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Fundamentals of a Successful Business

Business Development Comments Off

What are the fundamental components of a successful small business? The following can assist you greatly in developing your basic list of success factors:

Work on your business not just in it. This involves your strategic skills. Planning and organising in such a way that your business does not become a burden that occupies your every waking second. This will involve putting in effective systems that will assist the operations of your business when you are not physically present.

Have a vision and goals – begin with the end in sight. Visions are extremely important. You must have this mental picture so that you can see where you are directing things.

Focus on the priorities. Everything in life is about balancing energy. Each morning you wake up and you will allocate an amount of energy for the day. You need to make sure you are channelling the right amount of energy into the right things.

This involves setting personal and professional goals and making sure your values are upheld in your business transactions. Stay focused, trust your vision and make that energy operate in the most effective manner.

Respond to your client. Every customer is vital and deserves to be treated as you would want to be treated. Every action you take in your business should be done with integrity and uphold your values.

Respect the client and listen to what he/she wants and respond accordingly and genuinely. That is what will get people coming back for more of what you do.

Be innovative/unique. Be vigilant in looking at what is going to make your counselling practice different and the business of choice for your targeted market(s). This will involve exploring who you are and marketing that uniqueness.

Build strong teams and lead by example. If you have staff, look after them. Hire good people whose values match yours. Realise that they are watching you for direction, so make sure you give it.

Plan. You are going to spend an enormous amount of time planning. Do not underestimate the value of the time you invest in planning for your business.

Be agile. One of the advantages of being a small business is your ability to be agile – move with the trends, make quick decisions, change. Remember to stay focused on the vision and to keep your values, but be open to change.

Review your paradigms. We can get stuck in a certain way of thinking so that sometimes the problem is the way we are viewing the problem. Try to develop the capacity to look at things from different points of view to allow you to not get stuck in a mindset that could prevent you from seeing opportunity or being agile.

Believe in the business – believe in you. Faith is a powerful tool. It is a mixture of blind commitment and visionary zeal. Don’t lose your faith in what you do or who you are.

Short Guide to Effectiveness, Part 3

Personal Development, Professional Development Comments Off

How can I maximise my effectiveness? That’s a common question – and with a plethora of possible answers.

There are several strategies that you can implement – immediately – in both your professional and personal life. These strategies can be used continually throughout your life. They are simple but powerful mechanisms that can unlock your potential and enhance your performance.

And such mechanisms are all about one dominant outcome: giving yourself the best opportunity to accomplish your goals and fulfil your ambition.

In this 3-part series, we’ll explore some areas where you can apply strategies to increase your personal and professional effectiveness.

In Part 3 we look the importance of establishing a sense of urgency, and how to unleash your energy.

Establish a Sense of Urgency

“You must take action now that will move you towards your goals. Develop a sense of urgency in your life.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Once you have established where you are going and what you want to achieve, it is crucial to set the wheels of action in motion. To literally set wheels in motion takes a force powerful enough to shift the wheels out of a state of inertia. Once wheels are no longer stationary, they can develop momentum and pick up speed as they go.

This too can be true of you and your progression toward your goals. Generally speaking, the faster you move the more energised you become. If you develop a sense of urgency around every action you take, you begin to start tasks immediately and procrastination becomes a thing of the past.

To get started, repeat the following sentence:


Unleash Your Energy

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” Zig Ziglar

Your personal energy level dictates how much you can do within a day. Maximise your energy and you can maximise your effectiveness.

Energy rarely maintains a consistent level throughout the day. Energy levels rise and fall as a function of our changing physiology. Most of us know what time during the day we usually hit our energy peak. For many it’s early morning, for others late afternoon.

Tip: Know when you are most energetic and use that time to your advantage.

When we think about our energy levels we usually refer to a combination of mental, physical and emotional energies. All of these have an impact on our overall sense of vitality and motivation

Mental, physical and emotional energies do not function independently. They interact and overlap considerably.

Have you ever noticed, for example how you can be so mentally energised by a new project, that you become more physically alert and emotionally excited? Similarly, you may notice how feeling emotionally deflated, leads to negative thinking and physical sluggishness.

If our aim therefore is maximise our energy, then it is essential that we analyse each of these energies individually
Mental Energy

“Your mind is extraordinarily powerful. Your thoughts control and determine almost everything that happens to you. They can raise or lower your heart rate, improve or interfere with digestion, change the chemical composition of your blood, and help you sleep or keep you awake at night.

