SIX Reasons To Collaborate

SIX Reasons To Collaborate

The ‘C’ in enACT stands for Collaboration, but why do we encourage our members to do it?

Whilst collaborating with competitors may feel counter-intuitive, in this modern business world where clients are increasingly demanding and competitors increasingly innovative, it has become a necessity for a successful business.

This means being consistently on top of new product development, intellectual property and operational integrity and it’s just not easy to do this on our own in a box room.

 

These are our SIX reasons to collaborate!  They all begin with S!

 

1. Self-Awareness

The very act of starting to consider how you might collaborate with others in business forces you to acknowledge, accept and articulate what you are good at and what you are bad at.  If you’ve heard us talk about the power of acceptance, you’ll know that coming to an acceptance of our weaknesses as well as our strengths is a really important step in identifying where our business is exposed and finding other people who can help us.

2. Skills

Collaborating with others in business with different knowledge and skills to us enables us to gain those additional knowledge and skills in our business, without having to develop them ourselves.  Whilst there is an argument for understanding the basics of the four areas of business: Sales and Marketing, People, Operations and Finance, there is a stronger argument for not trying to master it all, because it is neither possible, nor indeed sensible, to aspire to be good at every aspect of business.

3. Strengths

When you collaborate effectively, it allows you stay within your capability and expertise, so that you play to your strengths as a business and as a business person and stay loyal to your offering.  We all know that when we get overly distracted seeking to learn and develop skills in the areas we are not good at, we stop playing to our strengths and instead become weak.  To be clear, a strength is not just something we are good at, a strength is something that we are BOTH good at and that we enjoy – that we are energised by and therefore makes us feel stronger.

4. Speed

When you collaborate on something with others in an effective way, you can identify issues and arrive at and implement solutions quicker.  It simple terms, it also means that more activity get’s done at the same time and so things happen faster and results come quicker.

5. Stability

Collaboration enhances your business’s stability.  This isn’t just about the stability of your business in terms of having everything covered and therefore being sustainable, but it’s also about the perceived stability of you business of propects and clients.  It enables you to provide a more complete offering to your clients, so that they don’t perceive the risk associated with working with a One-Man-Band and get a better solution in the process

6. Scalability

If you want to be able to scale what your business offers so that you can serve more people, across a wider geographic area, or reach new markets, collaborating with people who can bring technical know-how or who have platforms that you can use or lists that you can leverage is an effect means of doing so.

So these are our six reasons to collaborate.  But how to do it?

Well, collaboration can take many forms, from a simple direct swap of services, to payment for introductions, to an actual Joint Venture where you team up with others to provide a broader range of skills or services and share the revenue equally.

We’ll share what we consider to be the 5 levels of collaboration in a future blog.  In the meantime, consider how you could collaborate, with whom and with what end purpose and then why not book a 1-2-1 with that person today – you may find that they’ve been looking for you too!

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What Does Creativity Have To Do With Collaboration?

What Does Creativity Have To Do With Collaboration?

When we think of creativity, we tend to think of the arts don’t we? But creativity is about more than being artistic. 

In fact, creativity really has very little to do with art.

Creativity is the act of turning new ideas into reality and it is characterised by the ability to perceive what’s in front of us in new and imaginative ways, to transcend traditional ideas or rules and patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated things and to establish meaningful new interpretations.

Most importantly though, creativity is about output.

Without an output, what you have is imagination, not creativity.

In this modern business world where customers are increasingly demanding and competitors increasingly innovative, businesses need to be more creative.  In order to remain competitive and lucrative, they need to stay on top of new product development, their intellectual property and their operational integrity.  And in knowledge-based industries where people are required (and paid!) to use their brain, the best ideas tend to come from the people at the customer face.

Have you ever worked on an issue or problem only to find the more you work on it, and the harder you think about it, the more you keep going over the same thought patterns and getting the same result? There is a biological reason for this.

As you repeat your thought process, you strengthen the neurological pathways in your brain, making it physiologically easier to follow the same route next time.  This is really useful when the brain is learning things to create unconscious competence (like learning to drive) but it’s not very useful when you are seeking to be innovative!  Finding new ways of looking at or doing things, or designing new products or procedures requires the creation of new neurological pathways.

The solution is Collaboration!

When you work with someone else on the problem, their knowledge (or lack of!) and experience, and the differing perspective that they have on the issue as a result leads to assumptions being challenged, inconsistencies being worked through and seeds of ideas being taken to the next level.  This often works in an escalating fashion as each contribution from each party creates new creative pathways in the other and this is simply not possible to do on your own.

So, next time you have an issue in your business, or you’re reviewing your product or service, coming up with a new route to market, or want to create an entire new offering, team up with someone else (and ideally more than one person) and use the power of collaboration to get creative!

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What Does Acceptance Have To Do With Accountability?

What Does Acceptance Have To Do With Accountability?

What Does Acceptance Have To Do With Accountability?

I talk a lot about the importance of accountability in business and often I am asked specifically what I mean.

