Jonny Cooper: Is it important…or just urgent?

Ever get the feeling you’re overworked, always busy, stressed and yet often seem to accomplish very little?

Do you frequently leave work with a pile of stuff you really should have finished today, still to do tomorrow?

If so, you probably need to examine one of the fundamentals of time management, namely the difference between urgent and important tasks.

Urgent tasks are those which need doing now, whereas important tasks are those on which you need to spend most time.

Here’s a simple 4-box method of analysing your workload and deciding what to do first…and last!

Box 1: Urgent and important: Bills to be paid now, health or family problems, customer complaints; try to look at the root causes of why you are getting dragged into these situations. This will often feel like crisis management and should be pretty rare with proper planning. Finding space in your diary well in advance of deadlines will eliminate the stress from many of these tasks, and should move them into Box 2.

Box 2: Important but not urgent: These are jobs which must be done, but not necessarily today. Replying to most emails falls into this category, and you should avoid the knee-jerk tendency to answer all your messages right now. Most of your work should be concentrated here in Box 2, meaning you get through lots of essential tasks, without the pressure of a deadline.

Box 3: Urgent but not important: Plan to give these as little time as possible. For instance, answer priority emails and phone calls as briefly as possible, and delegate tasks to others whenever you can. This is the box where most work tends to be concentrated; probably because focussing on a series of trivial actions can seem like you are accomplishing great things.

Box 4: Neither important nor urgent: These are jobs which you really should be delegating, or simply leaving undone. You might find that if you leave things to simmer here for a while, they will either slip into Box 2, or become irrelevant. Surfing the internet for nothing in particular is a classic time-hungry example of a Box 4 task.

Thinking about what you REALLY need to be doing, and when, truly can make a difference in your personal effectiveness, wealth and happiness.

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Here’s something that’s urgent AND important! I’m offering a free half-hour of power to my loyal readers.

If you send me an email telling me how you’d benefit from a 30 minute’s business mentoring by me, I’ll do it FREE, wherever you are in the world, via Skype or ‘phone at a time to suit us both. jon@jupiterdawn.com

Jonny Cooper: Lessons in Business from School

As the schools closed down for the summer, I got to thinking how many similarities there are between a well-run school, and a well-run business.

In fact, I thought of 10 ways right here.

(And before you get the wrong end of the analogy, I’m not suggesting you close your business for 6 weeks…)

1: Curriculum – This is your business plan, something you set out in writing at least annually. It should contain specific, time-sensitive goals and measurable targets.

2: Timetable – The only way a school can function is by everyone knowing what they are doing, and when. Plan your work schedules in advance, and start and leave consistently at pre-arranged times to keep your work-life balance on track.

3: Exams – Test your business progress regularly against your targets. Did you sell enough? Did you meet cash-flow and profitability projections? Equally, are there literally exams or courses you or your team should be taking to improve your knowledge and industry competitiveness?

4: Terms (Semesters to you Americans) – Punctuate your business year into easily measurable units. There is nothing like an end-of month target to get your sales department fired up.

5: Awards – Recognise personal as well as personnel achievements. Bonuses, promotion and team-building events can reap far more than they cost.

6: Uniform – Issue all client-facing staff with company work-wear. Whether matching ties, jackets or full outfits, it projects an image of an organisation committed to its brand values. When I implemented this at a financial services business I ran, employees also commented they appreciated not having to agonise over daily clothing choice!

7: Hierarchy – Appointing managers with the right combination of experience, knowledge, wisdom and gravitas will ensure a happy and productive classroom. Sorry, workforce.

8: Playtime – Know when to relax and spend time away from your work. No-one functions effectively after more than an hour sitting at a computer screen. Take a 5-minute break walking, talking, or meditating.

9: Eat! – Lunch is not for wimps; it’s essential. Your afternoons will be only half as useful as your mornings if you’re hungry.

10: Learn and teach – Nobody knows everything, or nothing. Be prepared to pass on your knowledge to colleagues, and listen to constructive suggestions from others.

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So…if you’d like a little more schooling yourself, or you just need someone to run some ideas by, I’m offering a free half-hour of power to my loyal readers.

If you send me an email telling me how you’d benefit from a half-hour’s business mentoring by me, I’ll do it FREE, wherever you are in the world, via Skype or ‘phone at a time to suit us both. jon@jupiterdawn.com

Elevator pitch can take you to new heights!

As a newcomer to a networking group last week, I was reminded how important it is to be able answer the question “so what do you do…?” concisely and in a way that both grabs attention and leaves a lasting impression.

Many of the attendees at my recent meeting were lucid and confident, but others I spoke with were only ever going to make a dreary and easily forgettable impact on their peers.

If you haven’t got a captivating case for what you do, and (more importantly) a compelling reason for why you do it, then why on earth would anyone believe you’re worth doing business with?

So, if your career means you regularly meet new people – and whose doesn’t? – then it’s critical to be able to create and present a personal 30-second commercial, often called an “elevator pitch” in the States.

It’s the basis of personal networking, self-promotion, and pretty much everything else you need to stand out from the crowd in an over-crowded world.

