3 Things I’ve Learned From Best Self Co.’s Self Journal

Best Self Co. Self Journal

It’s hard to consistently remain productive. Running a business has its peaks and troughs. You win, you lose, there are the times where things feel slow and others when it feels as though you’re moving at a million miles an hour.

Better people than me have mentioned it’s about perseverance through the dips. They also mentioned some of the ways to maintain your focus and momentum. Effectively, how to elongate the good times and navigate the down times.

One of the ways that works for me is using a Self Journal from the Best Self Co. It helps me plan out the macro-goals and break them down into achievable SMART micro-goals.

This allows me to plan each day with a focus on our wider business goals. At the end of each day, there’s a section for reflection. In this section is the opportunity to write your lessons learned.

Six months after starting the process, I flicked back through my book and thought I would share three of the best things I noted.

They’re not revolutionary. In fact, they’re just pure common sense. But every business owner will know how hard it is to action these points.

Drop your best productivity hacks in the comments and let me know!   

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  1. “Be More Militant With Your Time”

 

This was written after a day I spent traipsing around London from meeting to meeting. Being more militant with my time is something I’ve been working hard on.

The Self Journal is useful for showing me when I’ve planned my week/day/morning or afternoon badly. The result of this poor planning is a serious drop in productivity.

The lesson is to meticulously plan your time and stick to it. I have a default diary and this outlines when I can take meetings, when I exercise and when I have periods of deep work. I now stick rigidly to it and my productivity has shot through the roof.

I also ‘eat the frog’ first thing every morning. This means I take on the hardest task first every morning, once you’ve accomplished this you feel on top of everything for the rest of the day.   

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  1. “Allow For Downtime”

 

HOLD UP I hear ya shout.

You’re chatting all big about being uber productive and you’re telling us to relax?!

Damn straight.

Running a business can be exhausting and sometimes you’re better off flicking on Netflix and recharging the batteries than staring at the laptop for hours.

Burnout’s a real danger and sometimes the drive for productivity can actually hinder your productivity.

On another day, my lesson was listed as the fact I packed too much into one day. My first meeting started at 8am, my last one ended at 7.30pm. To workaholics this might not seem like a lot but for me personally it was too many meetings in one day, having a balance is also important and I could have spread the meetings out across two days and felt more on top of my other work as a result.   

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  1. “Focus on working ON the business”

 

The difference between a freelancer and a business owner is vast. A freelancer is still an employee in many ways; they are measured by how many billable hours they can fit in.

A business owner can easily fall into this trap, feeling like they have to do everything themselves. The thing is, it’s important to spend time planning and working on the business.

If you spend all your time doing the actual work, you have a job not a business.

You have got to remember the high value activities that are truly going to make a difference. When you’re spending too much time on projects, it’s probably time to employ someone.

It’s a difficult thing to achieve but I now dedicate Friday’s to planning and spend much more time on High Value Activities.   Got something to add? Drop me a line in the comments and let’s talk productivity and how to improve it.

With thanks to Minimography.com for the featured image.  

Four ways to speed up access to finance for SMEs

In this guest post, Growth Street CEO Greg Carter looks at sources of alternative funding for SMEs. A must-read for any business owner seeking funding.

Small businesses are the backbone of the British economy. Indeed, the FSB has said that SMEs could make up as much as 99.9 per cent of the private sector.

SMEs are strong drivers of British economic growth and employment. However, poor cash flow – whether down to late payments from customers, supply chain pressures, or access to capital – is often cited as a stumbling block for SMEs.

Accessing funds quickly can be crucial for a business’s survival. But a recent Growth Street survey of more than 1,000 UK businesses found that 70% of respondents had never gone anywhere other than their bank for funding.

Banks are known to have restricted SMEs’ access to finance products like overdrafts in recent years. But even so, a majority of respondents to Growth Street’s survey haven’t looked elsewhere for funding.

To make matters worse, the SMEs that do manage to find loans through banks often find the terms inflexible and expensive. So how can business owners find out about other channels for funding?

Here, we list just a few ways for SMEs to go beyond the banks in seeking finance.

Growth Street Founder, Greg CarterGrowth Street Founder, Greg Carter

Peer-to-peer platforms

Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks operate platforms that match investors’ capital with individuals and businesses. There are a growing number of P2P lenders specialising in business finance – including Growth Street!

One of the main pulls of these platforms is that they can offer loans to borrowers more quickly than traditional banks. And the facilities on offer can be similar to the conventional bank overdraft, too: Once a facility limit has been approved, Growth Street’s GrowthLine allows businesses to draw down funds and make repayments as often as they like within their limits.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding allows a business to raise money from a large number of people, in order to launch products or secure funding for growth in exchange for an equity stake.

People often invest through crowdfunding by giving to businesses that they believe in on a personal level. Usually in P2P lending, borrowers and investors are anonymously connected, but crowdfunding can rely on personal connections and networks to build a groundswell of interest in a business, product or service.

Angel / seed / venture investment

Angel investors specialise in providing finance to early-stage businesses. They are commonly individuals, although there are firms which specialise in early-stage funding too. As businesses get bigger and begin to scale, institutional funding from seed or venture capital firms can help to accelerate growth.

Regional funding and grants

There is a significant number of regional funding options that can be available to SMEs. A good option could be to speak to your local Chamber of Commerce, as they often have existing connections with finance providers.

A national example of this is the British Business Bank, which is a development bank set up by the government. Its purpose is to increase the supply of credit to startups and SMEs, while also providing advice and support about running a business.

