Category Archives: Running a company

Work Life Balance is the hardest thing to get right

Over half of my followers on twitter consider Work Life Balance to be the hardest thing to get right. Interestingly, I completely disagree. (sorry sorry! Don’t leave, tweeps)

For me, it is very simple. Family comes first.

They have to. I love them. I would drop anything in a heartbeat if they needed me. And I know that there is never ever going to be an end of that To Do list at the office — it will never be emptied, it will never be completed, so I better find a way to get comfortable with never being “finished”.

So how do I not drown in guilt?

I decided to be okay with the choices I make. If I decided to be home, then I will not allow myself to feel guilty that I am missing the meeting/trip/congress (fill in your chosen one). There is no point, right? I have made the decision, and nobody is going to be happier because I am feeling guilty. And vice versa: if I am on business, I am on business. Kicking myself for being a bad mother isn’t going to make my kids love me more, or bring them any more fond memories.

Does it always work? Of course not. But it is a hell of a good step in the right direction.

Now, you are probably grinding your teeth and muttering that it is easy for me, I am my own boss. And you are of course right in that. But please don’t forget that I have the entire companys’ success to think about. When I was employed and screwed up, I could get fired. If I screw up now, EVERYONES job is gone.

Find a boss who gets it. And if that isn’t happening, come talk to me. Perhaps we can start a business together?

…watching my team in a meeting…

I am sitting on the side of the room, watching my team. That’s what I do most of….I watch.

Usually I watch as someone else talks (watching while talking is not the same thing) and I learn so much. Who is comfortable, who is passionate, who is concerned. For me to keep an eye on words, tone, body language and side conversations, I know exactly when to lean back, when to step in, when to steer and when to keep silent.

I was asked this morning what my secret leadership skill is. Perhaps it is this: my geeky interest in communication, skills and strengths.

I wonder how much more I get out of my team, because I can immediately do what I just did: sent a little WhatsApp to my PM, as I watched him spending longer than expected on his iPhone 🙂

Most of the time I watch a finely tuned machine — based on respect for individual people and their strengths, interests and experience.  The way the group collaborates and communicates, often broken up by joking and laughter!

Here is how we got to that and what you could do:

  • Be clear on roles and responsibilities, and make sure everyone is appreciated for their personal skills
  • Balance the agenda to make sure you build in parts of personal development and growth
  • Self insight: not everyone is a great people leader: if you’re not, don’t beat yourself up. Find someone who is, and concentrate on what YOU are good at.

 

Are staff retention policies outdated? I say Yes.

“Let me know how you will find your next skills, and how you can continue to grow , inside or outside the company?”

I lean back to let her think, before I speak again.

I am having a development meeting with someone in my staff, and my question makes her frown involuntarily. That warms my heart, and I have to stop myself from grinning. I like when people want to stay!

I can see I need to remind her what it means to work in this generous and people focused environment, built on striving for excellence and constant improvement; I spend a lot of effort on making sure I get the communication right; encouraging people to learn from outside doesn’t always mean I want people to leave!

We are not your average company 

I get that it is not common to be encouraged to look both inside and outside for your next learning and challenge. I know it is certainly not what you usually get from a manager who thinks you’re a top performer, in a company you’ve been told you are highly appreciated. But we are not your average company, and we certainly don’t aim for average growth and development for our staff. I am an Improver, in its truest form, and that is highly visible in my relentless push for finding talent and then making it better, brighter, faster.

We are a fairly young company, and as such, each and every employee is tremendously impactful on our small and tight knit team. We are growing fast, which means there are ample opportunities to grow both in role, as well as move to a new position. We have more chances of providing new responsibilities internally than most other companies – we are lucky that way. However, in 2017, that means very little. Let me explain.

Don’t get laid off!!

