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As authorities continue to grapple with the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies have opted to keep most of their employees working from home. While most workers were optimistic about the new work-from-home setup, and initial trends show that remote work improved productivity, many workers are now slowly realising that working from home presents a different set of challenges. 

In this video, I offer three practical tips on how you can stay productive in spite of the challenges of working from home. 

Working from home provides many advantages. It reduces commute times—and if you live in the suburbs and commute to the central business district every day, that’s a lot of time saved. And since you’re working from home, it frees you from the distractions of chitchatting with your co-workers throughout the day? 

Well, if you’ve been working from home these past months, you’ll understand that working from home presents a different set of challenges and distractions. This is especially true if you live with family and have small children running about.  

Productivity experts say that the challenges associated with working from home comes from losing our ability to compartmentalise our daily life. Pre-pandemic, we work in an office and then come home to relax and rest. The change in environment or the shift in context allowed us to separate our work from our home responsibilities.  

However, when we start working from home, we work and relax in the same environment, which becomes distracting and disorienting. When you work, live and relax in the same space, it’s easy to get lost in the long list of things that occupy our daily lives. That also guarantees a chaotic environment that is quite stress-inducing. 

This means that to address the challenges of working from home and to maintain our productivity—and sanity (!), the key is to learn to compartmentalise. With that in mind, here are three things we can do to compartmentalise our lives while working from home. 

Have a dedicated workspace. 

This can be a spare room, if you have one. If not, carve out a little nook that’s just for work. Studies show that having a dedicated space for work puts you in the working mindset—“When I’m in this space, it means I need to work.” 

Do you best to manage your space by creating a conducive working ambience that mimics the workspace that you are used to in the office. Consider investing in a comfortable chair and an appropriate desk, especially if you know that you will be working remotely in the long run. Make sure that your workspace is well-lit. Create a layout where most used supplies are within reach so that you don’t need to run around the house to locate these. Consider the equipment that you need: Internet infrastructure? Laptop or desktop? Printer? 

Your dedicated workspace can be as elaborate or as spartan as you want. The goal is to have a dedicated space that puts you into work mode. By creating and working in this dedicated space, your partner and your family will realise over time, that when you are in this workspace, it means that you are working and that you should not be disturbed unnecessarily. 

Set your schedule. 

Once you’ve compartmentalised your space, it’s time to compartmentalise your time. Set your working hours and create a routine, because routines improve productivity levels. Setting work schedules help put you in work mode. 

Many productivity experts say to plan for only 5 hours of work—the rest of your work hours are meant to address any issues and last-minute tasks that may come up through the day. 

This is important: Begin on time and end on time, too. When working remotely, ending the workday is perhaps the most difficult for some of us. Many of us feel that because we work from home, we suddenly have a lot more time to work. That’s not necessarily true. In fact, it’s this mindset that adds to the stress and reduces productivity. 

There’s a funny but practical tip I’ve heard on how one ends the day: play a “goodbye” song at the end of the workday to signal that the day has ended. Once that song plays, it’s time to put your phones and laptops away. Tidy up the workspace and then leave, as if you were leaving for home.  

The key is to remain disciplined in setting up your work time and sticking to it. And when you find yourself away from that work table, you will not get that guilty feeling of going back to work because you have already completed your workday and that you have given your best attention and most productive time to it. 

Manage your work and tasks. 

Segment your work tasks from your personal tasks. Many make the mistake of juggling work and personal tasks, and that just creates a very chaotic situation that is difficult to manage in the long run. It also reduces your productivity and unnecessarily prolongs your work day. 

But if you do need to do personal errands during your work hours, schedule them in and make them part of your routine. Scheduling these tasks allows you to become pragmatic and less distracted because you know that you have the time to handle these tasks. 

How about you? What tips or hacks have made working from home easy and productive for you? Please send me an email, I would love to hear your thoughts. 

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. 

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As a business owner, what do you do when you suspect that there might be workplace bully in your team? In this video, I explore the effects of bullying in the workplace and why it makes business sense to stop it in its tracks. I also provide tips on how to mitigate bullying in the workplace. 

How extensive is workplace bullying?  

According to a University of South Australia study, two-thirds of Australians experience bullying, but only 10% of those surveyed self-identify as a victim of bullying. This study finds worrying implications: 

  • That while bullying exists in most if not all workplaces, many instances of bullying don’t get reported. 
  • Many managers misconstrue incidents of bullying as a different issue, often an interpersonal problem between staff members. 
  • Bullying is possibly more widespread than what most people in Australia think. In fact, Australia ranks 6th in workplace bullying, compared to 31 European countries studied. 