Your thoughts can make you happy or sad, sometimes in an instant. They can make you alert and aware, or distracted or depressed. They can make you popular or unpopular, confident or insecure, positive or negative. Your thoughts can make you feel powerful or powerless, a victim or a victor, a hero or a coward.” (Tracy, 2004)

To heighten your mental energy, it may be helpful to consider the following key points:

Studies continually show that optimism is one of most important qualities you can develop to enhance your professional and personal success. Optimists tend to:

  • find at least one positive in every situation; 
  • learn lessons from their mistakes and setbacks; 
  • look for solutions rather than look to allocate blame.

Continually visualising the achievement of your goals reinforces your desired results and encourages forward, positive thinking.

Your thoughts can trigger images and the emotional responses that go with them. If you imagine yourself in a situation of achievement you will feel more confident and consequently behave that way. Alternatively, if you imagine mistakes and failure you may become disheartened, lose confidence and the energy required to perform at your peak.

Emotional Energy

Emotional energy can sometimes seem unpredictable, variable and consequently difficult to manage. Yet our emotional energy can be shifted by a single thought or action. By simply seeing things from a different perspective or finding a solution to a pressing dilemma, we can shift from feeling dispirited to brimming with enthusiasm.

Heighten your emotional energy by remembering these keys:

  • Ensure that your goals and commitments align with your dreams, not other people’s expectations or social pressure;
  • Set your own standards and refuse to compare yourself;
  • Create an emotionally rewarding environment. Set up your work area so that it is comfortable and conducive to work;
  • Remember to care for yourself. Find what revitalises you and write in on your Weekly ‘to do’ list and DO IT!

Physical Energy

When it comes to caring for our health, most of us are aware of what we should be doing in regard to healthy eating and exercise. We know that we should be eating more fruits and vegetables; exercising at least three times a week and getting a good night’s sleep. We acknowledge that this will have a positive impact on our health.  Yet for many this is one change that is continually put further and further down the ‘to do’ list.

However, committing to optimising your physical health, not only increases your physical energy but can also:

  • Heighten your ability to cope with stress and tension;
  • Increase your productivity;
  • Enhance feelings of self-confidence and esteem and 
  • Encourage positive thinking.

With these factors in mind, it is clear that engaging in a healthy lifestyle can create a ripple effect that positively influences many other aspects of your life.

When considering your energy levels it is important to reflect on all three energies; mental, emotional and physical. 

Stress and You

Stress can manifest in many forms. The list below outlines some ways in which stress may present as symptoms in your life. Whilst you read through this list, consider which symptoms crop up for you when you are feeling stressed.

Physical Symptoms 

  • Poor eating 
  • Poor digestion
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness 
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Broken sleep
  • Racing heart
  • Headaches

Emotional Symptoms

  • Undue anxiety 
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings
  • Sudden anger
  • Feeling alone
  • Feeling guilty
  • Wanting to hide
  • Easily upset

Mental Symptoms

  • Poor decisions
  • Poor attention
  • Slowed thinking
  • Reduced scrutiny
  • Forgetfulness

Culturally, we have come to associate stress with negatives such as anxiety, high blood pressure, headaches and irritability. Yet, without some form of stress in our lives we would likely suffer from profound boredom and overwhelming apathy.

A lack of stress can lead to boredom, decreased motivation as well as a lack of interest and enthusiasm for life. These symptoms can ultimately lead to ongoing apathy, inactivity and flat moods.

On the other hand, an overload of stress can result in insomnia, irritability, increased errors and indecisiveness. Stress overload can ultimately lead to elevated blood pressure, anxiety and mood swings.

The optimal stress level will be different for all people. It is important, however to recognise when you are moving beyond your optimal level to either stress overload or stress underload.

By ensuring your mental, physical and emotional ‘tanks’ are well fuelled, you can increase the likelihood of maintaining your stress levels at ‘optimal’; thus maximising your motivation, energy and performance.

Tips for Managing Stress


  • Cultivate and appreciate simplicity in your life.
  • Focus on the positive and pleasant aspects of situations; be an optimist.
  • Find ways to keep in touch with friends and family, even when you are busy with school.
  • Find time several times a week to exercise.
  • Consider keeping a journal as a way to express yourself and get perspective on your problems.
  • Get enough sleep and eat a balanced diet
  • Keep a list of priorities.
  • Respond actively to challenges and find a solution instead of giving up.
  • Take time each day to savour a small ritual.
  • Learn to say “no” to demands on your time if you are already booked up.
  • Learn to recognize situations you can’t change.
  • Find a stress management technique you can practice regularly.


