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Achieving Success in 4D

Achieving success in 4D

One of the most valuable assets is time, and when you're running a small business, there are so many tasks that grab this from you. So how do you manage your time?

One simple technic that you will have heard of but perhaps never appropriately used is a To-Do List.

A to-do list will make sure you do not forget anything, help you to prioritise workload. Creating a plan for your day/week gives you a sense of achievement.

The first thing you need to do is write everything down that needs doing. For me, an ideal task time is anything from one to three hours. To avoid one long scary list, I have a separate list for each of my businesses, projects, training and personal stuff.

The first time you write a list, you may feel a little overwhelmed, but it is essential to include everything that needs doing.  The next thing to do is decide how urgent or essential each item is using a ranking system, using 1 to 3 stars works for me, *** is urgent and * is not.

*** tasks take priority and should be done before anything else. You should also add a *** to actions that move your business forward even if you do not enjoy them. Things like sales calls and updating cash flow can be non-desirable but essential to success.

Start each day/week with your *** tasks and as each one is achieved, take a moment to savour the rewarding feeling of ticking it off. Doing this will build confidence in your ability to get things done, it's a real sense of achievement, and the more crucial subliminal message is that if it goes on the list, it gets done.

Make sure everything is ticked off that your completed and that you've added any new tasks that have been created that day.  Another thing I like to do at the end of the week is to rewrite my to-do list ready to start the next week again. This keeps everything in my mind, and it allows me to challenge the importance of tasks I haven't done, or maybe you need to give yourself a kick up the rear and this list will highlight it.

Another great way to successfully manage a to-do list is to apply a 4D approach. You may not have heard of this as it's just something I do and what you do is scrutinise your list regularly and decide to either:-

Do It

Doing it requires you to ring-fence some time and not let anything get in the way. It is usually the case that once you start the task, you find it was a lot, let daunting than you first imagined.

Divide It

Sometimes when a task is extensive and going to take up a lot of time, you never get to it. Or it could be something you do not relish doing, and you avoid it.  If either is the case dividing it up into smaller more achievable chunks and again popping some time in your diary to complete each part helps.

Delegate It

Explore whether there is someone else who can do the task for you. This decision could be right because that person is better qualified to do it, has more time available or simply wants to help you. You can delegate the whole task or one or more of the divided-up sections.

Ditch It

If an action has been on your to-do list forever, you have to challenge the need for it to be there. Tasks that sit too long on the list have a nasty way of cluttering up our thinking and keep popping in up make us feel like we're not achieving everything we set out too. It may just be things have changed, and this is no longer a necessary action.

I like to make my to-do list on paper, but there are many App's that offer a to-list for your mobile device. 

The only issue with to-do lists is that they are utterly worthless look at them daily, action them, review them and rewrite them. When you do, they can be the most straightforward tool that makes the most significant difference to your output and results.

Stay strong and confident on your pricing


At the beginning of your new business journey, or in a challenging economy like now, setting your pricing will be one headache you will experience the second, which can be more migraine than headache, is to find the confidence to ask for the price you have set.

There are many strategies to setting price:-

  • Look at your competition and charge less
  • Look at the competition and offer more for the same price
  • For service businesses you can look at what you need to earn a month – divide by the hours you have available and there you have an hourly rate. Remember here that it is the service deliverable hours not the ones spent on everything else to do with running a business ie accounts, marketing, business planning.
  • For products look at cost to you, add a percentage for overheads and a percentage for profit.

There are many ways to work out what you feel is the right price to charge. Your Accountant should be able to help you with this.

Once you have decided on a price take a moment and have a think about how you feel about it.  This is really important as you are going to be the one asking for it.

If it feels too cheap you will feel under valued and resentful about what you are doing for your clients for, in your head, not enough money.

If it feels too expensive you will sound apologetic when you are asked what it is, sending out signals that you are not committed to it is up for negotiation.

Interestingly depending on what you’ve done previously this can influence you too. If you came from a big corporate organisation charging £1000 for your services as a trainer then going out on your own and charging £600, even if it’s because your overheads are lower therefore you can, may feel too cheap.  Like wise if you’ve been working for £20 as a beautician and are not on your own and charging £50 per hour may feel too much.

