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In this video, I explore the characteristics that make a team successful and high-performing and discuss how your team can be one, too.

In a 2-year study by Google, the company discovered that there are 5 key attributes present in high-performing teams:

  1. Psychological safety: As a member of this team, can I take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed?
  2. Dependability: Can my team members count on each other to deliver high quality work on time?
  3. Structure & quality: Do all of my team members know and understand goals, roles, and execution plans?
  4. Meaning of work: Are we working on something that is personally important for each of us?
  5. Impact of work: Do we fundamentally believe that the work we’re doing matters?

Why do these attributes matter?

Let’s imagine what happens when these attributes are absent in the team we work with. Imagine that in your team, there’s no psychological safety. You can’t depend on anyone to take up the slack, whether you control it or not. You are unclear about the team’s goals and everyone’s roles, and you’re uncertain if there is even a definite execution plan. And because you’re unsure if what you are doing is important or even makes an impact, you don’t find meaning in your work.

How do you think you’ll perform? You’ll be likely to only do as you’re told and most likely won’t initiate or offer suggestions out of what you believe is normal. You’ll likely think and act within the box. You certainly won’t take unnecessary risks—or any risk for that matter.

It becomes stifling, but we would rather be stifled rather than have others perceive our competence or attitudes negatively. This is a natural survival strategy—but this also is extremely harmful to a team and its performance. Team members take less initiative, and they become less creative. That’s because when things are uncertain, we would rather wait to be told about what is acceptable and what isn’t. Rather than blaze the trail and then risk failing and possibly be blamed by the entire team, we are likely to just ‘play it safe’.

So how do we build a high-performing team?

The way I see it is that we need three things:

  1. we need the right people,
  2. they need the right tools and systems to work with, and
  3. they need to work in the right environment.

The right people, the right tools and systems, and the right environment will be different for each business—so there isn’t going to be the fixed formula for each team.

But we need to start somewhere, so here are a few things we, as business owners, might consider if we are going to build and nurture a high-performing team.

Let’s start with the people: hire the right ones. And the common hiring guideline is to hire for attitude and train for aptitude. You want to work with people who have the capacity and disposition to deal with the kind of personalities and situations that your business deals with daily.

Don’t try to get the best people at the lowest possible hourly rate. People who are good will command a higher rate—and even if they agree to come in at a low rate, they are not likely to stay for a long time. Find a good and fair rate to attract the kind of person you want to work in your business.

Once you find the right people, set them up for success by providing them with the right tools and systems to work with. This means making roles and objectives clear, and execution plans concrete. Provide further training if their roles or objectives call for it. The absence of any one of these makes people guess and leads them to improvise, which may not always result in what is ideal.

Encourage communication. A clear indication of psychological safety is found in the quality of team communication. That everyone feels that they are heard, or everyone feels confident that they can freely but reasonably express themselves means that there is a high level of psychological safety in the team.

While communication cannot guarantee that teams will not run into conflict, a culture that encourages open communication can help team members work through problems. Open communication nurtures an environment where team members will feel psychologically safe.

Google’s Head of Industry, Paul Santagata, who was involved in the 2-year study, has this advice: To build and nurture high-performing teams—and nurture the environment of trust, everyone must learn to approach conflict as a collaborator, not an adversary. The goal in resolving conflict is not to win an argument, but to find a mutually beneficial solution—and one that works to everyone’s best interest.

Santagata also advices to learn how to replace blame with curiosity. When exploring the problem as a team, focus on finding solutions, not blame. But when you do find that one member might be the source of the problem, try to ask this person for the solution. The people who are responsible for creating a problem often (but not all the time) hold the keys to solving them.

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 >

Do you know of Purplebricks? If you have been in the market for a house or looking to sell a house, you might have encountered Purplebricks Australia—the Australian arm of the British real estate startup.

In this video, I discuss one of Britain’s business success stories: Purplebricks. More particularly, I share with you reasons why it could not replicate its success in Britain.

What is Purplebricks?

Purplebricks is a real estate agency that has a different model of selling homes; it claimed to be a disruptor in the United Kingdom real estate market. Launched in 2014, the online agency set out to disrupt the real estate market by implementing a fixed-fee structure, rather than commission, to make the process of buying and selling real estate more transparent and cost-effective.

Purplebricks rode on its successes in the UK and launched in Australia in September 2016. It promised to save Australians an average of $11,500 under this new model. However, in May 2019, it announced that it was quitting the Australian market, two and half years after entering it with a promise to shake things up.

Why didn’t it work out in Australia?

