Business mentoring tip #77 – The leader versus manager debate…

In my last tip I was pretty tough on us entrepreneurial types, stating boldly that if our employees were under performing it was our fault not theirs.  I do believe this is true in very many cases, although of course not all.  Some employees do simply suck and I’ll talk more about this in future tips.

However, there is a further distinction to be made on the subject of staff performance (in fact there are many distinctions and an expert in HR is the right person to make them, not me).  I’ve been noticing this one a lot recently as I observe so many small business owners struggle with growth.

The thing about growing is that it means employing people.  And when you employ people you need to manage them.  This is where the potential pit fall lies for many small business owners.  Typically someone who has the gumption to start their own business is likely to be a driven personality.  In the workshop with nine different businesses I held last weekend, nearly all could be described as ‘A’ type, dominant, strong and determined people.  All in my view had leadership quality.  They had vision, enthusisam, confidence, personality… they had ‘mana’.  They were the type of people other people want to follow.

So why would they struggle with growing a high performance team?  Because they are leaders, not managers.  There is a big difference between the two.  Another client recently told me she was going to invest $8,000 in a leadership course.  I looked at her vibrant, powerful personality and the amazing business she had built and asked her why.  She told me it was because she was crap at management.

And in that moment I saw the problem.  She was a good leader already – sure she could learn some new skills and talents in this area – but this course wasn’t going to help her with her management skills, nor with the lack of motivation engulfing a few of her team members.  She needed someone with different skills entirely to help her.  I suggested she spend that $8,000 on an independent HR consultant who could help her implement a more people driven culture.  Regular reviews, clear expecations, set KPI’s and measurements.  These are things that she neither has the time nor the inclination to spend time on herself, but are critical to the success of her growth plans.

The same issue came up for nearly every business owner at my workshop.  As we assessed the business growth plans we could see a distinct lack of planning around the processes that would be required to manage the people.

So I have now become the world’s biggest advocate for independent HR advisors.  Wonderful people who love to manage people and know exactly what you need to have in place to bring out the best in them.  I would engage one of these people to help with your growth from the minute you think about employing people.  You can always learn to be a better leader.  But if your staff have left because no one ever cared enough to manage them properly, you won’t have anyone to lead.

Get your processes in.  Learn how to manage.  Then lead the way.  In that order.

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies. 

Business Mentoring Tip #76 – Your team don’t suck. You do.

Having frustrations with staff seems to be a theme for the small business owners I’ve been working with this month.   Employees under performing, not taking responsibility for their outcomes, having little initiative and being too content to let the owner do the lion share of the income generation.

Does this sound familiar?

It certainly reminds me of my early days in business.   I remember like it were yesterday the mind blowing frustrations of having to take back project after project and do it myself… because no one else seemed to care enough to get it done right and on time.  The resentment ate away at me like a festering wound as once again I was at work before everyone else and working late on jobs I shouldn’t even have had to look at.   And the harder I had to work the grumpier I got with everyone else.  My fuse was short and my tongue sharp.  Mine was not a happy workplace…  for anyone.

It took me a few years and a nasty personal grievance claim to realise where the real problem was.  And it wasn’t with my staff.

It was me.  I was a crap manager.  I’d been so busy expecting everyone to be like me that I’d overlooked a fundamental life truth.  Most people are nothing like me.  I am actually quite unusual.  I am an entrepreneur.  I see the problem, I leap in with the solution, I get it fixed, I charge onto the next problem, seeing opportunities where others see barriers.  I get impatient with other people when they don’t behave the same way.

And this, my friends, is where the real problem with employees lies.

If you have started your own business there is a very good chance that you are not a great people manager.

Ask yourself this:  why are you not an employee?

Because you are a self starter, you want to be in charge of your own destiny, you want to achieve great things and realise your own dreams, in your own way.  You place high expectations on yourself and are willing to push yourself to make it all happen…Right?  You own your own business because you have taken a leap of faith and let go of the pay cheque.

You also have a lot at stake.  You have to make money to survive, to pay bills and grow your team.  Your customers are everything to you and you will bend over backwards to make sure they are happy.  You will do whatever it takes to succeed.

So why don’t your employees feel the same? Why does no one else work as hard as you? Why don’t they care as much? Where is their ambition? Their initiative?  Their drive?

Here’s a newsflash.  If your employees had all the same qualities as you they would not be your employees, they would be your competition!

You simply cannot expect your employees to have the same levels of drive about your business that you do.

But you can create an environment where they find their own sense of empowerment and passion.  Where their own unique skills are recognised and their efforts rewarded.  Where you see their strong points and use them to the company’s advantage, making them feel useful and treasured. They can come to work with a fire in their belly and work harder than you do to achieve amazing results.

As long as you get out of the way!