So have a good think about who your target client is, what you can do to solve their problem or address their needs and make sure you feel confident and comfortable that for £xxx you can make a difference.

Once you’re happy that your price is justifiable by you then it’s time to face your audience and tell them all about what you can do for them and how it will benefit them leaving price out of the conversation until the right time.

I once worked for a Scots man, Charles, and ran his recruitment business. From day one he taught me to never negotiate on price. It really didn’t matter, how big the client, how far from target we were or what carrot they were dangling in terms of how many staff they’d take or how long they would use us for the answer to negotiate the price was always no. What Charles would do however was help the team to over come the objections so that the client saw the value in using us and we won the business that way.  In some ways it was easy for me as I had no option but to get better and understand what clients needed, how I could provide it and to overcome their objections because Charles didn’t allow me not to. 

In our own businesses it’s so much easier to justify why we should reduce that price to ourselves ie I need a sale, they won’t use me otherwise, they’ll give me more business if I do this first one cheaper. The reasons you’ll come up with will go on and on. Find yourselves a Charles someone to hold you responsible for getting the price you decided at the beginning was fair. As you get more confident in your pricing you will have less need to use these skills as talking about what you charge becomes less daunting.

It may not always be the competition you are up against it might be a friend helping out (wow have I seen some rubbish websites done by ‘a mate’) or it might be them doing it themselves or getting a member of their team to do it. If this is the objection be prepared with just how much getting it wrong could cost them.

 I’ll leave you with this quote that I love from the best in his field. Paul Neal "Red" Adair (June 18, 1915 – August 7, 2004) was an American oil well firefighter. He became notable as an innovator in the highly specialized and hazardous profession of extinguishing and capping oil well blowouts, both land-based and offshore. NO one else could do it as well as he did but he charged a much higher fee than others. The problem is that you only have one chance to cap a blazing oil well and if you get it wrong it could be disastrous. People paid him because he didn’t get it wrong!

It's full steam ahead at The Business Spa

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It would be easy to allow COVID to mess up our adventurous business plans by flipping our mindset into a negative gear but we’re having none of it!

When lockdown hit in March our first priority was how to keep our members supported, positive and safe.  The answer lay in swiftly reverting to online meetings to ensure they stayed connected.  By doing this we were able to continue to offer a trusted environment to share concerns, advice & guidance ensuring our members did not feel isolated or on their own. Members acted as buddies for one another to stay motivated, focussed and on track to achieve even the smallest things each week.  Our amazing mentors, always give so generously of their time and continued to pop in regularly to run business or personal development sessions to help us through these tricky times. Surrounding yourself with those who inspire you is another important factor, so we had successful entrepreneurs sharing their business stories including tales of how they got through more challenging business times including recession and the financial crash. The honesty of these entrepreneurial journeys gave us insight into what might lay ahead and how to make the best of all opportunities.

But now, more than ever we felt it was the time for businesses to have each other’s back and we knew we could do more…

We were aware of many small business owners and sole traders who didn’t have this level of support so, with our wonderful members’ blessing, we offered 12 complimentary virtual memberships.  There were no strings attached, all we asked is that anyone taking a spot, gave the same level of commitment to the group as our existing members did. This proved to be valuable to those who accepted, and we know we not only made a difference but some great friends for the future too.

We won’t lie, we felt pretty proud of ourselves and buoyed by this success and the positive feedback we received decided to revisit our business plans for 2020. Our main goal was to find our first Business Spa Associate to work with Cathy, who set us up, to support and grow the Oxford group. We were looking for someone who shared our SMILE (our values encompass Support–Motivation–Inspiration–Learning-Expertise). They also had to be fun and committed to working to the same vision as us of partying with ALL members at their 10th anniversary celebrations - an achievement enjoyed by too few businesses sadly!  

So, we just had to decide – dare we, and could we?  Drum roll if you please….

