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The first half of this year has been full of conversations. I have met with almost 200 business owners about the opportunities and challenges they face day to day. Listening to those who felt they had no one else to talk to, advising those who thought seeking help wasn’t an option, and guiding those not heading where they knew they should be.

Reflecting on some of the amazing success stories I have seen over this time helped me recognise two really big factors that, when combined, separate businesses that grow from those that don’t.

A Plan

Having a plan has consistently been the number one factor in the successful businesses I have had the privilege of working with so far this year.

Now, when I say plan I don’t mean a 75 page document capturing your whole business outlook for the next 5 years, although these are a must when understanding your profitability, selling a business or raising funds.

What I am referring to is a simple plan. One that gives you an understanding of where you are today, and what you want to have accomplished by the end of the day, week, month or year. We all have goals in mind, but to actually achieve them there needs to be clarity around the actions that must be taken to make them a reality. This is where planning for success makes a difference.

One of my favourite examples of planning for success came from a small business owner who contacted me a week after an initial session to share that she had already accomplished more in five days than she had in the two months prior. She spent the first day outlining what was to be done, and then dedicated time to making sure it happened over that week. She accepted that certain distractions were unavoidable, but by having an outline of what was to happen by the end of the week, it was easier to revert to productive activities instead of straying off track.

Setting your plan, and then delivering on it, is not easy. It takes discipline to implement this practice, but the benefits have been consistently showing up in the businesses I have been working with who are using it as a tool to succeed. Not only does it clarify your direction, it also helps to avoid distraction and assess the true value of new opportunities.

Motivation

Finding, and then holding onto motivation is such a massive part of achieving success in anything we do, but the barriers to remain motivated are never ending.

Seriously, how much fun is procrastination? Surely Netflix is only successful because it fuels our ability to avoid what we know we must do.

When I meet a business owner that is truly driven to succeed it is inspiring. They can so clearly articulate what it is that keeps them driving forward. They are always learning from failure and accepting that the journey is never going to be an easy one. Using every challenge to keep motivated and having faith in their abilities to find a solution to the boundless problems that arise.

The thing is; we all find motivation differently. Some gain it from family, working hard to give those closest to us the very best. Others are driven to be the very best at what they do, or to help as many people as they can. I see a wide variety of motivations in my work, but unfortunately more people have lost this drive to succeed than are using it to move forward.

The challenge I try and set for all business owners is to not only identify what you are working towards, but understand why you are working towards it. This ‘WHY’ is your motivation and it can be the biggest difference between the success or failure of your business.

The Equation

Simply put, when you combine your motivation with a simple plan the results can be amazing for your business. So many successful businesses are leveraging these two factors as the fuel to reach their goals and see continuous growth.

Leading into the second half of this year, I would like to challenge you to take stock of what motivates you and spend some time setting your plan. To hold yourself accountable set a time to revisit both factors in a week or a month, and you might just be amazed at the results you have achieved.

I would love to hear how this helps you or your business and if there are any other factors you consider just as crucial to your businesses success.

 

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I recently made a whirlwind trip to China, spending time in Shenzhen for the EASTxWEST Forum. It was a conference aimed at facilitating better business relationships between Australia and China. My first time visiting this amazing country opened my eyes to the possibilities that exist for collaboration between such close global partners. I want to share my thoughts on a key to success in this part of the world that can become a guide for all that we do.

One of the most critical parts of doing business in China is the way in which you first build a relationship. This is actually something I believe should be the foundation for every business interaction, no matter where you are in the world. The fact is, building a business relationship in China is a time honoured tradition and a critical process taken so seriously that your ability to squander opportunity vastly increases if you choose to disregard it.

I was fortunate enough to meet some successful and influential people during my trip. They were shining examples of this relationship based business process. The level of respect the most successful Chinese business person had for those we may assume too junior for them to even worry about was inspiring. I saw introductions that would have you believe an assistant was the life blood of an entire organisation. Then, in one introduction someone made of me, it felt like I was already an academy award winning film producer. Some may say all this is just part of a game, said with tongue in cheek. I challenge this, as what I saw was a test of one’s humility and honesty, two critical facets of business in China. How you respond to an introduction, or introduce someone yourself, plays a huge part in representing your character.

To explore this further. If you compared a contract from China with a contract from Australia for exactly the same business deal, the Chinese one would be three pages and the Australian one close to 100 pages. The agreement the Chinese are looking to make with you lends more weight to their ability to trust your character, your commitment to deliver and your humility in recognising that everyone should be benefiting from the arrangement. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

So much of how the western business world operates is fast paced and distrusting. When it comes to making a deal things need to happen quickly and all negative outcomes covered. The relationship building process is pushed aside with minimal consideration, despite often being the part that raises any red flags. Yes it might take a bit longer, but building a relationship has been a part of so many business cultures for generations, a true gateway to entry for anyone looking to succeed. The long term benefits for a business willing to take this approach in China are unfathomable. The Chinese middle class are hungry for access to new markets. They see Australia, particularly when it comes to food and tourism, as one of the most sought after locations on the planet.

