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Every business can be remarkable.

This is just another shopping mall… except this one has penguins.

And these are not just slippers… they’re “Anti-Flat Flip Flops”.

And this store will refund anything, as long as they carry it (no receipt required, no time limit).

You might not have a world-changing product or service, but you can still be exceptional by being creative. As Seth Godin said (paraphrased): Nobody stops and says “look, a cow!”. But if that cow was purple, people would stop to look at it.

What’s the purple cow (or green penguin) in your business?

The post Creative Marketing: Purple Cows and Green Penguins appeared first on ActionCOACH The World's Leading Business Coaching Firm.

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In last week’s post, we looked at the three fundamental steps to implementing accountability at an individual level. In today’s post, we’re going to look at how to drive accountability through your business, making it an intrinsic part of the company culture.

Creating culture

If accountability was just a case of setting metrics and reporting KPIs, it would be relatively easy. Given that almost every company I’ve worked with (from five-people start-ups to 450-staffed organisations) didn’t have this in place, it is safe to assume that the exercise is a lot harder than it seems. And yet, even the setting of KPIs is not quite the answer.

There is a clear, structured process around setting KPIs. But the culture element, that is a whole new challenge. Culture is not a process, nor is it contained in employee handbooks. It is a living, dynamic entity, and affects the entire company – both positively and negatively. If there are noticeable ‘cliques’ in social settings – that is a culture. If managers come late and have reserved parking spots outside – that is a culture. If every time someone goes to make a cup of coffee asks the team if they’d like one too – that is a culture.

How does this all come about? Culture is created – it is shaped, refined, instilled and taught. Good culture is intentional, not automatic. Not-so-good culture, on the other hand, has a way of establishing itself in a firm and spreads itself throughout the company. You don’t have to do anything to get a weed-filled backyard, but creating a beautiful garden is constant hard work. The same applies to culture – left to itself, it will often be counter-productive.

There are a few fundamentals to keep in mind for creating a culture of accountability, and each one plays a huge role.

1- Transparency and trust

If I’m accountable to someone, it means I am putting myself up for review by them. If I don’t believe they have my best interest in mind, I would be hesitant to put my success and future in their hands. What is the level of trust within your organisation? Do team members work well together or are there silos? Do individuals or teams have unhealthy competition between them? The single best way to ensure there is trust across the board is insisting on transparency. Everyone speaks the same language, there are no hidden agendas, and everyone is on the same page. It is easy to feel everything is fine while sitting at the top, so make sure you hear the voices of those down the line. It could provide valuable insights.

2- Two-way communication and proactivity

There is a difference in ‘talking to’ and ‘talking at’. What we would consider a normal conversation is ‘talking to’. When the communication is in the form of orders issued, it’s ‘talking at’. If someone is being told what they need to do, it’s really difficult for them to feel motivated or excited about it, especially during tough times. This is why communication is such an important element for a successful company.

Imagine the difference in enthusiasm you’d feel in these two hypothetical conversations with your superior – Scenario 1:  “These are your targets. I expect this to be achieved by the end of this month, and let me know how you’re doing each week. Any questions?” Scenario 2:  “These are the targets we have for the company. What do you think you need to do to help us achieve this number? And how do you see yourself doing that? What resources will you need? If we were to put a number on it to help us keep track, what should we aim for each week? How could I support you in this? Let’s have a 10 minute debrief each week to see how you’re getting on, shall we?”

Which would you feel more motivated to achieve? And which would make you more willing to be accountable? Note the way you are the other managers are communicating with the team members. Get their buy-in, talk to – not at, and let them be proactive about what they will achieve. It will be remarkable.

3- Have – and be – a role model

There is a saying worth remembering: A fish rots from the head down. If we don’t like what the organisation looks like in the middle, chances are the same issues exist further up the line. Here’s something worth considering: if the entire company behaved like the department heads, would the company be in better or worse shape? (I use department heads as indicative of senior team members but under the level of shareholders/C-suite). Are the team leaders good role models of culture for the rest of the team? Accountability begins with leaders acting like leaders. When you’re busy, it’s easy to let the small things slide, like not responding to emails or showing up to a meeting late. But it’s detrimental to workplace culture if employees see leadership as unaccountable or above-the-law.