  • Procrastinate.
  • Rely on alcohol or drugs to relieve stress.
  • Drink too many caffeinated beverages, which can cause irritability and fatigue.
  • Get into the habit of rushing.
  • Ignore signs of stress overload such as chronic fatigue, headaches, etc.

Donatelle, R., Snow, C. & Wilcox, A. (1999). Wellness: Choices for health and fitness (2nd edition).


Short Guide to Effectiveness, Part 2

Business Development, Personal Development, Professional Development Comments Off

How can I maximise my effectiveness? That’s a common question – and with a plethora of possible answers.

There are several strategies that you can implement – immediately – in both your professional and personal life. These strategies can be used continually throughout your life. They are simple but powerful mechanisms that can unlock your potential and enhance your performance.

And such mechanisms are all about one dominant outcome: giving yourself the best opportunity to accomplish your goals and fulfil your ambition.

In this 3-part series, we’ll explore some areas where you can apply strategies to increase your personal and professional effectiveness.

Click here to access Part 1

In Part 2 we look at the value of doing the toughest things first, and identifying obstacles and key result areas.

Do the Toughest Thing First

“Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” Napoleon Hill

The most crucial decision you make everyday is what you choose to do right now versus what you will do later. One of the most vital, yet most challenging self-management strategies is the ability to do the hardest or most difficult task first. If you can resist the temptation to start each day with the easiest task you are well on your way to a more productive self.

Apply the 80/20 rule: The 80/20 rule is also known as the Pareto Principle – named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who applied mathematics to economics and determined that 80% of a nation’s wealth is typically controlled by 20% of its population.

The 80/20 rule has proved valid across a number of areas, including business and time-management strategies:

  • 20% of meeting time is spent making 80% of the decisions
  • 20% of staff initiate 80% of problems
  • 20% of your advertising will contribute to 80% of the campaign’s results
  • 20% of your activities account for 80% of your results

This means that on a to-do list of 10 items, two items will be considerably more important than the other eight. If you can discipline yourself to start your day with the most important item on your to-do list you can be sure that you will accomplish vastly more than the average person.

Tip: Focus on the items that will account for the major share of your results and do them first. These are often the items that are most complicated and time-consuming. Avoid procrastinating and accomplish them at the start of the day.

Identify Obstacles

“The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong” Thomas Carlyle

What factors are holding you back, slowing you down or preventing you from achieving your goals? Almost all progress toward a goal or series of goals comes up against a limiting factor of some kind.

It is crucial to identify these limits or obstacles in order to eliminate them.  Progress at the pace you’d like and in the direction of your goals requires the systematic removal of obstacles that undermine advancement.

Identifying the true obstacle to progress takes honest reflection and analysis. Obstacles may be entrenched within organisational structures or culture. Conversely, obstacles may be embedded in our own mind, in the beliefs that you hold and the behaviours that you routinely perform.

By reflecting honestly on the obstacles within your own mind, you become better equipped to focus your energies on removing or eliminating the most appropriate obstacle. This of course is preferable to spending valuable time removing external obstacles that are inconsequential to your progress. 

Personal Obstacles - Personal obstacles consist of any belief, thought or action that may sabotage your progression towards your goals.

They may include:

The attitudes you hold about change and progress: Do you think change is a process that is controlled by you or controlled by something external, such as luck or destiny? This is the concept of locus of control.

Locus of control refers to the extent to which a person believes they are in control of their destiny. An individual with an external locus of control attributes change largely to forces outside of themselves such as fate, good fortune or bad luck. Conversely, those individuals with an internal locus of control are more likely to see change as a function of their own doing.

Individuals with an internal locus of control tend to be more comfortable with change and consequently make smoother, more efficient progress.

Self-limiting thoughts: Self-limiting thoughts are ingrained processes of thought that impact on the way in which we appraise, interpret or analyse a given situation or event. Self-limiting thoughts can take many forms, such as:

  1. Black and white thinking – The tendency to interpret events in extremes (no shades of grey). This means that anything less than perfect is interpreted negatively and limits our ability to see the positives.
  2. Unrealistic expectations – The tendency to pre-empt an event with unrealistic ideas of what should occur. This is a clear sign of setting yourself up for failure.
  3. Selective thinking – This is the tendency to hone in on the negative aspects of a situation and ignore any of the positives, leading to an unbalanced perspective.
  4. Catastrophising – Imagining the worst possible outcome. This can discourage action and stall change.