If you are struggling with your staff right now, take a look at your management skills.  How is the culture of your company?  Are you expecting everyone to behave the way you behave?  Are you behaving like a resentful parent… picking up after your kids then berating them for being messy?

If you are having team problems, it’s time to change your approach.  My world changed the day I realised that I was the problem.  I knew that my strengths lay in other areas, so I hired someone who was an amazing manager.  She took over the hiring and the management of people and left me to do what I was excellent at… being the leader, the visionary and the inspiration.

Maybe you should do the same.  If you are not ready to hire a General Manager as I did, bring in an HR expert on contract.  Get them to help you re-engineer your culture and your management style so that you get to empower more and work a whole lot less.

If you’d like the names of some excellent HR experts email me at

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies.

Business Mentoring Tip #72 – How to create an effective system in six simple steps

Systems are critical to building a business that will one day set you free. If someone holds information critical to your business and they don’t show up for work tomorrow, you have a problem…especially if that person is you.  So you need to build a business on a foundation of systems that show others what to do.  Here’s a six step process for creating an effective system.

1. State desired outcome

2. Create solution

3. Test it

4. Refine it

5. Document it

6. Train others

You start with your desired outcome.  For example, let’s say that you want everyone in the company to answer the phone the same way to create the best first impression.  You will need to create a solution for this, which in this case is a script you’d like everyone to follow.  You write the script.  You distribute it to all staff.  To test it you let others answer the phone and check they say the right thing.  You make any changes if you feel necessary and once happy with it you put the script into your company manual.  Then you train everyone who comes into the company on how to answer the phone.

Simple as!

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business Mentors and experts in small business exit strategies.  Based in Wellington, New Zealand.


Business Mentoring Tip #71 – Think like an alien

Imagine if you had to exit your life for 12 months (to go save the world because you are in fact a secret super hero… we are imagining here) and an alien version of you will be arriving to take over your household.  How will they know how to live your life in a way that doesn’t send everything and everyone around them into a complete spin?  You will need to leave them detailed instructions right? You will have to think of every single aspect of how your life runs – what you do, when you do it and how you do it.  From the moment you get up to the moment you go to bed, including what time you get up and what time you go to bed.  You will need to write down instructions (yes they can read) for how your household runs, including how to work all the gadgets, how to pay the bills, how to access your bank accounts and where to find things.  You will need to explain who is in your family and how the family operates.  You’ll write down the rituals your family needs to function such as your meal times and types of food you eat. What time do the kids go to school?  How do they get there?  Who takes them? What do they do when they get home?  What do you do on the weekends? You will also have to consider what things are really important to your family. How do you treat each other? What are your values? What are your rules, the expectations you all have to guide your behaviour?

The more you think about it, the more things you can think of to write into this ‘manual’ for your life.  You want to make sure the alien you will run your world as close to the way you do it as possible.  You don’t want to miss anything out.

Aliens in the workplace

Now imagine this alien is going to come to work and attempt to run your business for a year. If they walked in today, how would they cope?  Would they know what to do?  How long would it take them to get up to speed?  Would they be able to run things exactly the way you do?  Or would they have to make it up as they go?  How dangerous would that be if they were let loose on your clients and your accounts without clear instructions?

It’s a pretty basic analogy but it works.  The alien in the workplace represents a potential buyer looking at your business and wondering if it will work without you in it.  If the answer to this is ‘no’ they are either going to walk away or insist you stay in the business for some considerable time to help them learn the ropes.

The alien could also represent a senior employee that you hope will take over a large part of the running of the business from you.  You want this person (or this team of senior people) to be willing and able to keep the business running the way you want it run.  You know what works.  You know what sales need to come in the door to meet targets for the year. You know what your clients expect from your company.  You know what keeps your staff motivated and what will create upset. You’ve got everything working well with you at the helm.  But how do you share this knowledge?  How do you ensure someone else will be able to keep everything running as smoothly as you do?

The answer to all of these questions is of course… with systems.

You ensure nothing exists purely inside someone’s head, neither yours nor your key staff members.  If someone holds information critical to your business and they don’t show up for work tomorrow, you have a problem…especially if that person is you.

In the next few blogs I’m going to talk more on systems – which systems you need and how to create them.  Watch this space!

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness. Business mentors and experts in small business exit systems.  Based in Wellington, New Zealand.

10 things you need to know about sales this week

Welcome to guest entrepreneur and salesman extraordinaire Mike Brunel for some more of his always useful tips on sales.  Enjoy…

1. Create a sales culture– In Laura’s upcoming book she talks about creating a great sales culture- it has to however begin with you changing your mind set around being committed to turning your company into a sales machine and not a hobby machine.

2. Train, train train- – According to the Harvard Business review, only 10 percent of the population has what’s  called “the learning mind set” These are the people who love to learn. Too many businesses fail to train and only do it when there is a crisis. Train your team or be derailed. In economic times like these,  products knowledge is critical.