4- Autonomy

Micromanagement is exhausting, ineffective and – unsurprisingly – counter-productive. If accountability only happens when you follow-up a dozen times on what you need, the culture has not been adopted yet. The real value will be seen when team members put their hand up voluntarily on two occasions: to take on a task, and to offer updates. This is, arguably, the most difficult to get right. Autonomy means allowing someone the freedom to do their own thing but for that, you need to trust that they are capable and willing to actually do it. The only way to build this is ‘trial by fire’ – we try it, and either we were right to trust them and everything works, or we were wrong and get burnt. Start with small tasks, and watch closely; sometimes the ones you have the least expectations from will surprise you when given a free rein.

5- Carrots and sticks!

As is normal for any organisation, there may be positive or negative results at the end of the day. What I often see are companies very quick to reward and incentivise, but very slow and unwilling to enforce consequences. Accountability does mean each person proactively says what they have and haven’t achieved, but it’s not a free pass for under-performance. If a team member hasn’t delivered, it’s good for them to admit it, and it’s better for management to support them and address the issue. If the lack of results is consistent, however, it would be unfair to the rest of the team to allow them to get away.

Accountability is not a straightforward business strategy. Sure, there are numbers and metrics we can utilise, but the core of it comes from fostering the right culture in the entire team. Every successful entrepreneur highlights the importance of having a great team. This is not just a workforce of competent employees – it’s a team of competent, reliable people, who work well together and trust each other. And that is what makes the difference.

The post How to create a culture of accountability – Part Two appeared first on ActionCOACH The World's Leading Business Coaching Firm.

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‘Accountability’ is a big, heavy word. It means a lot of things to a lot of people. It’s used as a measure of proactivity, productivity and manageability. It’s probably safe to say that every company that has a culture of accountability will continue performing and/or improving, even in challenging times.

Conversely, stagnation, finger-pointing and under-performance are characteristic of firms where this culture does not exist.

The question that business leaders often ask is: How can we create this culture of accountability in our company? There are two major parts to this question, and each one plays a large role in answering it.

Accountability

It is only fair for a person to be accountable for an outcome if three things are in place:

  • The Target
  • The Measurements, and
  • The Opportunity

If you want to see the level of accountability increase in your business, here are the steps you’ll need to take.

Step One:

Besides the CEO of the company, no one person is responsible for the performance of the entire firm. Therefore, targets should be split down to the lowest level of responsibility – but not further. Each person must have his/her individual outcomes made clear, discussed and agreed upon even before they join the team. If the individual and their manager have different expectations for the outcome, it is unlikely that the managers’ goals will be achieved.

Action point – ensure every department and every individual is aware of their targets (not just the sales teams). If everyone is pushing in the same direction, chances of success are much better.

Step Two:

The metrics for measuring outcomes need to be correct. Metrics – also referred to as KPIs – need to be quantitative and outcome-based. They are the numbers which tell the story of how the business is doing. If these numbers are reported on time and analysed correctly, warning signs can be picked up early enough to make important changes before any damage is caused.

Action point – every individual should have KPIs reflecting their targets. These should be analysed frequently, so as to rectify any issues early.

Step Three:

KPIs assign responsibility, which is why it is crucial to understand where one teams’ responsibility ends and another teams’ begins. Marketing creates leads, which the sales team converts. Only then can operations service the customer. KPIs around the number of deliveries has to be tied to sales numbers, else the Ops team will fall short on something outside their control. Each person and every team needs to have the opportunity to deliver, else the measurement is both incorrect and unfair.

Action point – sit teams down and help them understand how the actions of one affect the other. Design and execution often live in different worlds, and finance is usually on a planet of their own.

If accountability was just a case of setting metrics and reporting KPIs, it would be relatively easy. Given that almost every company I’ve worked with (from five-people start-ups to 450-staffed organisations) didn’t have this in place, it is safe to assume that the exercise is a lot harder than it seems. And yet, even the setting of KPIs is not quite the answer.

