Why purpose matters?

Why purpose matters?

What’s the purpose of your company? Have you ever thought about it?

I’m not talking about the literal purpose of selling product A to customer B, but the higher purpose behind your company: the impact it’s making on a global scale. Have you ever thought about that?

A problem I see many businesses struggling with is their charitable and environmental objectives: environmental responsibility is something every business should be thinking about, and because founders have realised that they need to display their ecological credentials, they’ll bolt on initiatives in an attempt at greenwashing things.

Bolting on any policy rarely works: too often it won’t fit with other policies within the organisation because it hasn’t been properly thought through and planned for. In extreme circumstances it can end up causing a negative impact elsewhere. 

Do you remember when Tom’s Shoes introduced their Buy-One-Give-One Scheme? For every pair of Tom’s sold, they donated a pair of shoes to a child in need. As a philanthropic exercise, it looks great on paper, and allows customers to feel they were making a difference in the world, without having to make too much effort. However, there were some unintended consequences – local shoemakers were being put out of business and serious questions were asked about the effects the free footwear had on the children they were intended to help – whether or not giving away shoes really made a significant impact on the lives of the recipients… hardly the desired effect! 

Closer to home, I’ve seen first-hand the effects of only paying lip service to sustainability – in trying to get certified to ISO 9001/14001 in one of my companies, we tried to bolt it on the side to meet the necessary criteria. Obviously when we went for the audit things didn’t go as planned. So, we postponed things for a year, rebuilt our plans from the ground up and engaged the whole team in the process of how to actually build quality and sustainability into our culture and systems.

Which is the key – you have to bake your principles and initiatives into the foundations of what you’re doing. If you don’t know where to start, take a look at the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – https://sdgs.un.org/goals and see if anything resonates. 

Now, I know that this won’t work for every business. But if what you do can be delivered to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it, then that’s a really great place to kick things off. Just make sure that doing good in one place isn’t causing damage in another! 

In Amplified we work with impact leaders and help them to go on a scaling journey with not-for-profits and charities – we want them to have a purpose that everyone can align to and be inspired by. It’ll help you attract new customers and build a great team, who really care about what you’re trying to achieve. If you want to explore how to create a more transformative purpose that inspires your team and others around you, then please get in touch or book in a call at jamespotten.com/businessgrowth

When the boot’s on the other foot!

When the boot’s on the other foot!

Have you ever heard the saying ‘The cobbler always wears the worst shoes’? There are a few variations of it, sometimes it’s the cobbler’s wife or children with the dodgy footwear, but the meaning is always the same: often, those closest to someone don’t benefit from that person’s expertise. 

Sound familiar? 

I once found myself on a Discovery Call, listening to someone tell me that they were struggling with their time management. It’s a story I often hear: a founder/entrepreneur is so busy working in their business, that they don’t have time to work on it. 

I talked them through some of the ways I could help, and as I hung up from the call took a quick look at my calendar to schedule a follow-up mail to them. Eventually I found a half-hour gap 6 weeks in the future at 10.30pm on a Saturday, as my time till then was taken up with work tasks, meetings, and the odd gap for family life. Sleep was crammed in on a random Tuesday for a few hours, if I was lucky!  

OK, that might be something of an exaggeration, but the point is: it can happen to the best of us. We can all be the Cobbler with the hole in our shoe. In my case I was so entrenched in doing those jobs needed to keep the company going, that I wasn’t doing the ones that would help the business grow, such as following up on leads, potentially letting good new business walk out the door. 

So what’s the solution? 

“You cannot put the same shoe on every foot” Publilius Syrus. 

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ fix, not in reality, but that important first step is to stop, take a moment and admit the fact that your boots are letting in water. Are you the business coach not taking their own advice about expansion and growth? Perhaps you’re the software developer who hasn’t backed up the system properly in weeks. (Don’t feel too bad about that, Pixar nearly lost Toy Story 2 for that very reason!)

In my case, I was able to see what the problem was, and walk myself back far enough to the point where I could start putting the right building blocks and processes in place to stop my calendar looking like something that would give even the toughest CEO nightmares. Talking through it with a colleague who was able to give me some accountability really helped as well – there’s nothing like having someone tease you for not taking your own advice to give you some perspective! 

If your trainers are looking a bit past their best but you don’t know what to do about it, get in touch.  I’ve been in your shoes, I can walk the walk, and I’m as tough as old boots (OK, I’ll stop now). If you want to explore how to create the focus you need to build your business, then please get in touch or book in a call at jamespotten.com/businessgrowth

Setting boundaries

Setting boundaries

How’s your work/life balance looking these days? 

I talked recently about the need to take regular breaks from work (Link to Quarterly Rhythms), and it generated some interesting conversations within our network: primarily, what to do when you know you need to take a break from work but you’re a victim of your own success, there just isn’t enough hours in the day, never mind taking a week off!