Here are my top 10 tips for making that first impression –

1: Talk benefits, not just features. “I’m a lawyer who makes sure people don’t get ripped off in property deals” rather than just saying you’re a property lawyer.

2: Be conversational and confident. Don’t hesitate, fidget or blather, and always present with a smile and a twinkle in your eye.

3: Don’t use jargon and particularly not industry-specific acronyms (OMG!)

4: Boast a little. It’s ok to start a sentence with “My key strengths are…”

5: Fulfil a need. Reminding the listener that you’re a qualified Zeppelin commander marks you as quirky and interesting, but a little redundant.

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6: Tailor to your audience. Investors want to hear how they can get returns, customers how you can solve their problems, and potential partners why you’re going to be a success together.

7: Use power adjectives such as “astounding” and “spectacular” over mundane words like “ok” and “good”.

8: Be prepared for follow-ups. If you’ve been convincing and engaging up to now, you’ll get questions. Rehearse the answers to any likely comebacks.

9: Review and revise regularly based on feedback. Conversely, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

10: Test your commercial on a 7-year old first. If they don’t understand every word of it, you’ll lose half your target audience before you get a chance to finish!

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HALF HOUR OF POWER!

To help you find your own ELEVATOR PITCH, here’s a special treat for my loyal readers. If you send me an email telling me how you’d benefit from a half-hour’s business mentoring by me, I’ll do it FREE, wherever you are in the world, via Skype or ‘phone at a time to suit us both. jon@jupiterdawn.com

Are you working ON your business, or simply IN it?

I meet many people engaged in their own enterprises, and it’s striking how there is a clear divide between those whose lives are controlled by their business, and those who have learned to control it to their advantage.

The first group are often no more than employees who happen to be their own boss, whereas the latter enjoy the freedom and wealth which flows from being in charge of a successful venture.

Here’s a 6-point self-test to decide which group you fall into –

1: Are you working more hours with fewer holidays than any of your staff? If yes, the business is running you, and you are merely working IN it. Get to work ON it, and you will find ways to accomplish your goals and still have time for a normal social and family life.

2: Does everything go wrong when you’re not there? If yes, you need to create systems and processes which function entirely without your input, and then delegate their operation to others. Success in this area is a sure sign you’re getting to work ON your business.

3: Are you constantly juggling cashflow to pay unexpected bills or last-minute demands? If so, you have probably been focussing on small urgent tasks instead of sitting back and planning the big important things, and are too busy earning a living to make any money!

4: Do you have customers who will only deal directly with you? Worse, do you believe they will only ever deal with you?  If that’s you, you need to be working ON your business, and educate your customers to buy from others in the company, leaving you free to focus on strategic planning and growth.

5: Is your office door “always open”? Does all your staff come to you for advice and clearance on everything? If so, you need to break the dependency culture and empower them to think for themselves. You’ll get far more out of your people, and free up your time to plan for the future.

6: Do you work to a business plan, with clear, measurable goals? Do you review and amend it regularly based on actual results? If you’re not planning where your company is going for at least the next 3 years, that’s a clear marker that you are only working IN it, not ON it!

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HALF HOUR OF POWER!

To help you work smarter, and ON your business, here’s a special treat for my loyal readers. If you send me an email telling me how you’d benefit from a half-hour’s business mentoring by me, I’ll do it FREE, wherever you are in the world, via Skype or ‘phone at a time to suit us both. jon@jupiterdawn.com

Hourly rates? Their time has surely come…

Why professional firms should forget about hourly rates!

I was personally reminded today of the perils of time-costing so beloved of solicitors, accountants and many consultants. I received an unfathomably large bill from a lawyer who did some property work about 3 months ago. I was aghast, but immediately grasped the problem.

He had billed me for what the job was worth to him – the supplier, not what it was worth to me – the customer!

I have approached his firm with a proposal to help him move from hourly billing to value pricing. The proposition that “time is money” is over 250 years old, and attributed to Benjamin Franklin. However, clocks don’t write cheques, and you don’t attract and retain clients by selling hours.

You sell solutions, service and value.

For the benefit of any designers, SEO dudes, consultants, advisers, laywers or accountants currently charging clients by the hour, here’s why switching to value pricing could transform your business:

1: Pricing a job at outset gets any objections from clients on the table before you start; far better than arguing over the bill at the end!

2: Clients feel special, as you are calculating a bespoke value for their work. Hourly rates, by contrast, are applied at the same level for everyone, irrespective of the value you are adding to their business.

3: Sharing risk by quoting fixed prices projects experience and confidence in your delivery and performance. Clients will feel that you must know you can do the job, otherwise you wouldn’t have committed to it.

4: Clients will appreciate that you are not about to rip them off. Can you imagine how you would feel if an airline charged by the mile for your ticket? Maybe the pilot would deliberately take the long route to rack up the costs!

 5: Value pricing forces internal efficiency. Fixing revenue ensures you will delegate and review work flows so you can offer service whilst ensuring you meet your own profitability aspirations.

6: Annual price increases are easier to factor in, as each job is costed individually. No firm likes sending out notices of hourly rate hikes, and no client likes receiving them.