3. Prospect for new business – prospect for new business 2 ½ hours a day. This is what one trainer told me recently, if you are a business how you are prospecting? This is often too hard for many businesses but it is critical to being successful.

4. Conduct regular workshop with your staff- get them to present a new product to the rest of the team. Ask each salesperson on your team to suggest some training and product presentation ideas.

5. Qualify the Buyer- what is their need, if you sell a product and have actually sold quite a few of them, why did those customers buy? They must have some sort of need satisfied. What was it? Are you asking them?

6. Build value into your business– Value is the secret sauce to everything. If you can add some type of value and not just be price driven then you will create more sales long term.

7. Are you a price seller- if that strategy works for you then great, in many cases businesses think it is all about the price? I think it is about the story you present. A story about your product sells why?

8. What is your story- If you focus on price then people will choose the price and not the person. If you position a story about all the great things your product does, then maybe, just maybe, the buyer might just be thinking.” I like this person I might buy them”

9. Become an expert – An expert gives me something, something that I can use. If you are perceived as an expert in your field then it puts you ahead just a bit of your competitors.

10. Finally, anticipation and reaction. If you start to anticipate what is going to happen then you a not a slave to crisis or reaction.

Mike Brunel is a director of a number of companies both in New Zealand and worldwide which specialise in generating sales revenue for television newspaper and radio stations. NRS Media operates in over 65 markets throughout New Zealand, Australia, US, Canada and Europe. Their simple sales concepts have generated in excess of US$900 million.
Mike is a phenomenal sales person, as well as a stimulating and relatable trainer.
Contact him at
Mike offers a limited private consultancy for selected clients. For more information contact

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies.  Based in Wellington, New Zealand.

Business Mentor tip #69 – Understand the TWO key reasons for being in business

For me, there are only two reasons why you would be in business for yourself: to make money and to make a difference.

1. Making money

Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art”. Andy Warhol

Business is a financial game. People who are very good at business understand that business is all about delivering returns to the shareholders. Why do you think the CEOs of large corporate earn multi-million dollar salaries? Because they are good at business and they know their job is to build a business with positive returns each year. They know how to drive a business machine that generates profit. They are hired as CEO’s for this very ability. When I work with business owners I get them to see their business through the eyes of a large corporate CEO. I get them to take their job as CEO and Director seriously. The role of a CEO is to ensure that the business is planned and managed in a way that ensures it is consistently generating healthy returns to its shareholders. The Director of a company has a fiduciary duty to ensure the business is achieving maximum profit year on year. As the Director and CEO of your own business you have a fiduciary duty to yourself as a shareholder to build a business that delivers maximum returns to you. To look at it any other way is letting emotions get ahead of business.

2. Making a difference

If every business could make an effort to be a force for good then a lot of the problems in the world could be solved” Richard Branson

A business that cares only about money is a business without a soul. Your business is also there to fulfil a purpose, to add value and make a difference to the lives it touches, whether those people are customers, employees or beneficiaries of the higher purpose your business serves. There is a new movement afoot, led to a degree by the champion of business idealism in action, Sir Richard Branson. In his book, ‘Screw business as usual’, Sir Richard encourages business owners to become a force for good. It is no longer OK to just be great at making money. You have to make a difference too. And there’s a fun irony to this concept if you can really grasp it. If your business is truly focused on making a real difference to as many people as possible, you will attract more people to you. The more people you attract, the more successful you become and the more people you make a difference to. It’s a wonderful win/win and something I ask readers continue to think about as you work your way through the ideas and exercises in my soon to be released book, The Liber8 Factor.

The Liber8 Factor shows you how to combine the concepts of making money and making a difference, so that you build a business that will not only make you rich, but make you feel like a million dollars too!
From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies.  Based in Wellington, New Zealand.

Business Mentor Tip #68 – Develop a freedom mindset

To build wealth and freedom from your business, you need a certain mindset.  You must have the willingness and ability to see yourself totally free from the need to work for a living.  And you have to believe that your business is your major wealth creation tool and your ticket to the life of your dreams.

I call this way of thinking “A Freedom Mindset”. From my interviews with many wealthy entrepreneurs I discovered ten traits they all had in common which create the foundation for the Freedom Mindset:

  1. Vision.  Successful business people have a really clear picture of their business when it’s ‘complete’, they can see where it is all heading.
  2. Belief. However big and daring their goal, they believe that they can do it.
  3. Passion.  Starting each day with a fire in your belly and feeling passionate about what you do is another factor that unites the business elite.
  4. Goals. Successful business people are goal setters.  They have the willingness to look out to the future, to see the vision and then set goals along the way to make sure they get there.
  5. Plan. But of course goals without a plan are just goals, so another trait that comes through when you talk to wealthy entrepreneurs that is that they had a plan for their business. They see the vision of ultimate success, they set some really clear goals and then they put a plan in place of how they will get there
  6. Action. A plan is just a plan until you put it into action.  The best plan in the world will not succeed unless someone implements it.  Another trait of really successful people is that they are action-orientated people. They are people who will actually follow through on the plan that they’ve created for themselves.
  7. Determination. Wealthy entrepreneurs don’t give up when the going gets tough. They keep going no matter what.
  8. Failure. Things will go wrong.  The ability to learn from the failure, to take the learning, pick yourself up and carry on – that is a key trait to being a successful business person.
  9. Wealth positive not money negative.  The business elite are not frightened to build a business that makes them phenomenally wealthy.
  10. Giving back.  To share and make a difference on the planet is what drives the difference between the average business owner-operator and those that go forward and create phenomenal wealth.

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies.  Based in Wellington, New Zealand.

Business Mentor Tip #65 – The high performance formula

This tip comes to you from Antonia Haythornthwaite of Blue Dot Human Resources

Once you’ve made the decision to employ people you need to ensure you can get the best possible performance out of them.  Antonia outlines four key elements that need to be in place

1. Skills, Knowledge and Talents. If you’ve followed the recruitment steps outlined previously you can be confident that your people have the technical ability to do their job and the knowledge and attributes to do the work that they’ve been employed to do

2. Direction. Now you need to make sure that they understand the big picture, they know what’s expected of them.  These things come from the direction that their manager or leader gives them.

3. Opportunity.  This is the time or resources that they have to be able to do their job – have you given them the opportunity to excel?

4. Motivation. And finally is the motivation factor which is about ensuring people feel their work is important, that it’s worthwhile and they are making progress towards their personal goals.

Blue Dot is a leading HR consultancy specialising in performance solutions for small businesses.  Check them out at

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness. Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies.  Based in Wellington, New Zealand.

If you don’t ask the answer is always no!

This was one of the slides at my talk to the Bubbles & Inspiration audience last night.  My point being that sometimes to get ahead in life you have to ask for things, even if it seems far too bold an ask.  My example was when I was a secretary in an advertising agency in London I asked the Managing Director if he would pay for me to go on a creative writing course.  It was a huge agency and he was a busy man.  I knew I had no chance of this happening. But I asked anyway.  And he said yes!  Who would have thought?  If I had not asked, I wonder where I would be today.  On a different path for sure.  So just ask.  The worse that could happen is someone will say no.

At the end of my talk a lovely lady came up to me and asked if she could do my twelve month programme and, because I offered a money back guarantee, could she pay at the end of the twelve months?  Of course I said no.  But I loved that she asked.  I knew that she’d been listening and there’s no harm in asking is there?

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness. Business mentors and experts in small business mentoring strategies. Based in Wellington, New Zealand.

Business Mentoring Tip #60 – “Move fast and break things”

Ok Ok I admit it… this is not my quote.  It’s a “Facebookism”.  When smooching around Google looking for inspirational business stories (as I do) I stumbled across this blog entitled “Sh*t Facebook employees say” by Josh Levin.

The blog outlines some things learned about Facebook from their recent IPO filing.  Along with all the accounting and legal information there were  5 “facebookisms”.  And they are BRILLLIANT!  Take note business owners, this is how you build a culture… (All excerpts below are taken from the S-1 filing).

Facebookism No. 1: “Done is better than perfect”

Hackers try to build the best services over the long term by quickly releasing and learning from smaller iterations rather than trying to get everything right all at once. To support this, we have built a testing framework that at any given time can try out thousands of versions of Facebook. We have the words “Done is better than perfect” painted on our walls to remind ourselves to always keep shipping.

Facebookism No. 2: “Code wins arguments”

Hacking is also an inherently hands-on and active discipline. Instead of debating for days whether a new idea is possible or what the best way to build something is, hackers would rather just prototype something and see what works. There’s a hacker mantra that you’ll hear a lot around Facebook offices: “Code wins arguments.”

Facebookism No. 3:Move fast and break things”

Moving fast enables us to build more things and learn faster. However, as most companies grow, they slow down too much because they’re more afraid of making mistakes than they are of losing opportunities by moving too slowly. We have a saying: “Move fast and break things.” The idea is that if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough.

Facebookism No. 4:The riskiest thing is to take no risks.”

Building great things means taking risks. This can be scary and prevents most companies from doing the bold things they should. However, in a world that’s changing so quickly, you’re guaranteed to fail if you don’t take any risks. We have another saying: “The riskiest thing is to take no risks.”

Facebookism No. 5:This journey is 1 percent finished.”

We encourage our employees to think boldly. We also have posted the phrase “this journey is 1% finished” across many of our office walls, to remind employees that we believe that we have only begun fulfilling our mission to make the world more open and connected.

Check out the Josh Levin’s blog here