There is a process around setting KPIs. But the culture element, that is a whole new challenge. Culture is not a process, nor is it contained in employee handbooks. It is a living, dynamic entity, and affects the entire company – both positively and negatively. If there are noticeable ‘cliques’ in social settings – that is a culture. If managers come late and have reserved parking spots outside – that is a culture. If every time someone goes to make a cup of coffee asks the team if they’d like one too – that is a culture.

In next week’s post, we’re going to look at the fundamentals of how to ingrain accountability into your organisation’s culture.

The post How to create a culture of accountability – Part One appeared first on ActionCOACH The World's Leading Business Coaching Firm.

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When I read, I dog-ear pages that I want to revisit later. These could be quotes, ideas or experiments, and make up the key ideas that I want to retain. I started Grit by Angela Duckworth about two weeks ago, and this is one of those books where you want to keep going through the book because it’s so good, but also want to go back to re-read and savor each section, because it’s so relatable.

So, as usual, I started dog-earing the pages I wanted to revisit later. Two weeks on, I can quite confidently say that I have never ended with as many marked pages in any other book I’ve ever read. ‘Grit’ is required reading for anyone, in any field, in any part of their life – from managers, to athletes, to parents, to students. Angela Duckworth has explored concepts in this book that are well-known, but little thought of. What grit means, how it applies, how to develop it within yourself and others…the takeaways are just fantastic.

Here are my top three takeaways:

Takeaway One:

Talent x Effort = Skill;

Skill x Effort = Achievement

Having a talent at something is great, but it’s not predictable nor acquirable. I can not now get the talent in something I wasn’t born with. But that’s okay – everyone is talented at something, so we’d even out. The difference comes in the effort applied, and effort counts twice. Turning a talent into a skill takes magnificent effort, particularly as the world gets smaller and more competitive. But we don’t live in a world where pure skill is applauded; rather, we reward outcomes. This is where effort counts again. It is the continuous, unrelenting, uncompromising application of skill that produces world-class outcomes.

Question: What are my talents, and how am I working to develop them further? With this skill set, what are my big goals that I am aiming towards?

Takeaway Two:

Practicing something to get better at it is good; knowing the elements that supercharge skill through practice is great. There are three elements to ‘deliberate practice’:

– The science behind practice: This is made up of (a) having a clearly defined stretch goal, (b)full concentration and effort, (c) immediate and informative feedback, and (d) repetition with reflection and refinement.

– Making practice a habit: creating a schedule around practice that will make it automatic for your body and mind to get into the practice zone.

– Develop a “that was hard. It was great!” mindset about practice and the inevitable mistakes you will make. It’s ok to not be perfect at it at the start…else there would not be a need to practice. Stick at it, see it through, and relish the difficulty.

Question: What is my ‘stretch goal’ for the thing(s) I am practicing, and how am I making my practice ‘deliberate’?

Takeaway Three:

“Compete” has nothing to do with a one-winner-one-loser outcome. The word is derived from Latin, and means to “strive together”. Competing is about excellence, about continually striving to improve, to be better today than I was yesterday. The whole purpose of ‘competition’ is to be in a field with someone who will push me to work harder, stretch myself and show me my weaknesses.

Question: how am I competing in the area of my practice, and how am I measuring my own improvement and growth?

Angela draws on years of research, dozens of studies, and hundreds of conversations and observations. The sheer amount of grit displayed by her in the creation of this work is remarkable. Get a copy (and read it!), you will be glad you did.

The post Book Review: Grit by Angela Duckworth appeared first on ActionCOACH The World's Leading Business Coaching Firm.

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There’s no avoiding challenging times. When they come, and you feel terrible, self-help books are full of positive thoughts you can repeat to yourself to get through them. While beneficial, tough times still suck. To cheer you up, here are three lesser-mentioned (and great!) outcomes of downturns:

They help get rid of your bad competitors:

If you’re facing an issue at a macro level (not internal to your company), chances are your competitors are facing similar challenges. Every business has a different degree of preparedness for problems, and  – sad but true – many are just hanging on by a thread.