Well, firstly, accountability is often thought of as being responsible for something, but that’s what responsibility means! 

The truth is that you can be responsible for something and not be accountable for it.

Accountability is 3 about things:  1. Acceptance  2. Activity  3. Answerability

So, the first A of Accountability is Acceptance, but what does Acceptance have to do with Accountability?

You may have heard the saying ‘what you resist, persists’?

What this means is that when you are unaware of (or in denial about!) how things really are, then they simply remain the same, because you have no reason to change them.

So acceptance is about getting real about how things really are, and I mean REALLY.

It’s about Accepting the Reality and this can be challenging.

Most of us are fully aware of the power of positive thinking.  We know that to focus on the negative is not conducive to achieving positive outcomes and so we are all constantly striving to be positive, to look on the bright side and to seek the best in every situation.

Now, I’m not suggesting that this isn’t a good idea and I certainly wouldn’t advocate the opposite!  Clearly aspiring to be positive is a far more preferable default state than thinking negatively and focusing on problems.  However, the problem with never looking at the problems is that you spend your time in denial and when you are in denial, you can’t improve things.  And this is where Acceptance comes into its own.

The first step is Awareness.  This means noticing patterns of behaviour that are unhelpful, weaknesses in terms of beliefs, skills and experience and being aware of what’s not working in your business.

The second step is Acknowledgement.  This means actually recognising those things.  And this is different to simply having awareness of them.  You can have awareness and still choose to be in denial.

Only when you have both awareness and acknowledgement can you get to the third step – Acceptance and this is where the internal accountability is because once you get to acceptance, there is no other decision to make, other than to change things!

Get Real!

So, be honest with yourself about what’s really going on in your business.  If it’s not going great, acknowledge that it isn’t going great and then accept it for what it is.   Only when you do this can you really begin to address it.

Ask yourself:

“What is really going on in my business?”

  • Is my marketing really working?
  • Is my business really profitable?
  • Are my clients really happy?
  • Am I really on top of everything?
  • Do I really follow through?
  • Am I really making progress month on month?

And be honest with yourself with your answers.  Getting to acceptance is essential if you are going to create the business you really want.

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A Coach Or A Mentor?

A Coach Or A Mentor?

None of us have the full tool kit required to start, develop and run a business.  The energy, attitude and skills required to get a business off the ground are quite different to those required to manage a business that’s already established.

Think about it.  If we had all of the skills required to both start and run a business, we’d not excel at anything and recognising this is the first step in going out and sourcing the support of a coach or a mentor!

I say a coach OR a mentor because contrary to what many people think, although many coaches do an element of mentoring and many mentors also have coaching skills, the two roles are fundamentally very different.

Whilst coaching and mentoring are both concerned with enabling an individual to identify issues and solutions and to achieve success, coaching does this through skilled questioning and facilitation and mentoring does this through advising and directing.

What is a Coach?

A Coach is typically someone that you hire to support you with a specific issue or project, and sometimes for a specified amount of time. 

Coaching is a set of skills that enable the coach to observe and analyse your attitude, skills and behaviour and to provide you with an objective perspective in order to enable you to develop and grow.  A coach is focused specifically on your personal development and learning, and a business coach is focused on this with the specific aim of supporting you in developing your business.

Coaching involves questioning techniques to explore the individuals wants, needs, motivations, skills and thought processes so that they can identify their own solutions and set goals and activities to achieve them.  It is not essential for a business coach to have run a business, or to have any previous knowledge of the individual’s area of expertise, industry, or product.  Their value is defined by their ability to guide and support their client in identifying the areas for development and in identifying solutions.

A good coach is someone who you respect and who you feel respects you.  They are someone you feel comfortable talking openly and honestly with and by whom you are prepared to be challenged.

What is a Mentor?

A Mentor is someone who has specific skills and experience in the area you want to develop those things and a business mentor is someone who has owned, developed, or run a successful business and has demonstrated that they have the skills required to succeed in business. 

Anyone in this position will have had failings a well as successes and it is their ability to turn a failing into a success that makes their input into your business so valuable.

Ideally they will have had experience running businesses similar to yours, however, the industry is less important than the type of business it is.  For instance, if you sell services, a good mentor for you is someone who has built and/or run a business that sells services.

A mentor may be someone you pay to support you, or it may be a friend or a previous boss or colleague who shares their experience and wisdom willingly.

A good mentor is someone who has an investment in your success and is committed to helping you achieve your business goals.  They are the first person to whom you turn for advice and they are the first to hear of your successes. 

They explore options and solutions with you, and they help you to deal with obstacles.  For this reason, a good mentor will always be honest with you.  They will tell you if they think an idea you have is a good one, or too risky.  They will also tell you if they don’t know something, and ideally, they will have an extensive network of other experts and suppliers to leverage to get the right answer.

Both a coach and a mentor play an important role in your success and there is argument for having one of each… I do!

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Create Your Vision In Three Simple Steps

Create Your Vision In Three Simple Steps

The idea of creating a business vision is not new. Many business owners start their business with a vision and some even create a strategy to achieve it.