How does bullying affect your business? 

The cost of bullying at work in Australia is estimated to be $36 billion per year. Think about it. Bullying contributes to performance issues. Bullying victims experience having trouble making decisions, an incapacity to work, difficulty in concentrating, a loss of self-esteem, and a decline in productivity.  

Bullying affects not just one person. It also affects you, the business owner. Bullying in the workplace creates a hostile work environment, it promotes absenteeism, it impacts workers compensation claims, it reduces overall productivity, and it may result in a costly and even possibly embarrassing legal issues. 

As a business owner or a leader, it is our responsibility to mitigate bullying in the first place. That’s because aside from its dollar costs, bullying has been shown to have lasting effects in the organisation, which affects the growth and development of your employees and your business.  

What contributes to workplace bullying? 

There are many factors that contribute to bullying, but here are three of the most common factors: 

  • How workplace performance is managed, monitored, and appraised. A lot of bullying issues surround policies that affect how an employee is evaluated and how this evaluation affects their progress in the company. A lot of bullying happens in performance evaluations, particularly when an employee is being evaluated at the close of a project, for a promotion, or for a raise.  

How do you hold performance evaluations in your company? How many people get to evaluate each employee? Are the same people involved in every performance evaluation? How transparent is this process? 

Bullies love having the control to make sure that their victims are rendered helpless. Subtle forms of bullying include berating people, stealing credit, or unfair criticism. 

  • How entitlements are managed. Exclusion is a common manifestation of bullying. Victims of bullying claim that bullies are likely to exclude them from recognition or rewards that they are otherwise entitled to receive.   
  • How you manage your emotional culture. In a previous video, I discussed what emotional culture is and why it is important, especially because it affects productivity. An organisation with a positive emotional culture is one where employees are treated not just with respect but where there exists psychological safety, which is a crucial factor in building high performing teams.  

On the flip side, an organisation with a negative emotional culture is one where bullying is allowed to persist. Where people are allowed to blame others for failures, even if they themselves have contributed to this failure. An organisation with a negative culture allows people to threaten others, or to speak in a threatening language.  

How do you mitigate bullying?  

Now that we know what contributes to bullying, how do we mitigate it? The key to mitigating bullying is to nurture a healthy workplace culture and to put healthy systems in place.  

Bullying isn’t caused by just one person. Persistent bullying in the company is often the result of broken systems and a negative workplace culture that either enables or allows the behaviour to persist. For example, bullies will abuse vague policies and take advantage of loopholes to allow them to continue such behaviour. They also take advantage when authorities do not respond to repeated complaints about them. 

Here are six things you need to note to help mitigate bullying in the workplace: 

  • Do not tolerate bullying. Be consistent both in words and in action.  
  • Don’t ignore complaints of bullying, especially when it forms a repeated pattern. 
  • Train managers to handle complaints. Often times, the inability to respond to complaints isn’t for lack of concern or intention but because managers do not have the knowledge or skill sets required to manage this situation. 
  • Have a bullying reporting protocol in place and ensure that your employees know these steps. We need to observe due process, to be transparent, and to be thorough at every step of the way. Remember, false complaints are also forms of bullying.  
  • Promptly take action. When a formal complaint is lodged, carry out swift action. Remember that bullying has a cost, and it affects the organisation as a whole in the long run. 
  • Learn proper performance management. Performance management, in general, should have a specific scope, focused on priorities, and be balanced. The process should also be transparent and made known to all stakeholders.

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. 

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In the age of social distancing, how do we build and nurture a community around our brand? In this video, I discuss the value of a brand community and how to build one while everyone is encouraged to socially distance from one another. 

A brand community is a community of not just your loyal customers but also of your fans who function like brand ambassadors. Members of a brand community actively promote your brand’s products and services to their peers. Herein lies the value of a brand community: having customers ensure steady sales, brand ambassadors foster sales growth.  

What are examples of brand communities? Think of fans of Disney, Lego, or Apple. Fans of these brands converge in online forums and groups to talk about their love for the brand—whether about new products that will be launching soon, or the hunt for old collectibles or merchandise, or even about their experiences, both negative and positive. You’ll find fans posting about their love for the brand on their personal networks, too—maybe a photo from a visit to a Disney park, a new build from Lego, or even their new iPhone. 