In China I met Australian business owners and government officials that have already put in the time and effort to build relationships with Chinese counterparts, hearing stories of the significant success they are having. Yet others could not grasp this method of entry to a market as being a way that a country or economy, particularly that of Western Australia, can grow. 

It might be a punt for some, but I think there is enough evidence to say that our relationship with the Chinese will define the success of our state, and even our country in the future. We aren’t the only ones with this opportunity either, the rest of the globe recognises the value in having a presence in China and so this is an act now situation. 

We share a time zone, hold so much of what they desire and need to look elsewhere to secure our own futures. If we accept traditional practices, put the time in and recognise the value of building strong relationships there is an unknown abundance of possibility on tap. No matter your business size consider what you have to offer to our neighbours in the north, as leaders of both countries are working to develop even stronger ties through free-trade agreements and an open dialogue.

Consider the traditional Chinese approach to business, not just in your work with them but in all that you do. Spend some time on building relationships first and see how it improves your chances for greater success in the future.

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The lead up to, and beginning of a new year frequently brings with it a fresh perspective on life, a reassessment of goals or a rude awakening that makes you cringe! For me all of the above has occurred in the last month and has led to some big decisions and even bigger actions taking place.

We all experience these moments no matter our individual journey, and in my view the most notable factor is that change is usually what triggers it all. Change is possibly the single most feared part of life, yet is the most constantly occurring element of living. I can safely say that the biggest limiting factor in some of the most critical decisions I have made in my life has been a fear of change and the unknowns that may/possibly/could/will take place.

I wanted to quickly share what has helped me overcome this fear, and explain how simple I believe it can be for anyone to overcome this fear themselves. It all comes down to one thing – communication.

Modern society fuels our desire to become independently successful, personally driven and single-handedly the very best at what we are trying to accomplish, with no fear at all. What it so often fails to mention when portraying the most successful and highest achieving individuals is the support networks they have, the advice they have access to, and the number of people they communicate with about anything and everything they do.

When you are an entrepreneur, small business owner, manager or aspiring professional, you are so focused and driven in your role that you tend to make every single decision, and in such a fast paced world the fear of being left behind by change makes the speed of decision making even more critical. This is not to say the decisions being made are not the right ones. The point here is that our fear of change, coupled with the burden of making, and then dealing with the results of these decisions can grow heavy and lead to future challenges.

This is where the so often overlooked benefit of communication comes in. Talking to someone can be an amazing solution to limiting your future challenges, and to effectively eliminating your fear of change, yet we so rarely open up and share, even with those closest to us.

Start with your partner or a family member, they may not have a clue what you are talking about if it is work related or may know exactly what you mean if it is a personal challenge, but just sharing what you are thinking or fearing can trigger solutions in your mind. You can seek out a friend who is on a similar journey, buy them a coffee and just ask them to listen to you share but seek their advice on you plan. Or, to take things up another level, find a mentor or advisor who has the ability to work with you to identify the best solutions and assist in the decision making process. A simple conversation focused on helping clear your mind and accepting the power of change, as opposed to fearing it, can make a world of difference. It certainly has for me.

So, my challenge to you as we start 2016 is not just to go and do this for yourself. I challenge you to be the listening ear for someone else. Reach out to someone you know is going it alone and maybe we can help each other recognise that our fear of the inevitable changes that occur along our journey doesn’t need to exist at all.

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The Golden State Warriors recently set the record for most consecutive wins to start an NBA season. They are sitting at 16-0 and have had a mix of ‘walk in the park’ wins and truly epic comebacks throughout the season, and all with their head coach sidelined due to a serious back injury and his 35 year old assistant holding down the fort.

Before the recent record setting victory interim head coach, Luke Walton shared about a moment where head coach Steve Kerr briefly met with the team to provide his thoughts on how they are achieving this success. He wrote four words on a whiteboard:

  • Joy
  • Mindfulness
  • Compassion
  • Competition

These are the core values of the Golden State Warriors basketball team, and Kerr emphasised to the group how proud he was that they were achieving each one every day. This is a team of elite sportsmen, who have trained for years to be where they are, being congratulated for focusing on and delivering to the values of the organisation they are a part of and having it reinforced that this is a critical factor in their success. WOW is an understatement.