In summary: value pricing encourages trust and nurtures long-term relationships with satisfied clients, leading to mutual profitability and success.

It’s time to ditch the clock and focus on value!

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HOURLY RATE: ZERO!

And now, here’s something of incredible value to you,  OFFERED AS A GIFT! Especially from me to you, as a loyal reader, I’m going to give you a HALF-HOUR OF POWER directly with me by Skype or phone. That’s right dudes and dudesses, wherever you are in the world, you can talk to me for 30 minutes about your business, and where you want to take it. Who knows, I might even be able to help!

Simply comment on this blog telling me in 140 characters or less (now there’s an idea…) what we’d talk about and why.  We’ll exchange contact details and get busy!

Here’s to your success,

Jonny

When bullets can kill: Missing the point of PowerPoint

Most of us have sat through countless turgid seminars, talks and sales pitches using slides generated by Microsoft PowerPoint. Having presented hundreds myself, I was drawn to an article in the New York Times quoting a US Army General slating the ubiquitous software as the “enemy within”!

“PowerPoint makes us stupid”, said Gen. James N. Mattis, Joint Forces Commander in Afghanistan. “It can create the illusion of understanding and control, when some problems are just not bulletizable.”

If you forgive the crazy made-up adjective at the end of that statement, there is a serious message here for your next presentation.

You see, communication should be designed to transfer emotion, to make your audience understand why you’re excited, passionate or otherwise concerned about your topic.

If all you want to do is create a list of facts and figures, save everyone time by sending them a report to read, and cancel the meeting.

On the other hand, if you’ve got a genuinely captivating pitch which needs a two-way forum, here are a few ideas for getting your (power) point across!

1 – Don’t put your cue cards on the screen; have them in your hand! Nobody wants to hear you recite what they’ve read 5 seconds earlier.

2 – Make your slides reinforce your message and provide a backdrop to your words.

3 – Use pictures and videos. As a visual medium, PowerPoint is ideal for displaying powerful images, which, as everyone knows, speak a thousand words each! Embedded video-bytes can really liven things up too.

4 – Minimise bullet points, and keep text to no more than 10 words per slide.

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WORLD’S WORST POWERPOINT SLIDE 2011

5 – Make loads of slides and keep up the pace. Internet-spoiled attention spans are way shorter now than when PP was first invented!

6 – Create a handout which doesn’t simply copy your presentation. If your slides could have the same impact when read later by anyone else, you didn’t need to be there at all! The takeaway should be text-rich and full of memorable information. Tell them you will be doing this, so your audience is not heads-down writing notes all day.

7 – Get feedback. Whether it’s via verbal questions on the day, or a request to complete a written document in the handout, you need to know what impact you’ve had on your audience.

Who knows, maybe you too will be able to avoid giving the type of presentations which the US military refer to as “Hypnotising chickens”!

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HALF HOUR OF POWER!

Here’s a special treat for my loyal readers. If you send me an email telling me how you’d benefit from a half-hour’s business mentoring by me, I’ll do it FREE, wherever you are in the world, via Skype or ‘phone at a time to suit us both. jon@jupiterdawn.com

Lessons in Business from the Horrors of War

I’ve been reading an inspirational biography by Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was the highest ranking United States military officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner-of-war camp during the Vietnam War.

He was tortured repeatedly during his 8-year incarceration, yet maintained the respect of the military prisoners still under his command, whilst trying to ensure that the highest number of them survived their unthinkable ordeal.

Stockdale established rules allowing his men to reveal certain information after a given level of torture, understanding that no-one can withstand pain indefinitely.

He inflicted self-injury with stools and razors, so that his captors couldn’t film him on video to demonstrate their responsible custody to the outside world.

Reading the book, I was overwhelmed with the sense of desperation and isolation which he and his soldiers must have felt, and astonished that he was able to keep his spirits high, and to refuse to be broken.

Interviewed recently, he was asked how he dealt with such incredible hardship, and more poignantly with not knowing how, when or even if it would all end.

He replied that he never lost faith in the end of the story. He believed that, eventually, he would be released and be reunited with his family.

He was then asked who didn’t make it. “The optimists”, he replied, coining at once the concept now known as the Stockdale Paradox.

What he meant was that “those who told themselves, ‘We’ll be home by Christmas’, were disappointed when Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

Stockdale finished his interview with a stunningly concise summary of his survival strategy, and one which I’m sure would be a useful edict with which to get through the albeit less life-threatening corporate torture wrought by these troubled economic times.

“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

In business, that means never, ever losing your self belief, but setting realistic goals which you’ve got an evens chance of reaching.

For many of you right now, it also means keeping afloat in the recession, because you’ve got a brilliant product which will absolutely fly when things start moving again.

Respect to you, Admiral.

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Now here’s something from me to you, to help you ride the storm!

Simply add a comment to this post telling me why you need a 30-minute mentoring session with Jonny Cooper! We can talk about your business plans, goals and issues. Yes folks, a complimentary half-hour of power with me via Skype or phone! I look forward to talking to you. Jonny.

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