While big brands and big companies have been at the forefront, many smaller businesses are applying these in a smaller scale. And these communities have been the secret of how many small businesses have been able to stay afloat during this pandemic. Complemented by a business pivot, which I discussed in the video called the #CovidPivot (link forthcoming), having a highly engaged community has been crucial to the survival and even success of small businesses during this health crisis. 

So what can small businesses do today to build and nurture their own brand community? Here are 3 practical ways that you can apply today: 

(1) Offer compassion, empathy, and solutions to customers 

Now, more than ever, there is a need for empathy and compassion towards our customers. Many are affected by the pandemic, and it would be tone-deaf to market products and services as if things have not changed drastically. We cannot just focus on just selling. It sounds tone-deaf, insensitive, and selfish. That said, a business still needs to be run, and we still need to earn our keep.  

So how do we balance our need to market our products and services with being compassionate and empathic to the needs of our customers? The simple answer is by offering real, practical, and reasonable solutions. After all, aren’t we in business to offer solutions to our customers’ pain points?  

More than that, there is also a need to acknowledge these pain points—we let our customers know that we see these problems, we understand these problems, and we are in the business of solving their problems. 

Think of how Single O (link to CovidPivot video), a café located in Sydney, responded when the Australian government imposed social distancing measures. They created a new product, a coffee brew called Stimulus, which customers can brew at home. It did not stop there—they continued to develop new products and offerings based on what their customers needed. They put up a corner store to sell pantry items, predicting that some of their customers will experience some supply issues for some essentials.  

Another company, Whole Kids Australia, offered kids snack bundles through their online store which may be delivered for free to their customers. It’s a great solution for a busy mom who needs to balance working from home while taking care of kids who are forced to stay indoors because of the pandemic.  

They offer empathy and compassion in their marketing messaging by recognising the difficulty that parents face juggling work, chores, and kids. And because the founders themselves are parents to school-aged kids, the message comes off as authentic and empathic. It reinforces the message that Whole Kids understands their customers’ pain points. 

(2) Be more transparent 

Building a community requires building trust. Trust comes from being honest and transparent.  

If you can’t offer the same level of service for reasons brought by the global pandemic or due to the government restrictions put in place to address the spread of the coronavirus—it’s time to come clean and say it. If you have to limit the number of people in your store, let your customers know. If you need to change certain things around your store or need to add safety measures to protect your customers and your staff, let them know. Acknowledge that these changes might affect wait times or the level of convenience that your customers are used to. 

In the United States, there is a Texas-based Korean BBQ restaurant that offers a notable example of how transparency in marketing works. As events around Austin were cancelled and the government forced restaurants to close their dining rooms, the owner of Chilantro took to social media to explain how this affects their business. He offered solutions to customers on how they can enjoy Chilantro dishes in their own homes. He also came clean as to how government measures are impacting his business.  

He was upfront about the fact that given how they serve Chilantro meals, where customers come in to assemble their own customised bowls, things changed drastically for them. As a result, sales weren’t doing well, but that he is pivoting so that he can keep paying his staff. He frequently addressed his customers through social media, letting them know which of his several locations were open for pick up or take out, and what meals were available.  

Today, Texas is slowly lifting restrictions and are now allowing dining rooms to open, provided certain measures are put in place. Chilantro remains open and in business, thanks to a brand community that it was able to build and nurture prior to the pandemic and even through the health crisis. 

(3) Talk about your employees—the faces behind your brand. 

Your brand community includes the people who work behind the brand—that means your staff. Why? Because your employees are also your brand ambassadors. In times of crisis, it matters how we take care of our own. It also matters how we recognise them. 

Chilantro has been featuring their in-store employees on their social media pages, to recognise their hard work and because they are the faces that customers see whenever they walk into any Chilantro restaurant or food truck. These are the people who lovingly prepare their rice bowls and burritos.  

If you haven’t already, it’s time to introduce these faces—the faces of your employees to the customers and acknowledge their contribution in your marketing message. Let customers know that these are the faces helping behind the scenes.  

Doing so humanises your brand. It lets your customers know that people who care are behind every product, every service, every interaction, every experience. And that’s really all there is to it in any community—people who care about each other, people who help each other, and people who support one another. In the most difficult of times, we all need care, help, and support. 

How are you doing? I hope that, through my videos, I have been helpful to you, especially during these challenging times. If you think you need further assistance or just want to chat, I would encourage you to send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you. 