Downturns, whether local, regional or global, take a lot of bad players off the field. (By ‘bad competition’, I refer to the cowboys and briefcase-traders that bring bad reputation to a respected market, from financial advisories to logistics companies)

  • Takeaway: be prepared for the dips, and don’t get wiped out when the waves come – not if, because they will come!
They make clear what doesn’t work:

There’s this famous line: “50% of my marketing works, I just don’t know which 50%”. This level of ignorance is an unforgivable mistake to make. And the punishment for this willful ignorance comes during tough times: businesses are scared to invest in marketing, because they don’t know where to put their money.

Unsurprisingly, this leads to further reductions in revenue, and compounds the problem. It’s easy to overlook inefficiencies during good times.

  • Takeaway: Create tiers of marketing strategies: those that give you consistent, reliable ROI, and those that are experimental, ‘let’s try it and see’ types. When your competitors stop marketing out of fear, you’ll know what to keep going and what to cut.
  • Bonus: use KPIs to track everything – from sales team performance, to marketing channel conversion. Use these numbers when making tough decisions.

Related: Why You Shouldn’t Compromise on Your Marketing During a Recession

They give you a reason to say: “Screw this, I’m going in!”

Complacency is a silent killer. Everything is fine, ticking along, steady… and suddenly there’s a business-threatening issue looming over you. Downturns force you out of your comfort zone, throw you head-first into the deep-end of an existing problem. There’s no time to assemble a committee, have 18.5 useless and 1.5 useful meetings, and come up with a 62-point list of ‘recommended actions’ (which – conveniently – no member of the committee is willing to stake his reputation on).

Challenging times make you roll up your sleeves, grab your gear and get into the trenches. Few battles are lost in the war room, most are lost at the front line. Conversely, the same applies for battles won. Getting out of the boardroom and onto the shop floor is perhaps one of the best solutions I can offer to businesses facing difficult circumstances.

  • Takeaway: when you have your back against the wall, you think faster, better and clearer. The more often you put yourself outside your comfort zone by choice, the easier it is to get into it when circumstance demands it.
  • Bonus: When your team see you on the floor, they buy into you better. That means they will get more passionate about your vision, be more willing to stick with you, and be more willing to take ownership of their roles – all because they don’t want to let you down.
  • Bonus bonus: get your management team used to being at the front line too. Disconnect between management and operations is  one of the most common reasons for under-performance.

Remember: Tough times don’t last, but tough companies do.  Make your business willingly sweat now, and it’ll be easier for your when everyone else is sweating.

As featured in Entrepreneur Middle East

The post Why Challenging Times are Good for Business appeared first on ActionCOACH The World's Leading Business Coaching Firm.

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Even if you were living under a very large rock, you couldn’t have avoided the crypto currency hype, particularly around Bitcoin.

From enthusiastic ‘experts’ to grim naysayers, it was perhaps the most hotly debated and discussed topic towards the end of last year (maybe just behind the US election!). Over 100,000 people were joining Bitcoin every day at its peak, and a lot of late-joiners regret not getting on to the bandwagon sooner.

 

It made sense. Bitcoin made hundreds of people millionaires – and even made some billionaires! It took almost zero effort and no planning, yet the results were fascinating. $5000 turning into $1m in a few months – that’s enough to tempt someone to borrow money to be able to invest in Bitcoin.

For all the gains it has brought, though, Bitcoin is a questionable area to put money into today. There is no clear path forward, no one can predict if it will continue to rise, and it’s expensive to get in to now. As far as investments go, there isn’t a new one yet that can top crypto currencies. But there is another investment, one that has been around for a while, that – in the long run – can outperform Bitcoin any day of the week. It’s cheaper, takes effort and planning, but delivers consistently better results. It’s been validated by the man who has taken the investment world by storm, and his advice has created billions of dollars in returns.

Warren Buffet: “The best investment you will ever make is in yourself.”

