my video, How to motivate employees the right way, I shared how providing employees with a reasonable amount of autonomy can lead to highly motivated employees. As team members are able to pursue their passion for mountain bikes, team members are able to provide expert advice to their customers. This creates a virtuous cycle that benefits customers, motivates employees, and enables the growth of Mountain Bikes Direct.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

Read more >