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Growth starts with having the right attitude and the right mindset. In this video, I will share with you how you can nurture a growth mindset in your business 

What is a growth mindset?  

A growth mindset is a belief that we can develop our talents, abilities, and skills through dedication and hard work. 

How do we develop a growth mindset? 

As its name suggests, a growth mindset is a mindset of growth. It involves believing that we can grow, that we have control over our growth and development, and that if we work towards it, we can improve ourselves and be better.  

Remember the key words: belief, control, and development 

Where do we start? 

Experts believe that nurturing a growth mindset involves different sets of strategies. Here are three strategies you can start employing today to help you develop a growth mindset. 

  • Learn vicariously. 

Learning vicariously or learning via proxy means learning from the mistakes of others. Mistakes are teachable moments—use this as an opportunity to learn something new or to improve current processes. It would be a waste of resources if the lessons do not get shared to others.  

For example, if someone in your team makes a mistake, take this as an opportunity for everyone in the team to learn. Replace blame with curiosity and try to find out what caused the mistake and how this can be avoided in the future.  

What’s another way to learn vicariously? Read! In one of my previous video, I discuss how reading is a daily habit of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. They do this to stay relevant and even become better business leaders in this ever changing world.  

  • Consider struggle as part of the process. 

Every expert started from the bottom. Struggling to master things is part of the process. Expect to struggle if you wish to grow. 

Take Michael Jordan for example. His career as a basketball superstar is best known for what did NOT happen in the beginning—he did not make it to his high school basketball varsity team. Instead, the coaches thought he was too small that they put him in junior varsity. 

This stung him so badly that he used this struggle as an opportunity to keep practising every day in school until he made varsity. He went his way to basketball stardom from there. 

Many times the fear of struggle is what causes us from trying new things. If we start accepting that we are all made to struggle and that this is part of the growth process, this will help calm our fear of trying new things, a key aspect of building a growth mindset. 

Don’t avoid struggle. Learn to embrace it. Try to control struggle by placing it in a context that you can control. If you want to learn how to do this, please reach out to me so that we can chat. 

  • Regard failure in a different light. 

Failure is necessary for success. Failure is an effective teacher.  

Failure is the time to apply extra effort to significantly improve your results. It’s OK to fail—and the best thing that you can do after failing is to understand what you can learn from it. And for a very successful entrepreneur like Jeff Bezos, founder, CEO and President of Amazon, failure is key to his billion dollar success. He famously said, “I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com.” 

The ability to learn from failures and past mistakes is a critical skill set that business owners need to master, as I discuss in a previous video

It is often said that growth happens outside of your comfort zone. And in this discomfort zone, there is a struggle. There is a failure. And that’s OK. It’s easy to aspire to become the world’s most successful entrepreneur, like Jeff Bezos—or even to aspire to succeed like Michael Jordan did as an athlete. But they didn’t start from the top. They worked from the bottom. Jeff Bezos started Amazon inside his garage, and Michael Jordan started in junior varsity. They both struggled, made a lot of mistakes along the way—but the most important thing that they did was to learn from their struggles and their mistakes, and used those lessons they learned to grow and become better. And that’s exactly what having a growth mindset means—embracing struggle and failure as part of the growth process.  

Do you struggle to come to terms with certain struggles or even failures in your business? Do you avoid growth and development opportunities because you are too busy or that you have too much to handle? If you can identify with those questions, please send me an email and let’s have a chat. 

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. 

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With many of us encouraged to stay home in this new normal, Daymond John of Shark Tank urges everyone to "take the time to reinvest in yourself" while working from home. In this video, I explore what you can do at home to reinvest in yourself.

In the beginning of the global pandemic, governments around the world introduced community quarantines and lockdowns to help contain the spread. Activities were limited to just essentials: picking up supplies, outdoor exercising with stringent social distancing rules, essential work and operations, and emergencies. In some places, the spread has been largely contained, and this has led to the easing of quarantine and lockdown measures.

Nevertheless, things seem far from normal. In fact, many experts claim that the pandemic has introduced a “new” normal that we are likely to live within at least the next year or so.

With many of us encouraged to stay home in this new normal, we have found an abundance of time. Time saved from fetching our children from school, commuting to and from work, even from going out for social events. Some of us have utilised this time to sleep in, to rediscover what cooking is like in the kitchen, and some of us have discovered the joy of Netflix.