A press release from the company claimed that market conditions in the Australian real estate market have become increasingly challenging. But some real estate experts believe that problems began even before the real estate market became a challenge.

Purplebricks spent more on marketing than they made in revenue. They spent about AU$20 million to create buzz and attract the market in the hopes of growing the company rapidly. It is difficult to sustain this kind of spending.

They put most of their marketing spend on expensive TV ads instead of focusing their efforts on targeted digital marketing. Not everybody who watches TV will be selling their property at that point in time. Not only is this expensive, but it is also wasteful given their budget and the geographical reach that the company was trying to achieve. Digital marketing, on the other hand, could be executed with specific targets in mind—those who are looking to sell their property or to buy one. And when used properly, digital marketing can be effective in nurturing customers.

In my video, Small business, big problems, I discuss why managing cash flow effectively is important for any business.

They didn’t nurture customer relationships. When you spend AU$20 million in marketing, you should at least aim to nurture long-term relationships with your customers—potential, current, or past. But customers felt that their relationship with Purplebricks remained purely transactional.

They didn’t provide value to customers. Property sellers were required to pay the full fee whether their property sold or not, which left no incentive for Purplebricks agents to sell the properties. The fixed fee model typically works in booming seller's markets, when buyers would gladly snap up whatever is available. But when the market slows down, agents will tend to prioritise properties that they can immediately sell because each property owner pays a fixed fee.

They didn’t listen to their front lines. Purplebricks did not want to change the model to suit the Australian market. There is a difference in the markets. For example, most UK home sellers would gladly handle their own open homes. In Australia, home sellers expect that agents will do this for them. Purplebricks was not transparent about charging property sellers for doing open homes, which surprised many. Their agents communicated this with the company, but the company refused to budge until October 2018, when it became too late for any changes to save the failing company.

The business model itself seems to be the issue. In the outset, a supposedly low-cost, fixed-fee model seems to benefit the customer—AU$11,500 in savings is very substantial. But it only makes sense if the customer gets the service it promises—in this case, if the property gets sold. But it turns out, paying the fixed fee does not guarantee that the property gets sold. The fixed-fee model also does not provide the traditional incentive model that spurs agents to push to sell a property. In the end, it feels as if Purplebricks is the only one gaining from this because it receives a fee whether the property gets sold or not.

What lessons can be learned?

What happened to Purplebricks Australia is similar to what happened to Bunnings UK. In my video, The Bunnings Lesson – What we can learn from it, I discuss how business arrogance can lead to costly mistakes. Business arrogance is when you think that what happens to other businesses could not possibly happen to yours. In reality, it can. It happened to Bunnings. It happened to Purplebricks.

Understand the market. In the case of Purplebricks, failing to address customer concerns despite being raised by the front lines proved to be disastrous for the company. Just because it works in the UK does not guarantee that the model will work in Australia. A product or service is only as successful as its effectivity in solving a problem. Australian property owners face different problems and issues compared to their counterparts in the UK.

The goal should have been to develop a product that suited the needs of the Australian market. In this case, Australian property owners put a lot of value in open houses that are organised by agents. It makes sense to build a model that accommodates this.

Another way it could have prevented this pitfall was to inform or educate customers about services that the fixed fee didn’t include. This is important when you introduce a low-cost model. Customers need to know in advance which features and functions will be pared down and which ones you will be offering.

Customer expectations matter. And when you choose which features to take out or offer as a paid feature, you still need to take into account what the customer values. Again, it boils down to understanding what the market needs, what it wants, and what it values.

Rationalise spending. It is unwise to spend more than what you make. And when you spend on something, make sure that you make the most out of it. Make every dollar in marketing spend work—and it works best when you work to develop a relationship with your customers. This starts when you make an effort in solving their problems.

As a new player, the odds are already stacked against Purplebricks. They are already at a disadvantage at having to educate the market about their service. And because they operated a fixed-fee model, Purplebricks does not have the same revenue-generating capacity as their competitors operating on the traditional commissions-based model. To overcome these disadvantages, they needed to attract market share immediately. To do so, they needed to make huge investments in marketing resources. Unfortunately, they didn’t maximise their marketing spending and focused on mass market channels such as TV ads. They were too focused on generating awareness that they didn’t prioritise nurturing customer relationships.

So what could Purplebricks have done differently? They were correct in focusing on marketing and educating their market. But they could have done so more systematically. They could have targeted their marketing dollars in digital marketing or utilised unconventional marketing practices that their competition weren’t fully utilising. Most importantly, listening to people working in the front lines from the start could’ve prevented some of the problems that they encountered.

