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A free monthly newsletter about improving your
people, processes, sales and marketing, financial
performance…and other interesting reading

December 2013
As the year draws to a very quick close I just wanted to say a brief thank you to those of you who follow my work and contribute to my world in ways that you probably don't realise. For the feedback, working in partnership with you on your business and the ongoing connection...thank you!

I have enclosed one article in particular here that deals with the wearyness experienced by many at this time of year and also another that was the year in review (from my perspective) - what the successful businesses did well. 

Have a wonderful Christmas and a truly refreshing break and looking forward to journeying 2014 with you.


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Weary from the year that's been? Some practical advice heading into the New Year.

How many times have you been on a road trip with children and heard that constant question that gratingly gets on your nerves – “are we there yet?”. If you’re like me you want to answer with, “of course not or we’d be...there”  Kids, knowing the potential fun to be had at the destination get weary in the waiting, the journey itself. I think business owners are not to dissimilar. 

I have heard the question many times over the years - “We’ve tried various things to bring about changes in our business but nothing seems to change. We seemed destined to stay where we are rather than get to where we want to be - will we ever get there?” They’re tired, disheartened and often at breaking point – either from stress or from hope that has turned to disappointment.

If you are one of those who are travel worn, here a few things that might bring a fresh sense of hope for the coming year. It is a simple five stage process that I have seen work time and time again. Simple upon initial glance, often challenging in the follow through.

1.     Create, define or re-define  your ideal destination.
Take a pen and in one or two sentences write down where the ideal place is that you’d like to arrive.

2.     Current obstacles
Make a list of all the current obstacles that are blocking your progress. Examples might include:
  • The whole business is reliant on ‘me’
  • My staff don’t care or we are understaffed
  • Not enough money; poor cashflow
  • Enquiries for new jobs are low
3.     Key obstacle identification
Identify from the list, the one or two areas that have the potential to affect some of the others. In the list above, I would potentially focus on getting my staff on track (or off the track completely) ensuring I have people beside me who willingly shoulder responsibility thus taking the full reliance off myself. This in turn will free me to focus on driving more enquiries thus increasing the financial returns of the company.

4.     Implementation
If you don’t proceed with this step, all activity above is a waste of time. Schedule time whether daily or weekly to get to work on removing the obstacles, driving change through your business

5.     Accountability
Whether a peer, friend, your accountant , external consultant etc, establish a regular check in time with someone who will hold you accountable, both to what you said you would do and your weekly implementation activity.

Easy to say, harder to do – yes! However, I have seen over the years that those who follow this process, never taking their eye off the destination, and committing themselves to the process, not only enjoy the journey more but have a much higher chance of arriving  at the destination. It might not be the original planned end point but nevertheless, they say the journey in the mean time got a whole lot better.

Best of luck!

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Financial Performance

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Being involved in business improvement and consulting in various industries, from capital city retail stores through to trade services in mining country, has given me a good vantage point to observe what various businesses across different markets did and did not do well in 2013. This article looks at what the successful businesses did.

Investment in both time and money on the people front was a key trait of successful companies this year.  From recruitment through to training and managing their teams, the investment demonstrated significant returns. A few observations:
  • They spent significantly more time on the upfront recruitment process ensuring the new recruit not only had the technical abilities but demonstrated enthusiasm and cultural fit with the organisation
  • They would rather wait for the right person instead of just ‘plugging a hole’
  • Outbound recruitment was also noticeable in that they actively sought out potential candidates who would be a likely fit
  • The successful companies were more likely to eat together on a regular basis. The sense of ‘team’ reflected this
  • Managers and leaders weren’t afraid to keep their people accountable, demonstrating what I have termed ‘tough love leadership’. 
  • They recognised that there is no line between personal and business. Their people are ‘whole people’ and they are willing to work with them on all fronts to ensure peak performance
  • They were willing to let the wrong people off the bus
Financial and Key Data
As in every year the successful businesses placed a high emphasis on the collation, analysis and improvement initiatives that came from key data and reporting processes.  They have simple but very effective systems to both analyse and make changes in real time. These companies also had a good ability to focus on front end sales, cost control and the resulting profitability.  Whether it was financial information, job lead times, customer satisfaction levels etc, knowing what was happening along with constant improvements gave these companies an increased sense of control and progress.