We are delighted and excited to shout from the rooftops that Sharon Strickland-Clark, a Business Spa member for over a year, has joined us as our first Business Spa Associate. Sharon formed Bravetart Coaching (we love this name) to help women in business reignite their courage and find their inner brave. Sharon supports women to increase their confidence and then use it to realise the potential they have been holding inside. But don’t worry chaps she works with men too. In fact Sharon works in all kinds of business but mainly with freelancers who are looking to be more successful in promoting their business; SME business owners who want to learn powerful leadership skills for new and growing teams; and with those who want to build confidence that will help them to leave employment and embark on exciting new business opportunities.

Sharon will coordinate and drive our Oxford group on a day to day and strategic basis. She’ll bring her unique energy and passion to the group to help drive growth in membership numbers as well as shaping the dynamics of the group. She’ll also nurture the development of individual members and ensure that meetings included a plethora of opportunity for continuous professional and personal development.

“I can’t wait to sit in the Associate seat at The Business Spa, Oxford. As a member, I’ve found the support, mentorship and accountability really helped me both to keep going when working on my business felt isolating and tough, and to have more confidence that I knew I was on the right track.  Every business owner who joins either as a member or as a guest is welcomed into a safe environment where it’s totally ok to show up not having all the answers. The opportunity for both mentoring and masterminding to support business development and growth mean joining The Business Spa is a smart investment. The meetings are structured so that start-ups and established businesses both get great value. There’s a strong sense of community in the group, we’re all in it together so it’s all wrapped up in a big fluffy robe of fun too!” Sharon Strickland-Clark, Bravetart Coaching

So, it’s full steam ahead with Oxford and we’re now going giddy and planning for two more groups next year that will both be led by Associates. Do bear us in mind if you are or know another Sharon who is serious about growing their own business and stepping up to the challenge of heading up a Business Spa group.  Associates must run their own small businesses and be looking to strengthen their own professional networks and relationships through the SMILE they will offer.

Why not join us at one of guest meetings? We’d love to welcome you along.

How well did you manage to adapt to lockdown in your business?

Opportunity Just Ahead

The announcement of lockdown on Monday 23rd March was like someone pulling the rug from underneath us. At 9am the very next morning we were due to have members and guests sitting around a table at the Jury’s Inn in Oxford. One of our business mentors Phil Walsh was due to present, in addition to the usual continuation of support and encouragement of each other’s growth and development. We pride ourselves in offering regular face to face meetings, where business owners build relationships, develop personally and professionally, and offer accountability for quarterly goals and actions. We know each other well and we love meeting up and working together, the thought of this grinding to a halt had us in a bit of a flat spin.

However, moaning and being negative is not our style at The Business Spa so, after a swift virtual slap around the face from Phil, he set about teaching us how to use Zoom and a few of its functions. He assured us this would work and for the rest of the evening gave a crash course on Zoom so that the show could go on.

The Business Spa is founded on a SMILE (Support – Motivation – Inspiration – Learning – Expertise) and smile we did and still do. We continue to support one another, develop relationships, and learn from our business mentors. Other than some very missed hugs and Danish pastries nothing much had changed, we just needed Phil to show us a new way to deliver it. 

We were worried about other sole traders and small business owners. So, with the agreement of our amazing members, we offered a three-month complimentary period to anyone who needed the strength of our community around them. Giving them the opportunity to offload, be supported and motivated.

We have now reached the end of that period and are delighted to have been there when it mattered for others. Our vision is to keep our members in the 4% minority of businesses that will make it to their 10th anniversary and supporting businesses through these challenging times is one small way that we hope helped.

For now, our entire business model is still online but we are chomping at the bit for the time to come when we are face-to-face again. We have learnt a lot through these times and a few things that stand out are:

  • We are able and confident to adapt quickly and effectively when we need to.
  • Our mentors are totally committed to supporting us and our members and are worth their weight in gold.
  • Zoom is hard work at times but there are lot of ways to make it more engaging and fun and more importantly there is definitely a place for it in our future. 
  • If you or your clients are struggling to make Zoom meetings work well then you need Phil https://www.businessspa.co.uk/meet-the-experts/phil-walsh
  • A strong and supportive network is more important than ever right now.
  • Old dogs can learn new tricks…you should see me on Zoom nowadays😉

If you are interested in coming along to one of our virtual guest events please Click here

– and book yourself on we’d love to see you!