It’s a common problem. You work your backside off to get business and truly deliver for your clients, only to create a rod for your own back. The client gets used to you being available and to having direct access to you, and because you care, you find it hard to change the dynamic.

Here’s a bold suggestion – make yourself less accessible!

Now, I don’t mean you should start ghosting the person who’s paying your company bills, but I do mean introduce some boundaries.

Start slowly. Stop answering emails on the weekend. Let your client know that you won’t be answering comms after 5pm on a Friday. If you can, stop answering emails after hours during the week. Look at them, by all means. Draft a response, but don’t send it until a time that suits you (or use the schedule feature). Get the client out of the habit of expecting an out of hours response.

If you’re taking a week off, give your client plenty of notice that you won’t be available. Loop them into a conversation with the member of your team best placed to look after them when you’re off. Set your out of office. If you absolutely must check your mails, fine. But if you respond to them, understand that the message that you’re sending out may erode the boundaries you’ve started to put in place. If you don’t respect your own rules, how can you expect anyone else to?

Of course you’re going to get pushback. Clients love knowing they can get hold of you at any given time and there will always be situations where you are needed urgently. But if you help with forming new habits, introduce processes, like ticketing systems (that get a more timely and developed response), then eventually your clients will get used to the new boundaries you have in place.

Implement those boundaries with any new clients and let your team pick up the slack. You owe it to them, your clients and to the business to be on your A-game, and you can’t perform at your peak if you’re burnt out.

If you still don’t think that would work, or the idea of switching your phone off for an evening gives you a panic attack, then ask yourself why that is? Could it be that you need your clients to need you? 

We all like to feel important, and when it’s your company it’s easy to believe that it will all fall apart without you there to keep everything running. But if that really is the case, then you need to take a serious look at your business foundations! Have you really put together a team and systems that can’t manage without you, or are you worried that your workforce is so good that you’re starting to feel like a spare part?

Everything I’ve said here requires some pretty serious self-reflection (& I did joke with my actual clients that this was not written with them in mind!!), but if you don’t know where to start then give me a call. 

We’re not just about helping leaders scale their businesses, we want you to be able to lead an unshackled life in a business that thrives without you in the day-to-day.

If you want to explore how this could happen for you, please book in a Discovery Call today – jamespotten.com/businessgrowth

Is it the destination or the journey?

Is it the destination or the journey?

When you’re going somewhere you’ve never been before, do you plan your journey beforehand, looking at the most efficient route, booking your tickets (or making sure the car’s not going to break down halfway down the motorway), or do you just wing it, leave the house and trust that the Travel Gods will smile upon you and you’ll get there eventually?

That might seem like a ridiculous question, but if you apply the metaphor to your own business, you’d be surprised how many people are travelling without a map in a beaten-up old jalopy, or are rocking up at the airport, hoping that someone will point them towards a plane heading in the right direction.

As counterintuitive as it seems, focusing solely on the destination is never the best strategy.

Obviously a leader has to consider results – you have to know where the company is going, you have to know what the future looks like and you have to have a thorough understanding of what the key numbers are in your organisation. But do you ever think about how you’re going to achieve those results?

Maybe it’s time to stop thinking about the destination and concentrate on the journey instead. I don’t think I can ever say this enough: you can’t just think about the What, you have to consider the How. It’s critical: time after time I see the frustration that comes from only focusing on the end product, only to find that the final outcome isn’t anything like what was intended.

In a car, you could seek to use technology such as sat nav to ensure you’re able to get to your destination with the most up-to-date information on traffic on that day. The same should be applied to your business: make sure your systems and tools are allowing your company to navigate in the here and now.

How are your team working? Do you have the systems and technology to get visibility to see how you’re your team are performing?

Take time to reflect on how you can change your own outlook, as well as the company culture. Are you doing everything you can do for your team members to help them perform at their best level? How do you translate your goals and targets into something actionable for them? Have they got the right tools in place? Is the company environment supportive enough for people to do their jobs?

It’s not easy to turn a critical eye on either yourself or your methodology. But be brutal. Ask yourself the difficult questions: have you got the right team in place? Are key pieces of strategy falling through the cracks because you’ve got tunnel vision about who’s doing what?

When it comes to progress and growth, it’s not just about unlocking the potential of your business, you need to know how to unlock the potential of each member of your team and allow them to achieve their own results. Commit to creating both performance and personal development plans for everyone in the company, and don’t assume that one plan fits all – what works for one, won’t work for everyone (and if it does, maybe it’s time to introduce some diversity).

If there’s a disconnect in what you would like vs what you need to do to make it happen, it’s not as hard as it might seem to make the small changes that lead to big results. Book in a Discovery call today to find out how I can help you – https://jamespotten.com/contact/

Life needs punctuation

Life needs punctuation

If there’s one thing I see time and time again working with business owners, it’s their reluctance to take time off. They all tell me they’re exhausted, burnt out, desperate to take a break, but strangely unwilling to bake any holiday time into their schedule.

