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The global pandemic is set to affect not just public health but also the economy. As business owners scramble to do what they can to keep their businesses afloat, provide support to their employees, and cater to their clientele during these challenging times, it is very easy to focus on others that we tend to forget to take care of ourselves.

In this video, I explore practical things that we can do to take care of our mental health while working to overcome the challenges we are facing during this health crisis.

How are you doing? I hope that this video finds you well, and despite what’s going on today, that you are taking care of yourself. As a business owner, it is easy to put others ahead of yourselves, especially the team that works in your business.

However, your business cannot survive without its most important asset—and that’s you. I have discussed the importance of taking care of yourself in a previous video, calling attention to the need to rest and recover, because doing so makes you a better business owner, a better boss, and a better person overall.

While the advice in this previous video still applies, I would like to provide specific examples on how you can take care of your mental health during this crisis. It is also important to focus on ourselves—because we cannot help others if we don’t help ourselves first.

Here are a few practical tips that we can do to take care of our mental health.

  • Find a supportive community

It is important to remember that we are all in this together and that, if we work together during this crisis, we can prevail over its negative impact. This means looking for and reaching out to likeminded individuals who may share our worries and, more importantly, the resolve to find ways to make a positive impact in spite of current circumstances.

This is the time to surround ourselves with people who have a positive outlook and who are motivated to not just survive but also to succeed and even make a positive contribution to others. This is especially important if we get easily affected by negativity that we find around us, especially in social media.

  • Exercise our brain

If your current circumstances allow you some downtime, maybe it’s time to use this gift of time to exercise your brain. If there’s an online course you’ve always wanted to take or a book (or books) that you’ve always wanted to read but never had the time for, this is the time to go for it.

Perhaps this is the best time to reinvest time for ourselves. Also, focusing on learning puts us in a position of being in control at a time when many of us feel insecure or may have feelings of helplessness. During these times, it is best to redirect our energy into something that can produce positive results, such as reading or learning. Most of all, and best of all, it puts you in a position of being in control.

  • Remember self-care

On the flipside, some of us may be pre-occupied with many challenges in our business. Maybe our customers or even our employees are looking to us for more support, which means we work more hours to address these concerns. Perhaps the problem is that we do not have time to spare at all.

Whatever the case, please remember to find the time for yourself and practice self-care. It is tempting to focus on our productivity during this pandemic—it seems like we are given more time than usual as the world slows down and many industries come to a halt. But mental health professionals warn that this is not always healthy—and that it is perfectly fine to be unproductive.

These are exceptional times. It’s OK to not expect too much of ourselves and instead focus on being kind to ourselves. Take a walk. Meditate. Find a new hobby—or pick up an old one. Listen to soothing music. Maybe skip work altogether in the middle of the week if you need to.

  • Separate work from home

As governments around the world call on its citizens to stay home to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, this move has introduced the largest experiment on working from home. And it has also introduced a lot of disruptions and challenges, especially to those who consider their home a place to rest, relax, and decompress.

The first rule of working from home is to establish physical, emotional, and mental boundaries. Set up a routine—and if you can, follow your usual routine. Wake up, eat, and sleep at the same time. Work the same hours if you can. Don’t work if it’s time to rest. Put those phones and laptops down at the end of the work day.

I recognise that this becomes a challenge when you have a family and have kids. This is why routines matter. At the same time, we also need to leave space for flexibility and accept that things won’t always go as planned—this is something new, after all. We didn’t expect this and we couldn’t have planned for this. It’s OK if things aren’t perfect. Do NOT expect them to be. Like in your business planning, be flexible as you work from home to get things done.

  • Help out: volunteer or donate

There is a lot of research that show how volunteering and helping others promote psychological well-being. It helps relieve stress and anxiety. Volunteering and helping out has also shown to help people find purpose and meaning, which brings them feelings of optimism.

And if all else fails, perhaps it is time to reach out and seek help from people who have the experience and expertise in managing mental health. These are extraordinary times—and some issues may need extraordinary measures.

Thank you and keep safe.

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What are some of the unique and fun ways to recognise employees? In this video, I explore some of the more unconventional ways of rewarding them.

There is a consensus on the importance of rewarding or recognising employees who do exceptionally great work. The rationale is that if you reward them, they will be motivated to continue doing great work.

The contention on this belief arises when we talk about finding the right rewards. As business owners, we want to make sure that we are generous enough to make the employee feel appreciated but not too much for everyone to expect that all exceptional work should be rewarded, even if such is a regular call of duty. We also consider our financial ability to sustain such rewards. It can’t be too generous that it affects the bottom line. Ideally, it should be simple and easy to implement—and one that can be sustained for many years to come.

Best of all, we should be transparent and have firm guidelines on who is eligible for these rewards, so that everyone feels that they have a fair chance of being a recipient and that we are not playing any favourites.

Note, however, that not all policies or rewards that aim to motivate behaviour work as well as one plans it to be. In my video, How an employee reward system can curtail productivity, I explored how one well-meaning employee rewards policy led to a decline in productivity. The key is to understand that employees are best motivated when the rewards are aligned with their internal motivation, just as I discuss in my video How to motivate employees the right way.