It used to be great to keep a job your whole life. The goal was to never get laid off, to learn on the job and to be as experienced as possible – that was the best way to increase your salary. But all that has changed: technology and innovation drives faster much quicker than ever before, and the most effective way to raise your salary is often to switch companies every two years. It is no Ionger suspicious to having have more than 3 employers in a lifetime, and certainly the pure REASONS for working has changed with different generations. We are no longer satisfied with doing something we are capable of, we also want to do something we love. And that is exactly it:

I hire smart people. I hire people who are clever, hungry, eager and driven. And then I give them a carefully balanced mix of support and opportunity, tailored to the individuals personality. So then, the inevitable happens: they grown. And learn. And they love it.

Which is maybe why they want to stay, and don’t get me wrong, that’s awesome. But it may not be what is best, neither for them, nor for the company. Continued and accelerated growth is better, and we get that from people bringing in new thoughts and ideas, new viewpoints, new skills and experiences. If we can keep a great balance between harnessing the talent we have, combined with the new intelligence we get in, while continuing to support the learning we see, we will be a hot, magical melting pot of brilliance, where the love of growth, learning and progress brings out the very best in all of us.

In my companies staff retention policy has changed to staff returning policy. Give it a go. You might learn something new!

Employees and employers: who has the responsibility for a successful employee?

Let’s say I hired the wrong person. Is it his fault, or mine? Did I have a thorough enough process, was I good enough in deciphering the codes that make up a new personality?

Or did he fake it? Without me seeing through the charade? Should I have been able to spot the liar?

As a leader, it would be very easy to blame someone else for the lack of success of employees, but I can’t push it aside. I don’t want to. The responsibility of our success is mine – my job is to match, lead, guide, coach and steer, so that we all work together like a well-oiled machine. Nobody is great at everything, so it is a leaders role to put the pieces together in the best possible way.

 And when it goes wrong (it will. Of course it will. If you push people to grow and do new things, it won’t be all smooth. Don’t expect it to be.), it is a leader’s job to guide it forward in a smooth manner, ensuring individual and team growth, teaching, leading, coaching. Continue reading Employees and employers: who has the responsibility for a successful employee?

We sit, we walk, we shout and we fika.

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We sit, we walk, we shout and we fika, all in the name of productivity.

Having spent many years in large corporate companies, massive giants with 50,000-100, 000 employees, I don’t even dare to estimate how many of my working hours were spent locked up in meetings, or my favourite part, preparing slides for meetings. Since I started my first own company, we don’t do that anymore. Ever!

So how do we make sure everyone is informed, is up to speed and delivers a stellar performance? With a few simple house rules around respect and integrity, and three key important methods:

1. We Fika – The Swedish coffee break where my employees and I (often across companies since several of the companies I own operate from the same address) have coffee and tea and eat cake. It is an informal break to the day, and it is usually spontaneous.

It doesn’t happen every day, but it is a simple way to stop and reflect on the day in a relaxed environment. It helps us talk things through and get each other’s input, it gives a relaxed place to iron out potential misunderstandings and it fosters communication, sharing, understanding and collaboration. And we get to eat cake.

2. Group brain exercises regularly. Just like any employer who promotes employee wellbeing, we encourage fitness and healthy lifestyles, but we also encourage exercising the brain. After all, that is the body part we use the most in our job. We have training sessions several times a week, and work both individually and as a group.

A great example last week was when our marketing assistant needed to work on her tone of voice to become more assertive when discussing with suppliers. We spent 20 minutes using body language, observing each other, making physical adjustments and shouting at each other to learn how the body position influences the voice. Loud shouting and then loud laughter. Good for everyone!

3. Walking meetings – going for a walk instead of sitting down to talk; These work best with only two or three people. It helps with energy levels, concentration and clarity. It is more difficult to get frustrated and angry while walking than while sitting in a chair so it can really take the edge off any challenging or sensitive topics that you may have to discuss with your team.

7 considerations for aborting mission

When you’re working on a project, it is sometimes easy to get emotionally attached. From time to time, that means that decisions are taken differently during than they would have been before the start of the project.