I’m sure Purplebricks entered the Australian market expecting to make a profit and did not expect to make mistakes discussed above. However, no business has ever expected to make such fundamental mistakes—and it doesn’t mean that business won’t make them. Just make sure that you don’t.

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, I would like to explore success stories of small businesses in Australia and what we can learn from them.

In this video, I share with you the story of Over The Moo ice cream.

The backstory

Over The Moo is a dairy-free ice cream business and the brainchild of entrepreneur Alex Houseman. Houseman created his business out of his own personal need. He loves ice cream but is sadly lactose intolerant. While dairy-free ice cream is available in the market, he felt that there wasn’t any product that could deliver indulgent and delicious flavor at an affordable price. This led him to develop his own dairy-free ice cream made from coconut milk.

Over The Moo is Houseman’s first business. He quickly recognised that he needed money, advice, and exposure to make it a success. He decided to seek funding in Australia’s version of Shark Tank. In the show, he received three offers but eventually walked away without a deal.

One of the concerns of the judges in Shark Tank during the Over The Moo pitch was that Houseman had not yet trademarked his recipe. Seeing the wisdom in the judges’ advice about owning his ice cream recipe, he immediately worked on fixing this intellectual property issue after the filming wrapped.

However, Houseman’s main concern with the judges’ offers were that they were lower than what he was willing to accept. It was unfortunate that the show was filmed before Over The Moo began appearing on Woolworths’ shelves. Since the judges didn’t take into consideration this particularly important business milestone, their valuation for Over The Moo was lower than Houseman’s own valuation for his business.

As of 2018, Over The Moo was available in 2200 stores, that include Cole’s, Woolworths, and IGA supermarkets. Despite a wide distribution, it maintains a lean business model of just three full-time staff.

What we can learn

1. Hard work and strategic planning pays

Houseman is a former marketing consultant, but it proved to be a difficult sell in the beginning. Houseman approached every supermarket and tried hard to convince them to carry his brand on their shelves. He started with independent supermarkets and eventually made strides toward large chains. His hard work, strategy, and very good ice cream proved to be a recipe for his current success.

Houseman said in an interview, “As I have learnt, a successful business is only one per cent good idea, and 99 per cent hard work and commitment.” This rings true for any business, but moreso for a business operating in a very competitive industry.

The ice cream business in Australia is a AU$1.1 billion industry dominated by major players such as Unilever and Baskin-Robbins. While Over The Moo is considered vegan ice cream, Houseman does not consider it as a health product as it contains the same amount of fat and sugar as a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. This is to deliver the same indulgent flavor as regular ice cream to those with special dietary needs. Its product caters to a very specific niche: those who are lactose-intolerant or who follow a plant-based diet looking for a sweet, indulgent treat.

2. Check your cash flow

After Shark Tank, Over The Moo earned a gross profit of $1 million, but its net profit was zero. Houseman’s initial spending went to growing and expanding distribution.

Houseman confessed that he was lax with cash flow in the beginning. When he felt that this became an issue, he sought advice from other people and created an advisory board. He also took short courses on financial management. His efforts paid off.

Houseman consistenly advises having a tight watch on cash flow in his interviews. He says of his early experience with the business,

“I wish I’d known earlier how to forecast cash flow better. It’s terrible when you put all that effort into growing and promoting the business, then don’t have the cash flow to keep up.”

“At our worst, we had literally $45 in our bank account. All the while we have thousands of dollars in wages and product expenses every month. Being able to balance growth versus cash in the bank is the most important thing I have learnt regarding starting Over The Moo.'”

In my video, Allow Sales to Trump Everything, I share why cash flow management is important and how a fast growing business experiencing record sales could get into trouble if it does not manage its cash flow problems.

3. Fine-tune your product, and make sure you own it

It took Houseman 4 to 5 months of research and product development to get his ice cream recipe right. But despite doing all of the work developing the recipe, he initially shared the intellectual property of the recipes with the manufacturer he worked with. After failing to get a deal on the show and seeing that the ambiguity in the IP could become a costly issue, he immediately took the necessary steps to ensure that he had full ownership of his ice cream.

Houseman also knew how much his business was worth in his mind.  He was willing to listen to other people (i.e the Judges in Shark Tank) and was able to make an educated decision on the business value and decided not to take up their offer.  He probably knew that his product was going to go into the shelves of the major supermarkets, but could not yet reveal it to the judges at that time due to confidentiality issues.

Having said that, I have also met business owners who have inflated values of their business that were not based on market valuations. You need to be aware about the difference between your valuation of the business and how the market values your product—and you need to learn how NOT to get emotional in the process.

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 >