“It’s not the COVID meteor you need to worry about it’s the aftermath you need to adapt to” – Prof Brian Smith

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We asked one of our virtual members, Tracy Smart of The Smart Team, how she’d dealt with the past few weeks and what she’d learned that might help other small business owners and this is what she said…

Over the years I have learnt that we are best at those things we most enjoy doing.

For me, it is all about making a difference to businesses by improving and influencing the decision-making process. I do this by helping leadership to

  • Define their goals.
  • Understand the risks and the key drivers which will get them closer to success
  • Reporting on those key drivers in a way which really focusses on the issues and drives action (and this is not always financial information)

Another area of my role that I am passionate about is building and leading diverse teams, creating rewarding opportunities for them financially but also for personal development.

A great finance team has expertise across a wide as well as deep spectrum, which is why a “Horses for Courses” approach works well.

That's why I set The Smart Team up.

By building a diverse finance team that compliments each other’s skill sets we can provide the best, bespoke service to our clients. Even better, we all get to do the things we enjoy the most, and that we are best at!

The Smart Teams’ journey started 18 months ago when my full-time corporate role as UK Finance Director at Bibby Financial Services was made redundant. I decided I wanted to take a more flexible approach enabling me to enjoy the variety of helping more than one business, but also create flexible opportunities for other finance professionals.

My services as The Smart Finance Director grew quite quickly so that I didn’t have the time to work on my business as well as in it. I didn’t have the time to network, and if I am honest that was fine by me! I have never really enjoyed networking and so, it follows, that I don’t feel like I’m very good at it. 

However, Lockdown has given me the chance to attend some local networks, and I have enjoyed meeting a wide variety of people through the Business Spa in a relaxed and friendly environment. The “Fluffy Robes” buddies’ group is fun, but we all keep each other accountable to our goals and targets for the next month!

What has become clear to me as I’ve met more and more people through my networking experience is that this brave new world, we are entering needs a brave new breed of business leaders.

As founder of The Smart Team, I believe that we are trailblazing a new, innovative style of Finance Team that is a natural fit with scale up businesses who need agility as well as commercial experience. We are building a new way of offering financial management and business support services to businesses, just like yours, who are looking to grow.

The more I work with small, scale up businesses the more I can see how traditional models of financial management and accounting simply do not meet the flexibility and agility that new and scale up businesses need.  

Recently I attended a presentation by Professor Brian Smith entitled “Strategy after COVID 19” and his concluding slide really struck a chord with me…“It’s not the COVID meteor you need to worry about it’s the aftermath you need to adapt to”

The effects of COVID-19 are going to be wide-ranging and long-lasting, perhaps forever-lasting. Flexibility & Adaptability will be crucial skills required by businesses if they want to survive in a post-COVID world. So here are my top three tips for post-COVID business growth:

  1. Understand how your customers’ needs have changed. Most businesses will find their customer landscape permanently altered, so re-considering Sales & Marketing plans is crucial. These are the sails which give your business momentum towards your goal.
  2. Move towards a leaner business model. The key skills required to deliver the product or service should be retained in-house. Everything else should be outsourced. 
  3. Get a strong finance leader in your team who can act as a wing man and critical friend.  Every thriving business benefits from strong financial leadership. A good FD supports their CEO as they consider strategic options and helps them to evaluate the cashflows. They bring a fresh pair of eyes to the table and help boards make better decisions

These are the three areas of focus I am encouraging clients to work on in the short term. One of the advantages of using The Smart Team’s unique blend of skills and flexibility is that a business benefits from a strong commercially experienced finance leader without the long- term commitment of an expensive resource – vitally important in current times. 

Our services combine face to face and virtual solutions to offer small businesses access to commercial financial leadership in a flexible way. Our lean and flexible proposition will enable your business to adapt and thrive in the world after the COVID Meteor.

Thanks to Cathy and my fellow members at The Business Spa for welcoming me to the group.

Tracy Smart - Chief Executive Officer

07585 006851

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Get In Touch

The Business Spa
Sandford Gate
Eastpoint Business Park
Oxford, OX4 6LB

Tel: 07818 453105
Email: kate@businessspa.co.uk