With the dramatic increase of online research and decision making by consumers over the past few years, the successful companies are investing both time and money in their web and social media strategies. Statistics from the US, as quoted by Forbes, show that in 2005 only 8% of the population were using social media. In 2013, 72% are now utilising this stream of communication. Australia’s Telstra said that “compared to 2012, the proportion of online Australians who use social media has increased 3 per cent to 65 per cent.” The companies making significant inroads in their marketing are more likely to segment their market and then design the marketing strategy accordingly. I’ve noticed that many have established new websites or upgraded their existing ones and moved into the social media area (some with fear and trembling).  They might feel out of their depth but they are embracing change and willing to think more broadly than they have in the past employing though,  a sniper like focus on their key buyers.

Technology and Process Streamlining
The embracing of technology was noted in the more progressive companies this past year. Whether it was the integration of new technology and systems, or the tweaking of what was already in place, the successful companies invested in making things easier for both their customers and their companies internal processes. Coupled with this implementation and integration, they were more likely to review peoples roles within the organisation, allocating the appropriate tasks and responsibilities to match those technology process points. Utilising technology, the alignment of the right people to the various process points along with minimising waste in their administrative processes often came with significant shifts. One first-hand observation I had was a company reducing its quoting time by 50% and its ‘job complete to invoice sent’ time by 75%.

In my personal opinion, all the above observations and successes sit firmly on the shoulders of management.  Here are some points worth considering:

  • The successful business owners and managers are leaders not followers 
  • They have an abundance mentality when it comes to their staff. They won’t capitulate to the whims and dictates of employees. If staff don’t like it, they know there is someone else who will fill their shoes and they aren't afraid to communicate this
  • Their people know that the leader cares but that business comes first
  • They are not afraid to make tough decisions
  • They make their decisions quickly and not given to procrastination
  • They both think and act
  • Quality leaders are more likely to invest for the longer term even if it means a profitability downgrade in the shorter term
  • They are opportunistic with an infectious positivity and determination that pervades the organisation
I wish you every business success in 2014.

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New in 2014


New: IGNITION Coaching Program
Aside from the efficiency consulting work I do, I have decided to release a new coaching program in 2014 called IGNITION Coaching. It is a nine month program and details can be downloaded by clicking here

Updated: Trades, Mining and Industrial Mentoring Program
Details can be downloaded by clicking here.

"Ray has been an excellent guide and mentor over the past couple of years. His insights into certain aspects of our business have given us a clear direction and focus for the future." From Darren Hart (Accountant)

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The Cellar Notes

Apéritifs are generally served prior to the meal, said to stimulate the appetite. I find they are are also useful as a palate cleanser prior to eating. There are a number of different beverages used and tend to be on the drier side. One of the drinks I have used for this purpose since a trip through Italy a few years back is Campari. Served generally with soda water and lemon it is quite bitter but for those who enjoy the 'bitter side of life' can be a sweet thing. Aperol is another from the same family, a touch sweeter, less alcohol and served again with soda and orange peel among many other combinations. Great for this time of year and a colourful addition to the dining experience. 

(Graphic sourced from Wikipedia authored by BambooBeast)
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On The Lighter Side

The slide of the stocking...

On a recent trip back from LA, I was hitching up my full length compression stockings mid flight as I had lost the belt that holds them up. The hostess was talking to me at the bar while I was hitching them back into place, and told me I should get 'skins' like hers (which incidentally were pink.) First time in my life I have ever done stocking comparisons.

In This Issue:
Ray Hodge is the Director of Ignite Business Consulting. He speaks and consults to businesses & organisations, a notable event being the Department of the Australian Prime Minister and Cabinet.

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I have flown Virgin Australia frequently for a number of years and one thing that strikes me about the company is their incredible consistency in doing things well

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"Having worked with Ray on numerous simPRO customer sites he always seems to be able to find and drive the efficiency gains our customers are look for. 
He Identifies any bottlenecks in their processes and realigning their workflows with simPRO and the correct personnel within the organisation to carry out the tasks to create a very efficient end to end process." 

Stephen Bradshaw Director at simPRO Software


Where in the world is Ray?


Brisbane, Surat Basin, Bundaberg, Melbourne, Sydney, Cairns, Perth

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Copyright 2013 Ray Hodge. All rights reserved.


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