I’ve worked with business owners who struggle to come up with the proper incentives to motivate their employees. They are usually too busy with the business to think clearly about how to reward exceptional behaviour. But what they fail to realise is that their employees are one of the reasons for their business’s success. Ignoring their contribution may lead to demotivation and to employees doing only the bare minimum. This, in turn, can impact the morale and productivity of the team.

Here are some simple employee rewards that I’ve discovered align with internal motivation and are simple to do:

  1. Kudos Board! Perhaps the simplest but one of the most effective recognition programs. Managers, team members or even clients can give feedback about someone they feel who did exceptional work. This can be published either in the organisation’s bulletin board or social media for everyone to see. It’s good because employees are publicly recognised, at the same time, it gives other employees concrete examples of exceptional work that they can model.
  2. Write a simple Thank You note. Sir Richard Branson has been known to do this. It is simple but heartfelt, and lets employees know that you notice their hard work. While it takes time to do and it may be difficult to write the note, this brings more value to your employee than any monetary value. And, it’s a cost-effective measure, too!
  3. Throw a pizza party! This is great especially when you are celebrating not just the achievement of one team member but the collective effort of an entire team. It’s a fun way to build team camaraderie, too!
  4. Give a special perk for a limited time, maybe a paid day off or the opportunity to park at the best spot for a few days. It’s a simple reward but note that selection criteria should be clear and transparent to prevent any indication that you are playing favourites!
  5. Dinner for the family on you! Large corporations have been known to provide this reward. This is to recognise that families also make sacrifices, especially when their family member has been working very hard on a project that has taken time away from them. It also makes an employee feel especially valued because rewards are extended to their family.
  6. Career-based rewards, such as sending employees to out-of-town training classes or even just online classes of their choice.

How about you? How to you recognise and reward your employees?

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 >

Entrepreneurs like Simon Sinek and Sara Blakely have repeated said to begin with your WHY.

Do you know your why? In this video, I explore what determines our WHY and why knowing our purpose matters in your business.

What Simon Sinek and Sara Blakely are saying is that everyone should find and focus on their purpose because knowing your purpose is a necessary step to success. The German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once said, “He who has a why can endure any how.”

For business owners, the key to being motivated, to pursuing goals, to growing, and to never giving up is to understand our purpose.  Why are we in business? Why are we doing what we do?

When things get tough, our WHY determines whether we push forward or do something different. When we approach a fork in the road, and we find ourselves having difficulty making a decision, our WHY guides are choice.

What determines our why?

Margie Warrell explains that four (4) factors determine our WHY or PURPOSE:

  • Talents.

What is it that do we do well naturally? Do you have the innate ability to understand a problem immediately and identify its root cause? Are you a natural problem solver? Are you a natural communicator? Are you innately creative and able to provide out-of-the-box solutions for complex problems?

  • Skills & Expertise.

While talent refers to something that comes naturally to you, skills and expertise are the results of your education, training, and experience. These are things you’ve learned in formal education and training, and things you’ve mastered through repeated tasks or through your work experience.

  • Values.

Values pertain to what is important to you. What are your principles? What do you hold important, or even sacred? Your values determine what you are willing and not willing to do to achieve something.

  • Passions.

What makes you come alive? What are your interests? What brings you joy?

The intersection of these four factors will give some indication on what your WHY is. Your talents, skills, and expertise will tell you what kind of product and/or service you can provide. Your values and your passions will determine how you define your business model, your organisational structure, and how you respond to different situations in your business.

What are the more common WHYs—what motivates many entrepreneurs?

  1. Money. Perhaps the most practical WHY. Many of us are in business to be able to afford a living. And many times, more than a living. Business owners are in business to provide a lifestyle for themselves and for their family.
  2. Independence. Because we want to work for ourselves—to make decisions for ourselves and have control over what we can offer. We also want our businesses to work for us—to have the option to “not” work and have the business work for us when we’re not working in it.
  3. Lifestyle. While this why might be construed as an intersection between money and independence, I think that it is also important to point out that many of us enjoy the kind of lifestyle that being in a business provides. Having a business provides us and our families the resources and opportunities that could be challenging to do as an employee. These opportunities may include opportunities of working with certain people or privileges to do certain things, like traveling or being able to have the flexibility to be with family, that is not always as easy to do if you work 9-to-5 as an employee.
  4. Creativity. Many of us love the idea of being able to create or build something, and having a business allows us to explore our creativity.
  5. Legacy. Some people plant trees, others write a book. Entrepreneurs build businesses that they can pass on to their children and grandchildren—or a service or product that can benefit many people.
  6. Leadership. Are you a natural leader who loves motivating teams and getting them to perform at their peak? Having the opportunity to lead and motivate people is an important why for many entrepreneurs and business owners.
  7. Challenge. Some people enter competitive markets, and some people like blazing the trail and disrupting the status quo to provide better products and better solutions.

Why is UNDERSTANDING your WHY important to your business?

The short of it is because it answers a lot of questions.

If you know and understand that MONEY is your primary motivation, then this will help you determine whether your business plan, your business model, and your sales and marketing strategies are all aligned to help you make money. It will help determine whether you need to expand, develop a new product, or even downsize.