 

Among others, here are three reasons why you are the best investment you can make:

Firstly: A real investment is something that has intrinsic value, not just what value the market puts on it. Buying stock in a reliable company is a real investment, because that will continue to deliver results for their stakeholders. Crypto currency have no intrinsic value, not yet at least. You already have intrinsic value, but the cream is in what you bring to the table. The sum total of your knowledge, your experiences, your mental and physical abilities, your social skills, your reputation and authority…that is what makes you so valuable. None of the above is determined by the market, it is all in your control.

Secondly: All ‘hot’ opportunities eventually go cold and are replaced by other, equally ‘hot’ opportunities. You won’t. Not as long as you continue to invest time and effort in bettering yourself. There are hundreds of stories of people who changed careers 180 degrees, and continued to deliver outstanding results in their new fields. Bitcoin will eventually fade away; ask any experienced investor what the ‘hot’ things were over the last 40 – or even 20! – years. If you continue to work on yourself, you will become more valuable with age. 40 years of experience is something no amount of money can buy. Beware though: don’t end up with 40 1-year experiences…that will be a disappointment.

Lastly: While crypto doesn’t have much practical use, you aren’t limited. If it came to application, you’d beat any amount of crypto hands-down. You can apply yourself to any number of situations, and – with little effort – maximize results, regardless of circumstance. If the market suddenly decided that Bitcoin had no value, it’s end of the road for Bitcoin. Conversely, if your industry were to suddenly be made redundant – through Artificial Intelligence, for example – , you can re-apply yourself in two dozen different industries. Not without effort, true; but by continuing to invest in yourself, you become so much more than just a job.

Terry Crews – the tough, funny, football-player-turned-actor is a talented artist, and made his way through college by painting portraits of football players. Snoop Dogg is a certified football coach, and Harrison Ford has rescued stranded hikers thanks to his ability to fly helicopters and planes. You are not defined by your role, your title, or your industry. You are unique, special, and worth investing time and effort in. If you choose to not invest your time and effort in you, you will – by default – spend it on someone or something else. Be intentional about your choices – they will define your future worth – and net worth.

PS. As a business leader, your learning and decisions are constantly impacting not just yourself, but your entire organisation. If you want to see which areas of your organisation can be improved, and how you can raise the bar for your company as a whole, click here to learn more about our upcoming Six Steps to a Winning Business workshop.

The post A Better Investment Than Bitcoin appeared first on ActionCOACH The World's Leading Business Coaching Firm.

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As the end of the year approaches, many start to feel the impact of end of year fatigue. During the last few weeks of 2017, end on a positive note and start laying the foundation for a successful new year. Many businesses either find that either things start to quieten down, or the other extreme and find the last few weeks of the year chaotic – often packed with finishing off projects and attending many social events. Whichever scenario you find yourself in, here are five ways to end the year on a positive note in business.

Exercise gratitude

The end of the year is a great opportunity to exercise your gratitude – especially as a business owner. Show your team that you are grateful for all their hard work during the year in whichever way you see fit. Thank your clients, networks and partners for their support. Write a gratitude list for yourself on all the things you are grateful for about yourself, your business and the year that has passed. Prioritise spreading gratitude always, but make a point of it especially in the last few weeks of the year.    

Celebrate the wins

During the year everything tends to get very busy and often, overlapping the completion of one task, project, deadline, meeting or event is the next thing to work towards. There is not always dedicated time to celebrating the wins and as the weeks roll into months, before we know it we are starting a new year. It is important to reflect on and celebrate all the personal and business achievements along the way and the end of the year is the perfect time for it. Highlight the wins and as a business acknowledge them and create a way to celebrate them: could be with a team building function, an incentive event, an internal awards ceremony or even an end of year speech at the office.   

Reflect on the challenges   

Every business and individual faced challenges in 2017, some more than others. Reflect on these challenges, learn from mistakes and decide how you would do things differently going forward. Face your failures with a growth mindset and learn from them. Reflecting on challenges is an effective way to deal with them, then let them go and move forward into the new year on a positive note.