Lack of assertiveness: Assertiveness is the ability to communicate self-assurance to those around you. It involves being direct and clear about what you want without aggression or hostility. An individual lacking assertiveness may miss opportunities and may be taken advantage of by others.

A lack of assertiveness can interfere with the achievement of your goals. If you suspect a lack of assertiveness may be an obstacle to you, it may be useful to focus on assertiveness training and communication techniques to assist you in eliminating this obstacle.

Vague time management: Vague or unfocused time management can impact greatly on the achievement of tasks and can ultimately impact on the quality of your performance. If you find that time slips away from you and meeting deadlines is difficult, you may benefit from focusing on your time-management skills.

It is possible, however to have well-developed time-management skills, but find difficulty prioritising tasks. Sometimes guilt and expectations can distract us from concentrating on our self-focused goals. If this rings true for you, it may be helpful to review the section on self-limiting beliefs (above).

Identify Your Key Results Area

“Do what works.” Bill O’Hanlon

What is the most valuable use of your time right now?

By continually asking yourself this question you can maximise the time that you have and accomplish more of what’s important everyday. In order to identify what the most valuable use of your time may be in any given moment, it is vital that you recognise what your key result areas are.

Your key result areas are those aspects of your job or performance that matter the most. They are the bottom line. They are why you are on the payroll. Most jobs can be broken down into five to seven key result areas.


Short Guide to Effectiveness, Part 1

Personal Development, Professional Development Comments Off

“How can I maximise my effectiveness?” That’s a common question – and with a plethora of possible answers.

There are several strategies that you can implement – immediately – in both your professional and personal life. These strategies can be used continually throughout your life. They are simple but powerful mechanisms that can unlock your potential and enhance your performance.

And such mechanisms are all about one dominant outcome: giving yourself the best opportunity to accomplish your goals and fulfil your ambition.

In this 3-part series, we’ll explore some areas where you can apply strategies to increase your personal and professional effectiveness. In this edition we look at communications skills and strategic (goal setting and planning) skills.

Communication Skills

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”  Robert McCloskey

“Seek first to understand and then be understood” is an instruction first delivered by Stephen Covey in his acclaimed book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Covey’s message is a simple but powerful one: too often we enter into communications with others with pre-conceived assumptions or notions about what the other person’s expectations, ideas or judgements will be.

Rarely are communications entered into without a predetermined idea of the response we are seeking or expecting. This does little but make communication more complex and susceptible to misunderstanding.

Studies into interpersonal communication have continually discovered that three core qualities foster effective communication. These qualities are defined as:

  • Genuineness;
  • Respect; and
  • Empathy.

By incorporating these qualities into your everyday interactions with others, you can ensure that your relationships and communications become increasingly authentic, valid and meaningful.

Genuineness: To be genuine in communication is to be open, honest and self-expressive. The degree to which you behave in this way is the degree to which you’ll be able to significantly relate to another.

A conversation devoid of genuineness sees people conceal their thoughts, values or motives. Concealment can lead to defensive responses and ultimately minimal connection between people.

Of course, it is neither advisable nor appropriate to be completely self-expressive in all situations. Genuine communication means engaging in sincere, honest and responsible conversations. It means accepting yourself and expressing who that is.

Take a moment to reflect on the relationships in your life, both professional and personal.

  • In which relationships do you feel the most genuine?
  • In which relationships do you feel the least genuine?
  • What is it about your most genuine relationships that encourage you to express more of who you are?

Respect: Respectful communication is communication that values the other person. When you engage in respectful conversation you appreciate the other person’s separateness and self-identity. To facilitate respectful communication:

  1. Show consideration for personal boundaries. Avoid asking questions that are overly personal or intrusive. We often show this respect to colleagues and acquaintances but can fail to do so with our children or other family members.
  2. Don’t impose your personal values onto others. Appreciate differences in other’s values and beliefs.
  3. Avoid making assumptions. Don’t assume someone is thinking or feeling a particular way simply because that would be your natural response or reaction. Always check with them.

Empathy: Empathy exists on a continuum between apathy and sympathy. Effective communication means showing genuine care and concern for somebody. It does not mean identifying so strongly with another’s situation that it becomes debilitating or difficult for you to manage.

Empathy means viewing the world through another’s person’s eyes. It requires abandoning self-focused communication for authentic connection and understanding.