However, many business owners fail achieve their vision and that’s usually because they fail to take the actions necessary to make it happen.

Follow these 3 steps to create a business vision that actually motivates you to take action!

Firstly, a vision is very simply a picture in the imagination and it’s usually a long-term view of the future. In a business context, it is an image of how the business owner wants the business to look in the future and so it provides the direction of the business. It includes the core values that drive the ethos and culture of the business and it forms the basis of the strategy and all activity going forward, providing a framework within which all decisions are made.

An effective business vision is one that inspires and motivates the people in the business to take action! If it doesn’t do that, then it is of little use.

Step 1:  Define Your Intent

Your Intent is about the ‘what’. It’s about desire. In other words, it’s about ‘what’ you ‘want’.

It’s about knowing what you want your business to be like. It’s about defining what you want to achieve specifically and it’s about clarifying the kind of work you want to be doing and with whom. It’s also about deciding where you want to work from, both in terms of environment and location.

Step 2: Define Your Purpose

Purpose is about the ‘why’. It’s about your reason. In other words the ‘reason’ you are in business.

Your ‘why’ stems from your personal values (the things that are important to you) and because of that, it is your deepest driving force. It’s about what your intent means to you and specifically what achieving it will enable for you (and for those you care about).

Step 3: Make It Tangible

Once you have defined your intent and purpose, you have the basis of a vision. However, you want your vision to exist as reality at some point in the future, which means that it needs to inspire and motivate you to take the kind of action that will make it so.

The key to this is making it ‘tangible’. What I mean by that is creating a tangible version of your vision, so that it exists in some form, outside of your head. Think of creating a tangible vision as literally creating your future history. In other words, creating the outcome as if it exists right now. The reason for this is that when your vision exists in some form other than in your imagination, your beliefs, thoughts, feelings and importantly, your actions become aligned with it, and you are more likely to make it happen!

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One-Man-Bands Don’t Work!

One-Man-Bands Don’t Work!

OMBDW blog picI remember the day that my fellow director first publicly stated this to a room of a hundred One-Man-Bands who were also our team of leaders at 4Networking!

He was lucky he wasn’t lynched!

However, having worked with and supported literally thousands of small businesses over the past 6 years, I absolutely know this to be true and I’ll explain why…

So why do One-Man-Bands not work?

In short it’s because none of us have a full tool kit to grow and run a business and we need the support and the skills of others in order to scale and grow.  There are lots of reasons for this, but for now let’s look at one of them: Answerability.

The first challenge of being a One-Man-Band, is that you are not answerable to anybody (aside from yourself) and this presents a number of issues.  Of course, you undoubtably meet deadlines for your clients, the truth is, your clients are only interested in whether or not you deliver to them.  Who is driving your growth and the growth of your business?

You know what it’s like…  You set your goals and priorities with enthusiasm and good intent.  The first couple of items get done, and that relieves the short term pressure.  But, somehow, all the other stuff just doesn’t get done.  After all no great calamity is going to happen if you don’t do them, and who is going to know anyway?

The problem is that it is precisely the non-urgent, important activities that will take your business forward and it’s these activities that need to get done, relentlessly week on week month on month, otherwise you’ll be doing the same old things in the same old ways and then you’ll wondering why your business is not any better!

So what can you do about it? 

Here are some simply Accountability Measures you can implement to keep you on track:

  1. HOURLY MEASURE: The Qualifier Question
    As you go about your day to day business there is a seemingly constant barrage of interruptions and distractions as well as decisions to be made.  To avoid the trap of attending to the most pleasurable or most urgent activity and instead focus on the one that will move you forward towards the outcome you want, ask yourself a simply Qualifer Question.  For example “Will this move me forwards towards my goal?”.  The answer to this question must be YES.  If it is NO, then drop it right away.  And, by the way MAYBE is the same as NO!
  2. DAILY MEASURE:  The Daily Accountability Tool
    This tool is available for free at www.en-act.co.uk and daily use of it will enable you to get clear on what’s important to get done TODAY and to schedule your time so that it does.  The daily discipline of using this tool has delivered extraordinary results for many, including us at enACT Central!
  3. WEEKLY MEASURE:  The Default Diary
    There are some activities that need to be done in your business every single week and it can really help to have those mapped out in your diary in advance so that you become disciplined at doing them.  Obviously it’s important to fit the timings to suit your style and your business, but consider things like Follow-Up-Friday, Website-Wednesday, Admin-Afternoon and so on.  This way, you ensure that key actions occur consistently.
  4. MONTHLY MEASURE: The Accountability Buddy
    Find someone in business who you can trust to buddy up with and share your vision, goals and plan with.  Then commit to them the things you plan to DO, ACHIEVE or COMPLETE this month and then make sure that you report back to them.  There is nothing quite like having someone you like, trust and respect to hold you to account month on month.

I hope this has been useful and would love to hear how you get on implementing these 4 Accountability measures in your business!

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