Although banks are still a vital part of the financial landscape, we continue to urge SMEs to look beyond their traditional bank. Our survey shows there is a lot for alternative finance providers still to do: SMEs shouldn’t have to struggle due to a lack of access to capital.

Greg Carter, CEO, Growth Street

(Head to our site to learn more about Growth Street and our GrowthLine product!)

Growth Street Exchange Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 739318). Growth Street Exchange Limited is registered in England & Wales (company number 09495712) and our registered office is 5 Young Street, London W8 5EH.

Legends & Losers – The Christopher Lochhead Interview

Christopher Lochhead helps people create legendary businesses to give them the life of their dreams.

If anyone’s in a position to succeed with this mission it’s Christopher. After all, his experience includes 30 years as a Silicon Valley CMO, advisor, coach and Board Director to over 50 venture-backed startups.

These included Mercury, a company Christopher helped grow from a $1 billion valuation to its eventual $4.5 billion sale to Hewlett Packard. So when Christopher says legendary, he means it.

In this interview, we get to grips with Christopher’s biggest success, his biggest failure, his inspirations, what makes the Legends & Losers podcast so unique and what the future holds for this maverick businessman.   

Tell us about yourself.

I’m on a mission to help people design a legendary business and a legendary life while having a very good time.

I host the popular Legends & Losers, one of the few real, raw, “authentic dialogue” podcasts and I coAuthored for Harper Collins the “instant classic” – “Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets.”

For 30 years I worked as Silicon Valley public company CMO & advisor/coach/board director to over 50 Silicon Valley venture-backed startups, and I’m a former “small e entrepreneur”.    

Why did you start Legends and Losers?

I want to make a difference in the world.

Readers of my book “Play Bigger” were asking for more about category design, entrepreneurship and life lessons. So Legends & Losers is, in part a response to that.

Secondly, I was sick of listening to the traditional bullshit on formulaic “interview shows”.

On a traditional TV or radio show and even podcast, what we experience as listeners is a professional host/journalist, with a pre-fabricated narrative, questioning a highly accomplished person who has been media trained, who comes to the interview with their key “talking points”.

Then we as listeners experience a collision of guest talking points and journalist narrative. Not anything that resembles a real conversation.

So Legends & Losers in a very real way, is the podcast I wanted to listen to.   

What makes the show unique?

We believe that one real conversation can change your life. Our goal is to have authentic dialogues with amazing people about what it really takes to design a legendary business and a legendary life, while having a lot of fun.
People have said we’re like eavesdropping on a business conversation in a dive bar.    

What was the most important lesson you learnt during your time as a Silicon Valley CMO?

Legendary entrepreneurs and leaders do more than build a great product and company.

They are unique. They are original.

They design a new category AND product or service that introduces the world to a new way of thinking about a problem and solution.

And when category design works, you become known for a niche that you own. This is what the greatest companies do. And it turns out, people who have legendary careers do the same thing.   

Was Mercury’s acquisition by HP for $4.5 billion your biggest career win?

In some ways, yes. Because we designed and dominated a giant new category and became a category king.

In my opinion that is the greatest achievement in business.

But, on another dimension, the success of Legends & Losers and Play Bigger are my biggest “wins”.  Reason being, both the podcast and book are making a difference at a much bigger scale.

The success of Mercury made a difference to our approximately 3,500 employees, to HP, our customers, partners and investors. Which is very cool.

The popularity of Legends & Losers and Play Bigger means that I have a chance to make a contribution to people on a much more massive scale.    

What’s been your biggest failure?

I’ve been involved with more failed businesses that I can count.

I’ve been fired more times than I can count.

And I’ve lost a lot more money than I’ve made.

The two losses that made the biggest difference in my life where the failure of my first business and the failure of CRM company Vantive (my 1st silicon valley CMO gig).

Failing in my first business hurt the most and was financially terrifying. When we crashed, I was 21, unemployed, newly married, in debt, with no education and almost no job prospects.

Vantive hurt because Siebel Systems beat the shit out of us to become the original category king in sales automation/Customer Relationship Management. It felt like a long horrible beating in public. Like a mis-matched boxing match that wouldn’t end.

The whole time they we’re smashing us, I kept thinking, “I’m not the guy who gets beaten, I’m the guy who does the beating!”

The loss to Siebel taught me how fast you can have your ass-kicked. And that I never wanted to be on the losing end of a high-stakes category battle again.   

How did you bounce back?

I got right back into the ring and became the founding CMO of a tech startup.

 

If you had to give us one episode to listen to which would it be?

This question is kind of like asking a parent who their favourite child is. That said, this episode with Bix Bickson will alter your mind, life and business.    

What advice would you give to someone starting their small business?

Categories make companies. The most legendary businesses and individuals become known for a niche they own. Do not make the mistake of just building a great product and company.

 

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Other people who made a huge difference in the world. We live in a world that tries to drag us down.

I love the people who slay the cynicism of our times with their dreams.  I love the pirates, dreamers and innovators who have the courage to be legendary.

 

Finally, what does the future hold for Christopher Lochhead?

My big dream is that one day most people focus on the exponential value of what makes them different vs. the incremental value of what makes them better.

I work every day on how to make the biggest difference I can, while having a very good time.

We’re working to make legends & losers one of the most popular podcasts in the world and with my dear friend Heather Clancy I have a new book coming out later in 2018 called, Niche Down: How to become legendary by being different” that we hope people love.

   With thanks to Christopher Lochhead. To discover more about the legendary Legends and Losers podcast visit the website.