Create a plan

This is all about spending some time laying the foundations for a successful 2018; the most effective way to do this is by creating a powerful action-plan that will outline your and your team’s strategic and operational activities for the next quarter. Spend time strategising about how you want the start of the next year to look: what will you focus on; what will need to change; what are your longer term goals; how will you approach things differently.   

Find balance

As mentioned earlier, the end of the year can be an extremely busy time. It’s important to find balance where possible: the balance between taking time off and the final push for the year; the balance between spending your time between work and loved ones; the balance between celebrating the wins and learning from the challenges; the balance between finishing off tasks for 2017 and creating a new plan for 2018.

And on that note, thank you to all of our clients, partners, fellow business owners, friends and family for your continued support and a fantastic year.

The post 5 Ways for Business Owners to End the Year on a Positive Note appeared first on ActionCOACH The World's Leading Business Coaching Firm.

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Here’s the bad news: there’s about 53 days (or just under 8 weeks) left to the end of the year. Remove the last week of December, and there’s less than 7 weeks to go. Given also that most people mentally shut down earlier than Christmas, we have about 6 weeks of productivity left for 2017.

Here’s the good news: we have 6 weeks of productivity left for 2017. And, for those who value their time, a lot can be accomplished in 6 weeks. The difficulty is in not running around like a headless chicken while everyone else is losing their respective minds.

So what can you work on that will have the biggest impact? Here are three areas you can focus on immediately that will get you tangible results in 2018.

3 – Refine your marketing:

Stop and revisit 2017 as a whole. You’ve had 12 months of marketing, 52 weeks of sales, and 365 days of deliverables. What clients did you win that you hadn’t expected? What projects did you land that were a ‘lucky shot’ when you pitched for them? What results did you deliver that were a pleasant surprise to the client?

Chances are, there is something that you have done over the year that could change your target market or target prospect. Revisit your activities and outcomes over the year, and try and make sense of the patterns that may emerge. It could point you towards some of your greatest insights.

2 – Plan your wins:

Don’t keep your goals a secret from your team. If you want to smash revenue records, or open new branches, or start new verticals – tell the people who are going to help you achieve it! Too often, I see companies making ambitious plans, and then hiding them in drawers and private email exchanges. If the team are excited about your goals, they will go above and beyond to help you get there.

Goal boards, public celebrations, achievement trackers – all of these contribute to enthusiasm and drive. And there can never be too much of those.

1 – Build accountability structures:

This actually ties in very closely to the previous point: Everyone wants to win. But very few want to be held accountable to what they promised earlier, even though it statistically improves chances of success by over 50%! It’s the reason why personal and life coaches recommend making goals public. If you announce your exercise target to your friends circle, they are more likely to help you achieve it, and more likely to stop you from letting yourself down.

Who is going to help you stick to your business resolutions? Who better than the team on the ground? Get the team to get into ‘accountability pairs’, where each one holds the other accountable to what they promised to work on. Maybe even start it with a Secret Santa game, and switch up pairs each quarter. Whatever it takes, the more each person is accountable for their success, the much more likely they are to work harder to accomplish their goals.

This year is flying by. But it is going only as quickly as the year before it, and next year is going to go just as fast. Make the changes that will have the biggest impact, and see the rewards flow in over the year.

PS. Creating ownership and accountability in your team is just one of the key areas of business we’re going to be discussing at the next 90-Day Strategic Business Planning Session. Click here to view the workshop details, and click here to watch an awesome video of the last one.

The post Three Areas to Focus on for Business Results in 2018 appeared first on ActionCOACH The World's Leading Business Coaching Firm.

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On Tuesday 26th September, Murtaza Manji (Director and Business Coach) presented an interactive workshop at Creative Zone’s monthly SME Event. In this interactive workshop, Murtaza shared his extensive knowledge about Scaling up your SME.

Many entrepreneurs start their ventures with grand visions in mind: doubling or tripling in size, multiple branches, huge successes. What they often don’t realize until very late is that starting a business is hard, but keeping it going – and growing – can be a much more daunting task. This workshop was designed for people who have a business, want it to grow, and want to enjoy more money, more time and more life.