However, I would like to encourage you to explore what you can do at home to invest in yourself. There are many good reasons to explore learning at this time. In the short term, and particularly during this time, learning may help our mental health.

As discussed in a previous video, exercising your brain puts you in a position of being in control and lessens feelings of helplessness. In the long term, lifelong learning helps you be a better business owner, a better boss, and a better person overall, as I discuss in a previous video on how being committed to lifelong learning makes you a better business leader.

Before I begin the discussion on ways that you can invest in yourself, I’d like to introduce a caveat. Productivity experts say that this is a good time to explore learning options when you can. The pandemic is a good time to explore learning options when you can. Let’s acknowledge that some people are weathering the pandemic better than others—and self-investment has many forms. This is why this discussion about investing in yourself is not limited to just learning options.

So how can we invest in ourselves during this pandemic? Here are three things that you can start with today:

(1) Take online classes or read books

There are several being offered online. Other workshops and seminars have also been converted into online classes. There are also courses that are offered for free, such as those offered here and here. Many of these courses are also offered by Ivy League School professors in the United States.

If you can’t take classes right now, maybe you can start reading a book. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are all voracious readers—and they all associate reading to their success in business. This is the perfect time to read a book or books that you’ve always wanted to but never had the time for. If you need more books to read, here’s a link to some free ebooks.

One of the leading advantages of online learning is how it benefits careers and businesses. Many of those who have taken certification courses online have enjoyed career advantages and professional benefits as a result of taking these courses. Online courses improve knowledge and develop technical skills—and because many of these online courses provide certification at the end and gives the impression that you are committed to learning and development.

The upside is that you take these online courses at your own pace and right in the comfort of your home. No commutes, no fixed schedules, and all at your convenience. Many of these are short enough to only take up a couple of weeks at a time, with a time investment of an hour or so per week.

If you’re worried about the cost, many courses online can be accessed for free, but the downside is that sometimes you don’t get the certification. However, if you find the online course to be relevant and of great interest to you, you can always upgrade to a paid access at any point of the course. This gives you the full experience and certification at the end. All that is required from you to begin is go online and sign up.

Personally, I have found that by paying for courses, I tend to be more committed to completing it as I have invested my own funds into it. It also forces me to choose the courses I take carefully. And who benefits from this? I do! You, too, can benefit from following this strategy, too.

(2) Connect with your community

Most events, including networking events, have been cancelled or postponed. Many of them are moving online. Maybe your community has already organised one—or perhaps you can create one and build your own community.

You can set up a Facebook Group and invite the people you know to join—and then maybe, you can also ask them to invite people in their own network to join. Let’s use technology to network and connect with people.

Remember, in business, it’s not just what you know but who you know that matters. The people you meet in these virtual groups may eventually become your suppliers, your clients, or even your partners. They may be people who can provide you with assistance and support—and vice versa.

If you are interested to know more about online networking groups, send me an email, and I’ll share with you what I have.

We don’t know how this new normal will pan out in the next few months or years—anything is possible, and so we take every opportunity that we can to adapt and move ahead.

(3) Invest in your well-being

Remember, when I said that there are many ways of investing in yourself? This is what I mean.

You do not have to push yourself when you feel overwhelmed during this period. While it may seem like a very conducive time to learn a new skill for many, your own circumstances may be different from others. We are in a global pandemic. Maybe you've been working hard all of these years, and you never had the time to focus on yourself. Reinvesting in yourself may mean something else—such as taking this time to rest and focus on your own health, physical, mental, or otherwise.

Quarantine rules encourage exercising--so maybe stepping out for a quick walk or run will do wonders for your health. Many successful entrepreneurs put a priority on their health and block time for exercise in their daily schedules. A healthy body nurtures a healthy and sound mind.

Some people have also started journaling. Journaling has been proven to be beneficial for your mental health as you start to describe how you feel in words, and many experts have said that journaling helps manage our worries and anxieties during crises. From a pragmatic point of view, journaling allows us to put our ideas down. Who knows, maybe you'll find inspiration for your next entrepreneurial venture by journaling and putting ideas down to paper.

Many have said that this pandemic has allowed people to focus more on what matters, because it has taken away the many distractions that would normally clutter our day. Maybe it is time for many of us to focus on ourselves, whether that means investing our time to educate ourselves, connect with the people that matter, or to take care of our physical and mental health. Maybe we need to do just that.

Thank you and keep safe.

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