In thinking about “the value of having values” I wanted to touch on how these four in particular can have such a massive impact on success, and why I think living values such as this can be critical to the success of a business just as they have been for arguably the greatest team in sports at the moment.

JOY

The fact that the first and, as Walton confessed, most important value is Joy really shows you the importance in having fun. The ability for a person’s mindset to be affected by the negativity that comes with not working, playing or living in an enjoyable environment is huge. The toxicity that this negativity can then have on others is almost unparalleled, yet so frequently overlooked. A business is no different to a sports team in this regard. If your workplace is not a fun place to be you can guarantee employees will be disengaged and not performing at their best. Simple changes can see huge improvements in productivity and staff wellbeing, which in turn see upside to the bottom line. Having fun matters! And it is possibly one of the simplest corrections to make, for a reasonable low investment but a huge return.

MINDFULNESS

Mindfulness is probably the most interesting value in this list, while not one you see often I think it is extremely important and starts in the leadership of any good team. Being self-aware and able to acknowledge how you act, react, think or respond in any situation is critical to being a good leader. Mindfulness helps you stay in control of any situation, allows your best judgement to take the lead and therefore provides your team with the greatest chance of success. In a basketball environment mindfulness could be the difference between giving away a technical foul or not. In a business environment mindfulness could be what stops you unnecessarily jumping to a conclusion or placing the blame. At an individual level the benefits of practising mindfulness are unbounding and unique to all of us, though so many overlook them. Mindfulness is most effective when used to set an example. Leaders for staff, coaches for players, parents for children, we can all take it on board as a beneficial value and activity to practice.

COMPASSION

Is the ability to care about the other members of your team becoming a rarity? Compassion is so often defined as the moment spent caring for someone in a time of need, but it is possible to be compassionate in our day to day activities and use this as a way to support and empower those we spend time with. The Warriors compassion for one another is clear, no player goes without a helping hand if they fall during a game and a shooting slump by a team mate is met with a positive outlook at a post-game press conference. In our day to day business lives the ability to remain in tune with how our team is feeling is critical. The simplest of questions, “Are You OK?” can make a world of difference. Trying to approach situations with the thought of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can vastly improve our ability to overcome issues or challenges. Compassion ties in well with Joy and as the Dalai Lama says,

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
COMPETITION

Finally, and most fitting to the basketball environment is competition. Anyone can appreciate that the sporting arena has a need for a competitive edge, and the ability to be the best is what the elite sports men and women of the world strive for. But competition as a value takes things to another level. Everything you do is driven by a focus to be the best. It is about individual improvement, which leads to team improvement, which leads to organisational success. Along the way you compete against yourself, your teammates and your opponents, with an ultimate goal in mind. Unfortunately competition within business is frequently the cause of more harm than good. Individuals work at besting each other with disregard for how this might actually affect the team dynamic or the business as a whole.  To make competition in business successful a leader must take charge and promote healthy and effective methods by which it can take place. Driving growth and success through well-structured competitive goals has seen some massive business success throughout history and will continue to be the significant factor as the world we live in becomes even more competitive to break through.

The need to revisit our values is usually scoffed at; many organisations have a list in a business plan, sitting in a draw somewhere, which is reviewed once in a while. The Golden State Warriors have shown us that having values at the core of what you strive to achieve works. Take a moment to think about yours, or those of your business, do you live by them every day in all that you do?

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Are notifications taking over the world? They may be one of the most frequently used, yet unproductive features of modern technology. A few weeks into my entrepreneurial journey I decided to take note of how many times in a day I was distracted by a work based notification, e.g. a banner popping up on my phone, a call coming in, a desktop pop up via Outlook or a message delivered on Slack. To be honest, I lost count by about 11am as it was very clear that my day was being seriously chopped up by this constant stream of attention seeking activity. So, I set out to make a change. Here is how I did it, and how you can too!

Activate Solution Quest – Being a lover of advice I asked a few friends, co-working companions, and even had a gander on Quora to see if others had this problem and how they overcome it, before planning to trial a potential fix that I thought would suit me based on the feedback I received.

Initiate Test Phase – To start with I selected three tasks that I estimated would take me about 20 minutes each to complete. I then chose a 60 minute set on SoundCloud, it was an upbeat instrumental piece aimed at keeping me motivated. Then I did the unthinkable…turned my phone onto Do Not Disturb, closed Outlook and Slack, and even closed Chrome as I wouldn’t need it until the third task on my list! Headphones went in and thus began my first Power Hour.