‘But it’ll all fall apart if I’m not there!’ is a common reason they give. Let’s unpack that, shall we? If that sounds like you, think back to when you started your company. Were you always intending to be a sole employee, or did you envisage a team underneath you? Did your business plan include a section where 15 years down the line you were still working all hours, trying to fit your invoicing in around client meetings, wondering if you could get away with doing your website updates at the weekend, instead of going to your in-laws like you promised? Of course it didn’t: you were intending to do less as the company grew, not more.

Look, I get it. Your business is your baby – the amount of time and pressure involved in getting a startup off the ground is immense. But just like with an actual baby, at some point you have to loosen the apron strings. If you feel like you can’t leave the business with your team, you’re either doing them a massive disservice, or you’ve got the wrong team in place.

A team that’s being micromanaged by a boss who won’t leave the office is either going to be unmotivated and unproductive, or you run the risk of letting your talent walk out the door to work for someone else who gives them a bit of autonomy and trusts them to do the job they were hired to do in the first place.

Start small – take a Monday off and turn your out of office on. The company won’t explode because you aren’t there for a day and I’m willing to take a bet that very little will happen that a colleague can’t deal with (or at the very worst can’t wait until the next day for you to handle). Try not to check your emails. Feels good, doesn’t it?

There can sometimes be a tendency to think of busyness as a virtue. Time has become a status symbol and taking a holiday is a luxury for the less-driven. This is, to use the technical term, complete drivel. There’s no nobility in being so burned out that you can’t work effectively, and you owe it to your team to be in good shape. If you can think back to the last time you were on a plane, remember the safety announcement before take-off: in case of an emergency, put on your own mask first before assisting others.

It’s crucial to allow yourself to pause, because if you aren’t looking after yourself, who is? You can’t make good decisions if you’re so strung out that you’re existing on coffee and the lunch you’re desperately shoving into your mouth, at your desk, in between meetings. Stop. Go outside, breath some fresh air. Look at the sky. It’s amazing what ideas come to you when you’re not staring obsessively at your computer screen. Give yourself permission to take a break. No-one else can do it for you.

Look at your workload. What can you delegate? What can you outsource? Where is there a gap between projects that allows you to take some time off?

Personally, I try to work in 3-month cycles, and take a break at the end of each quarter. This not only gives me time to recharge, but also to reflect on that last quarter and take away any lessons learned. Is there anything I would do differently going forward? What new strategies worked, and which ones need to be filed away for further development?

I’m stronger and more effective for it. I have more clarity and creativity, for my own business, and for my clients’. So, give yourself permission to take a break, an extended pause – you owe it to yourself!

If you want to see more about what I believe could help you scale your business, please watch this short case study I recorded – go.jamespotten.com

My inspiration

My inspiration

What inspires you? All too often we think about what we do, but rarely we think about why we do it.

We’re often inspired by our parents. My dad was a senior manager of an engineering company – he would get dropped into the worst areas to troubleshoot. He’d get things back on track, unafraid of having the uncomfortable conversations or removing individuals causing problems. Those poor-performing areas would go on to be the top-performers, with most of the same team on board.

I was so inspired by my dad. That he could make such a difference to people and then come home and talk for hours with my mum about how he was dealing with the various situations was amazing to me. I absorbed all of it, and it gave me the framework of what it meant to be a manager.

When I went on my own entrepreneurial journey, I eventually landed in an environmental consultancy that grew over 12 years from three of us, up to 50 people. But for the first six years or so, when there were only nine or ten of us, we really struggled: we were so focussed on doing that we hadn’t thought about our company culture, or what we needed (or even how) to build a high performing team. We weren’t thinking about our why. It’s vital to know why you’re doing what you do, otherwise you’re never going to succeed.

Once we’d made that cognitive switch, we virtually tripled our turnover within a year and I had to grow the team up to 35 people within two years, as well as getting a graduate programme up and running.

But this came with its own problems. By this point, I was in the MD role, and struggling. I had a big team, the beginnings of an ulcer, and no support network to speak of. Once I’d found that support network though, I realised it was invaluable. I was able to continue growing the company’s success, until I made the decision to move on in 2016.

After working across several other companies in the design and tech industry, and after Covid hit, I found myself wondering ‘what do I do now’? I’d started a family and needed something where I could work in a more flexible way, but it needed to be something I was passionate about. And so it came back to those two early experiences: my dad, the troubleshooter, and the support network that had helped me manage and sustain the growth of the environmental consultancy.

Doing what I do now – supporting people in their scaling journey – combines the two things and really drives me. I love to guide leaders in cementing their company purpose, vision and values, so they can grow their businesses with a team that shares their passion. Because I’ve been there myself, I know how invaluable that help really is: it’s the support I wish I’d had when I was scaling my business.

Get in touch today and start your own scaling journey, and remember, it all starts with ‘Why?’.

If you want to see more about what I believe could help you scale your business, please watch this short case study I recorded – go.jamespotten.com