Usually when I ask people about their exit strategy, they think I mean how they will sell their company and retire. Not at all: I am talking about how to know when to abandon the plan.

Let me give you an example.

Marianne had been working with her Dance school for years, and she had made it a second home for her three girls who had spent pretty much every day after school in the studio. As a leak in the building made her financial situation strained, the smart move would have been to cut it lose, and to relocate to a different venue.

But, because her day to day business and personal life was entangled with emotional ties, she endured 5 really difficult years in the same location, before she finally gave up, having lost most her savings. Had she been making the same decision if this was identified as a risk and had a mitigation plan before she started? Probably not.

An exit strategy should contain the following considerations (…as a start. There will be more that are specific to your business):

Ask yourself this:

  1. TIME: How long am I willing to go before I say this isn’t working? 1 year? 3 years?
  2. MONEY: What is the maximum financial figure I can commit to putting into the business, and when do I cut my losses?
  3. OWNERSHIP: What are the areas of the business that I would be willing to give up to take in financial support (if any) if I needed to? What’s the maximum shares I am willing to sell?
  4. ILLNESS: What do I do if I or someone who depends on me get really ill? What is my contingency plan?
  5. RISKS: What are the top 10 risks in my company and current set up, and how do I mitigate that?
  6. TRADE OFFS: At what point do I decide the risks are not worth the (potential) rewards?
  7. COMMITMENTS: Are there commitments that I am not prepared to sign? Long term contracts, legal obligations, other?

The above is tremendously useful things to consider and have a plan for. Discuss them with your business partner if you have one – more often than not we have very different views on things like this, and it is good to be VERY specific. And make a plan for what happens if you disagree. Write it down. It may all change, but at least you have a starting point when things get rocky.

Also discuss this with your family. Your partner may not have the same expectations as you, and after all, he or she is one of your most important stakeholders as you embark on a new venture.

Good luck. You have taken a whole list of unknowns and turned them into something tangible. Of course there can be surprises you haven’t planned for, but you have narrowed that down tremendously.

And hopefully you will never have to use any of this!

Part 2 of my mentoring questions: Selling stuff

I know how easy it is for entrepreneurs to be obsessing over sales — especially before you have any, and especially if you don’t know how to sell. And many entrepreneurs don’t. They are enthusiastic experts in their field, but rarely do they have the benefit of having gone through a career in sales and marketing (I consider myself VERY lucky that way, and that’s why I have decided to Pay Forward what I’ve learned.). 

 (Missed the first 5 questions? Click here)

The Anti Crow Rule

I asked my Twitter followers a while back if Marketing or Sales was harder to get right, and the majority said Marketing. I believe the two are closely linked, and if you get your marketing right, your sales will come. I strongly encourage having a clear image of who your customer is, and to segment your market. MAKE CHOICES and stick to them. I call it the Anti Crow Rule: stay away from the shiny objects! It is VERY easy to get distracted, and as an enthusiastic entrepreneur we are flattered and grateful when someone wants our stuff. Don’t get me wrong, do sell….just stick to your overarching plan. 

 

Bank people DO make good friends

If you don’t have finance experience, I strongly encourage you to collaborate with someone who can build you a solid budget, including cashflow projections. Not only will it save you eons of time, it will also ensure you won’t find yourself in a situation that you have a profitable business but no money o pay people or buy stock with. In addition, it will also make any bank conversations you will have a lot more productive. (I never borrowed any money to start my companies, but I do recognise that it is very common to have to do that. And even if you don’t need a cash inflow at the start, having your bank team well informed is a plus should you ever need their help and/or advice. 

 

I am done for tonight, but I do want to talk Exit strategy (because you need not just one but several, and I don’t mean just different versions of you selling your company to the highest bidder and taking off to Aruba) and what/when/how to abandon your plan. 

 

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(No spam, no selling of your data, no me selling to you. I #neversell and am just Paying It Forward. Why? Because I can.)