Analyse, Analyse, Analyse– After the hour was over I made sure to take stock of everything: what I had achieved, what I had missed, how I felt and who I had pissed off. Top of the list, I had successfully tackled all three tasks that I had set out to, it was a pretty good feeling! I had missed one call, a few new emails had come in, no one had directly mentioned me on Slack and I didn’t bother to check social media to avoid further distraction. The cool thing I realised from the test, switching off wasn’t the end of the world, everything that was outstanding after that hour could be tackled in a few minutes, bringing me back up to date and feeling great.

Re-Test – I conducted a couple of varied test runs, tackling larger single tasks and then a heap of smaller tasks over 60 minute periods, all the while seeing a really productive outcome from each test and managing to get back up to speed with anything missed in only a few minutes afterwards.

Celebration Time – The results of my tests clearly supported the actions and I felt pretty comfortable that I had come across a method to increase my productivity that suited my work style.

As a result of this little exercise I now implement Power Hours a few times each working day, and have started seeing awesome results and feeling way more productive at the end of a work day and week. On top of this I have stopped almost all push notifications for email, Slack and social media across my devices and not missed them one bit!

Now an hour may not suit you or your work style, so test the theory out before diving in. After researching similar working styles a little further I came across the Pomodoro Technique, which suggests 25 minutes is the optimum period for this sort of activity and that this method of working really improves productivity.

I would like to challenge you to try and “switch off the notification noise” and focus for any period of time during your working day. You will hopefully see an amazing increase in your productivity or focus and be better prepared for achieving your daily or weekly goals.

If you already have a productivity technique that helps you zone in and stay focused I would love to hear about it.

Cheers

Josh

 

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We can all relate to having a goal, one we're passionate, motivated and driven to achieve. What a feeling it is…

But then life comes along, full of personal and professional obligations and distractions. Add to this the never ending ‘To Do’ lists we create for ourselves, and suddenly the path to achieving our most desired goal is longer and harder than expected. Feeling like you are unable to make any real inroads can be truly devastating. It’s what makes so many of us find an excuse to “start again on Monday” or just throw in the towel completely.

So how do we get past these excuses and overcome the bad habits that rule our lives?

One challenge I set clients is to break the mold by realising small, repeated doses of success. We have the ability to allow ourselves constant victories that keep the momentum rolling and the motivation high. This can come through a weekly achievement that encourages us and advances our journey, dissolving some of the fog obscuring our greater goal far out in the distance. To put it as simply as possible, we identify a tangible outcome that we allow ourselves seven days to complete, and then allocate a reward for achieving it..

When facing the battle of achieving goals while juggling a busy life, this change of approach is something almost everyone can benefit from. Why not give it a try yourself?

  • Identify your biggest goal over the next three months and break it down into a number of smaller steps, anywhere from 6-12 is a solid number.
  • Focus on step number one along the path you have now outlined.
  • Choose one activity that you feel is achievable within in the next seven days that will lead to taking that first step. It can be work based or personal, and as simple or complex as you like.
  • Set a time frame. If it requires a single focused session to get it done then dedicate a block of time in your calendar, or several smaller blocks if it calls for a little extra elbow grease.
  • Allocate your reward. Don’t skip this step. A little reward goes a long way so be disciplined in your choice to ensure it will be appreciated.

Now just go back to normality - continue with your regular programming. Don’t make everything you do in a week about this activity, and don’t overthink the path to the greater goal you identified at the beginning. 

From here we just rinse and repeat, claiming the rewards and then setting the next activity based on the next step along the path.

Remember, this series of small victories is always aimed at getting us to our greater goal. The bonus is that along the way we are learning, growing and realising the value in each activity we complete.

Have fun with this challenge. Enjoy the rewards at the end of each week, and the satisfaction of reaching that goal you set that once seemed so far off!

Cheers

Josh

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In a moment of quiet contemplation thanks to some lovely early morning traffic, I decided upon five actions I plan to take to improve the year ahead. You could say it is my #BigIdeas2015 on a very small scale.

1. Don't speed, the fine or points off your license aren't worth it, and no one cares that much if you're late. It is way more important that you just arrive.

2. Put your phone away. Conversations are awesome in real life. Technology is systematically removing this element of basic communication even though it is the most rewarding.

3. Hug your nan, grandma, nonna or oma! They are more often than not the silent support holding a family together, who have sacrificed a lot so we can have so much and we don't thank them enough.

4. Give something to charity, whether it be time or money, because there's too many people in this world struggling to get by and the smallest gesture can truly mean the world to them.

5. Wear sunscreen! Ok, this is personal one since I am a pale man living in a city with a lack of ozone layer. But still important none the less.

Enjoy the year ahead and remember that it is usually the simplest actions we take that bring the most joy to others.

What are your 5 Actions for 2015? I would love to hear about them and why they are the steps you will take to improve the lives of those around you!

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