If INDEPENDENCE is your motivation, then you would be particular about how your business is structured. Will you take on a partner? If you do need a partner, which areas of the business will they be taking over, or how much say will they have in decision-making?

Or, if leaving a LEGACY is important to you, then thinking about and planning for the long-term is at the core of all of your decisions.

With these examples, it becomes clearer why we need to know and understand our WHY—and why it should matter to us. Our WHY is what we hold on to during those difficult days when we need to make important decisions, or what drives up to get out of bed each morning even when we do not feel as excited or driven—and most especially when we feel lost and confused about what to do.

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 >

While reality shows seem to feature fantasy over reality, I find it very interesting when motivated and hardworking entrepreneurs become the subject of a long-running reality show like Shark Tank. Running for 10 years already, the Shark Tank in the United States has produced many successful ventures that turns over millions of dollars annually.

In this video, I explore what small business owners like you and me can learn from successful entrepreneurs of Shark Tank.

In two previous videos, we discussed certain prominent judges of the US version of Shark Tank and the lessons we can learn from them (link forthcoming).

This time, I explore lessons from two of the most successful business ventures to come out of that series—and one venture that failed to seal a deal with a Shark but became one of the most successful companies to come out of Shark Tank, and was later bought by Amazon for more than US$1 billion in 2018.

Lesson from Scrub Daddy: Provide a solution to a pain point

Aaron Krause is the founder and inventor of Scrub Daddy, a non-scratching reusable sponge that made cleaning very easy, thanks to the scrub’s characteristics. He developed his first scrub in 2006, but failed to secure any sales, and so sold most of his sponges to the 3M Company as scraps. In 2011, in need of sponges to clean off his own lawn furniture, he discovered that his special sponges got the job done without scratching any surface.

In 2012, he went into the Shark Tank and secured a deal with Lori Greiner. To date, Scrub Daddy has made more than US$50 million since its pitch.

Scrub Daddy provides a simple solution to an everyday problem. It makes cleaning easy. But that’s not all—the product has also been lab tested to rinse clear of debris and resist odors for up to two months. Krause and Greiner, both inventors, have said it again and again—successful products are ones that provide easy solutions to your customer’s pain points.

It all boils down to your customers. How can you help them? How do your products and services minimise or even eliminate their pain points? How can you improve the products and services you offer today to make sure that you provide a better solution to your customers’ pain points?

Lesson from Tipsy Elves: Identify risks and diversify

Founded by college friends Evan Mendelsohn and Nicklaus Morton, Tipsy Elves started out as a company that designed and sold ugly Christmas sweaters. The company differentiated themselves from other ugly sweater creators by using higher quality materials and also by teaming up with Save the Children, an American non-profit organisation, in dedicating a portion of their profits to providing underprivileged American children with winter clothing. After their pitch, they partnered with Robert Herjavec.

One of the risks that Herjavec and the founders of Tipsy Elves identified from the very beginning is the seasonality of the product—it only came out during a few months in the year. So one of the things that they immediately worked on was diversifying their product line so that the company has business the entire year. They have since expanded to over twenty clothing categories, including Hawaiian shirts and swim trunks, patriotic clothing, and Halloween costumes. Since their pitch in 2014, the company has seen more than US$50 million in revenue.

Most, if not all businesses experience business cycles—and throughout the year, there will be lean months and there will be months when we see a lot of business.

The question you should ask yourself is, how can you diversify so that you can have more business during the lean months? What can you do so that you can extend your busy months?

Lesson from Ring: Have a focused vision

In 2013, Jamie Siminoff pitched his product, then called Doorbot, a doorbell with a camera that sent video to users' smartphones. Despite having made solid sales for Doorbot, Siminoff walked away without a deal. His appearance in Shark Tank only increased interest for his doorbell camera, but this is a story of overcoming many challenges.

The first set of Doorbots he launched into the market produced poor video quality and had spotty WiFi capabilities. Siminoff had to spend 9 months responding to customer complaints. Funding also continued to be a challenge.

But Siminoff was motivated by his purpose: to make neighborhoods safer for everyone. He designed his smart doorbell because his wife had difficulty hearing when someone rang the doorbell and also because of his own concerns for home security. While there were smart doorbells in the market, it did not provide the benefits that he wanted from one.

So he pushed forward. Eventually, he was able to work with a manufacturer who could improve the quality of his doorbells. He also found partners to work with, one of whom suggested to change the name from Doorbot to a simpler name, Ring, that had a better recall.

He was also introduced to Richard Branson who lead the last round of funding for the company. In case you did not know, Branson sometimes appears as a guest judge on the Shark Tank. You could say that Siminoff eventually walked away with a deal from a Shark.

In 2018, Ring was bought by Amazon for US$1 billion.

When things became difficult, Siminoff held on to his purpose and his vision for the company. He was specifically motivated by his desire to provide a solution for an important pain point: home security—much like how Scrub Daddy offers a solution for a pain point in home cleaning. And Ring itself has diversified, offering other complementary home security products—much like how Tipsy Elves diversified their product lines.

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 >