The more you develop your communication skills the greater the possibility for genuine conversations based on honesty and respect. It is these conversations that have the power to influence your life.

Interactions based on genuine connection and consideration lead to improved understanding. This, in turn maximises the likelihood of successful communication that is not only authentic but leads to results.

Increase your professional effectiveness by using your communication skills to identify the expectations of others and express your needs clearly and succinctly.

Strategic Skills – Goal Setting and Planning

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” Zig Ziglar

Clear goals contain the power to motivate and energise us into action. Yet so often we start out on the quest for self-improvement, either personally or professionally with no real concept of where we want to be or exactly what it is we want.

We may have some vague concept in mind, such as increasing income or productivity but this is rarely translated into specific goals. Without a clear goal in mind, it becomes increasingly likely that we may unwittingly focus our well-intended energy in the wrong direction.

When we are unsure of where we are heading it becomes very easy to work hard yet accomplish little. With a clear goal in sight, we can ensure that our actions continually contribute to its achievement.

Without goals you are drifting and when you drift you are not in control.  If you are not in control, then someone else is.  Then you have relinquished the basic right to be master of your own destiny.  In doing this you also surrender your freedom of action which restricts your choices and can lead to frustration, anxiety, fear and stress.

The benefits of goal setting are numerous.  Individuals who set effective goals:

  • suffer less stress and anxiety;
  • have better concentration;
  • show increased self confidence;
  • perform better;
  • are happier with their performance.

Goal setting also:

  • keeps you focussed;
  • provides clarity and direction;
  • increases determination, patience and persistence;
  • builds self-esteem when goals are met;
  • ensures you remain proactive in your life, rather than reactive.

The seeds of achievement are found in the process of goal setting.  If your goals are incorrectly set, then the probability of a successful outcome is severely diminished.

When setting your goals ensure you subject each goal to the SMART but PURE test.

Goals must be SMART:

Specific - Is your goal well-defined?  Your goal must be clear and concise.  Avoid setting unclear or vague objectives.

Measurable - Be clear how you will recognise when you have achieved your goal.  A hint is to use numbers and dates where possible.

Attainable - Don’t set yourself up for failure. Setting yourself goals that you cannot possibly achieve will only end in disappointment.  Make your goals challenging, but realistic.

Relevant - Try and step back and get an overview of all different areas of your life.  Consider how relevant your goals are to the overall picture.

Time-framed - Set a time frame for the completion of each goal.  Even if you have to review your time frame as you progress, it will assist you to stay motivated.


  • Positively stated
  • Understood
  • Realistic
  • Ethical

Most of these are self-evident and require no further elaboration; however a couple of observations must be made.

If a goal is not realistic, there is no hope, but if it is not challenging, there is no motivation.  It is very important to state goals in the positive.  If I say to you ‘Don’t think of a blue balloon’ – what do you think about – a blue balloon.  If goals are stated in the negative – you will focus on the negative.

One of the most powerful tools for overcoming procrastination and increasing productivity is PLANNING. Every minute spent on planning can save up to 10 minutes in execution. Planning needn’t be time consuming or complicated. It does however need to be regular. Plan everyday in advance and watch your productivity and performance soar.

Planning begins by creating lists. With all of the technology available today (such as palm pilots or electronic organisers) it can be easy to forget that a simple list can be a vital planning tool. It is important to always work from a list. When something comes up, add it to the list before doing it. You can increase your productivity by 25% from the first day you begin working consistently from a list.

Many people find it helpful to create a variety of lists from which they plan. A popular and well regarded planning system involves the use of four key lists:  Master list; Monthly list; Weekly list and Daily list.

Your Master list contains everything you wish to accomplish sometime in the future. This is the brainstorm list where you can capture all of your thoughts and ideas. Anything at all that you would like to do should be included on this list.

Your Monthly list is made up of all of those things that you would like to achieve within the month. Some of these items may have been transferred from your Master list.

Your Weekly list is a record of all those tasks that you will accomplish within the week. This list may, of course contain items that have been transferred from your Monthly list.

Similarly, your Daily list includes all those items and activities that you are going to achieve within the day. As you progress through the items on your list, your sense of progress and accomplishment will become almost tangible, creating a sense of momentum and dramatically increasing your effectiveness.

Lists should be continually evolving and changing. It may be helpful to create a routine around list creation. Set aside some time every evening to clearly plan your next day. When you plan each day in advance you will find it much easier to get going and keep going. You may be amazed at the results.