4 Focus Areas of Workshop:

Difference between growing and scaling:

There’s a big difference between growing 20-30% year-on-year, and scaling up. You can grow without scaling, but you can’t scale without growing…and you can exist without growing or scaling at all! We had a look at what it takes to grow, and what it takes to scale.

Three essential pillars of business:

There are three foundational pillars of business, without which your business will constantly be in reactive or firefighting mode – and growth is extremely difficult in this situation. Understanding what these are, identifying the weaknesses, and implementing changes are all going to help get you and your business off the hamster wheel and onto the starting line for growth.

Key to scaling up:

If growth is not enough, and you want to scale, then there’s something you need to know. Many of the businesses that don’t manage to scale fail to do so because of one reason. Knowledge is power, and understanding this is the key to tremendous potential.

Monitoring performance across the board:

Keeping your eye on the ball is hard enough when there’s just a few people and a couple of customers. How do you manage to stay on top of everything as the business is growing? And not doing it is not even an option, not if you are serious about real results.

If the content of this workshop sounds like something which would benefit you and your business, please contact us to schedule an introductory call with Murtaza.

Who is ActionCOACH?

ActionCOACH is the world’s leading business coaching firm and was started in 1993 by founder and CEO, Brad Sugars. It is one of the fastest growing companies of its kind in the world, with offices and Business Coaches in more than 70 countries.

In 2013, Murtaza Manji was the first ActionCOACH in Dubai and since then he has worked with over 350 CEOs, Directors and Business Owners from more than 15 industries to achieve: higher profits, greater productivity from their teams and sustainable growth by creating efficient systems and structure.

The post Creative Zone Workshop: Scaling up your SME in Dubai appeared first on .

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“To Plan Or Not To Plan?” I often get asked.

Logically, there’s nothing to debate. Planning is essential, all the business heavyweights have said it, all the fancy MBA courses insist on it, and management consultants swear by it. Why is it, then, that most business owners are guilty of not regularly planning their growth strategy?

The ‘plan or not to plan’ question often has a common motive behind it: what is the point of creating a plan which then never gets executed? Or – even worse – becomes a reason of frustration in the coming weeks and months. And the above is not a unique case; I have worked with hundreds of businesses where the motivated planning sessions in the early days have turned into disheartened ‘strategic reviews’ in a few years. Not because the business is no longer interesting, but because the market constraints, constant firefighting and intrinsic unpredictability of business has meant that no plans have ever really been executed. Why should this time be any different?

And that’s the bad news. Regardless of how well you plan, life happens, ups and downs happen, and – well – s**t happens. There is no magic formula in existence that will immunize you from the downturns, the macroeconomic disasters and changing customer perceptions. As ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson famously said: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Then we instinctively move into damage control mode, only thinking of how to get back on our feet, recover and not fall flat.

The good news, however, is twofold: firstly, planning is not a destination, it is a journey. The activity of planning is sometimes even more powerful than the eventual outcome. Done right, the exercise can help identify opportunities, encourage open communication, and build accountability and ownership (If you’d like to know how to run an effective planning meeting, I’ll be writing about it soon. Get in touch if you can’t wait).

Secondly, a good plan is not a prescription, but rather a roadmap. It’s okay to miss a turn, or have to take a detour if the road is closed. You still know which direction you’re heading in, and the milestones along the way can ensure you’re never too far off track. And, at the end of the period, you can measure progress from where you were, and gauge distance left to the goal.

Planning in business is like planning in sport. You never know what the weather will be like, what the opposition has planned, and what unexpected good or bad luck may come your way. Regardless, you never go in to a game without a winning plan. At best, everything goes as expected; at worst, you have something to fall back on. Winning the game of business takes just as much – if not more – to succeed. Unlike professional sports, there is no payout for the losing side.

Do what it takes to win. Plan your play. And if you know you aren’t going to do it effectively yourself, join us on the 28th of September to do it together. Let’s make this quarter count.

The post Business Planning for SMEs – Is it worth it? appeared first on .

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