If any year needed a review, it’s 2020…

Well, 2020 is turning out to be… kind of different.

I’m a big fan of reviewing your business when it feels right to you, but certainly as we stand in the middle of the year, it’s as good a time as any to take a step back, look at where you’ve been, where you are, and where you want to go.

Now, I work with a lot of small business owners, solopreneurs and female founders, and I know that “review your business” can sound intimidating, or that it has to look a certain way. So let’s just clear that up: this is an opportunity FOR YOU to reflect on how your business is working. And it can be an enjoyable, creative, encouraging experience!

You might need to look at some numbers. You might need to think about things that aren’t working so well, which can be uncomfortable. That’s okay and to be expected.

Here are some ideas for how to make your business review feel really good:

  • Carve out some time (I know you’re juggling the kids and the work and the home so time is scarce. You might need a couple of 30 minute sessions rather than an hour. Just book the time with yourself, ask for help with the other stuff, and enjoy it.)
  • Put some music on
  • Light a candle
  • Make a delicious beverage AND have a big glass of water
  • Go for a walk before you start (I find this helpful to shift my energy – 10 minutes is great)
  • Work with your preferences – if you like to hand-write, do that, or have documents open for your notes on your laptop
  • Make sure you’re really comfortable – good chair, warm/cool enough, steady writing surface
  • Turn off allllll the distractions!

You’re going to want to reflect on the different areas and aspects of your business:

  • Your offerings (products, services)
  • Your customers and their experience
  • Your systems and processes – and your team
  • Your marketing and branding
  • Your sales and finances

For each area, you’re going to want to look at numbers, maybe gather some data – give your head the information it needs. AND you’re going to want to consider how you feel about each area – what does your heart say? What’s your intuition telling you? This is where your creativity lies, so make sure you listen to it!

Check in with the stories you’re telling yourself. On one of my retreats, I had a client claim that “sales were shit” over the past year, and I pointed out that she’d said that a number of times, but I wondered if it were true. When she got home and looked at the figures, her sales were actually pretty similar to the year before. We can get really hooked into stories we tell ourselves, and noticing them can set us free to figure out what’s really going on.

Ready to reflect?

In addition to the ideas above, I’ve also put together a few questions for you to reflect on. These are the big, “coachy” questions I’d ask if we were sat together with mugs in hand, pondering the months ahead.​

There are a couple of versions, depending on your stage of business:​

​Feel free to take a photo of your space while you’re doing your review and tag me! Or hit reply and let me know what your review brought up.

I’m here to cheer you on.

Business as newsual: keeping your customers updated during COVID-19

Here we are at the end of June, a thousand miles from where we thought we’d be at the beginning of the year, not least due to COVID-19. Things are changing often, and as things start to re-open, we’re entering a grey area that can be tricky to navigate. We’re not in full lockdown, so things aren’t as clear as “Stay Home”, and yet we’re not “back to normal” either…

So let’s declare Business As Newsual, and give our customers something they’re really craving: clarity.

Now is a great time to update your customers via a newsletter, blog, or series of Instagram posts and stories (Facebook, too), so that they know exactly what YOU’RE offering, and what they can expect.

Whether you’re changing your offering, still running with some restrictions, or opening up fully, you can create a clear (and exciting) update via social media, email, or in your shop window.

Here’s what you can share, plus some handy resources:

What are you currently offering?

Things have changed a lot over the last few months, and some businesses have stopped selling, some have had a reduced range, and others have been cracking on with their usual stuff.

Clarity is everything, so let your customers know explicitly (and simply) what they can get from you right now, even if that’s “everything” and even if it’ll change later (more on that in a minute).

For example:

  • Our shop is still fully open, and we’re looking forward to adding some exciting new designs very soon!
  • You can buy print-at-home digital downloads, including my bestselling Yes We Can print, on my website right now, and I have a range of cards available on Thortful, who are brilliant at printing and sending directly to the recipient.
  • We’re still running a slightly reduced range of bestselling biscuits while we have a reduced staff. But that’s still over 16 different biscuit gift boxes to choose from, including the Birthday Box, the Anniversary Hamper, and the Family Friday Treat Collection!

Are you taking any special measures?

If you’re still socially distancing in the studio, or doing some extra cleaning, or using different packaging than usual, let your customers know.

While we’re reopening, it’s helpful to reassure customers that you’re taking care of them (and yourself / your staff). If things still look a little different than “normal”, let them know what to expect. Again, clarity is everything!

For example:

  • Our team is working hard to prepare your orders carefully, and we’ll still be running on a socially distanced timetable so there aren’t too many people in the studio at once. We love being all together, but right now, we want to keep everyone safe (and not make it socially awkward).
  • Because I’ve been shielding, I’m still only offering digital downloads to protect my own health. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be preparing my workspace and my product range so that I can get cracking with posting out orders again!
  • Our kitchen is always in tip-top shape, but we’ve added in some extra precautions, like face coverings and a different packing system so that your order is made and packed by one person from start to finish. You won’t notice anything different in the finished product, and we’re always committed to a nice clean kitchen.

How to order

I know, I know, it sounds obvious. And you’ve probably got a link in your profile to your website, maybe you’ve even got Instagram shopping set up.

EVEN SO let customers know how they can order, whether that’s through your website, through a marketplace, or sending you an email / message.

Anything you can do to make ordering easy and effective is so helpful! We’ve all got a lot on our minds, so make buying that gift / pick-me-up / essential treat really easy.

For example:

  • You can order via our website, on Notonthehighstreet, on Etsy, or even by emailing us on hello@reallycoolshop.com. Let’s get those gifts sorted (or those treats for yourself…)
  • Hop over to my site to get your instant digital downloads, plus instructions of how to print them at home. And of course you can go to my page on Thortful to order your next round of birthday cards!
  • Order beautifully baked biscuit gifts on our website, where you can choose from 16 collections.

What to expect

What are your current lead times? How are you sending out parcels? Will customers get email confirmations and updates?

Answering these questions adds a whole load of confidence when ordering from you. You don’t have to explain every step, just keep it simple and clear.

If there’s anything else customers need to know, or would find helpful, share that too!

For example:

  • We process all orders placed by 2pm on the same day. Our standard shipping to the UK is Royal Mail 2nd Class, which typically takes 3-7 days. You can upgrade to 1st Class Signed For if you’ve got something urgent. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about timing.
  • Once you’ve ordered your digital download, you’ll get an email with the files (including instructions). Don’t forget to check your spam folder! If you haven’t received an email within 24 hours, please email hello@brilliantdesigner.com.
  • We post out our biscuits three times a week. Order by midnight on Sunday for Monday dispatch (typically delivered on Tuesday or Wednesday), midnight on Tuesday for Wednesday dispatch (typically delivered on Thursday or Friday), and midnight on Thursday for Friday dispatch (typically delivered on Saturday or Monday). If you’d like to order ahead for a specific date, you can do this at checkout. We’ll keep you updated on your order the whole way through, and you can track your order, too.

Your next update

If things look like they’ll change again (for example, in July), let customers know.

Perhaps you’ll be opening up workshop bookings, or adding your whole range back to the shop. Give customers a date when you’ll next have an update so that they can check back or expect another email from you.

(And bonus points for creating a waiting list they can opt in to!)

For example:

  • Our new range is coming in July! New designs are in the workshop as we speak. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to know.
  • I’ll be opening up my online shop and Autumn workshops at the end of July, so keep your eyes peeled for more information! If you’d like to be the first to know, sign up here.
  • We’ll be reviewing our kitchen safety measures every month, and we hope to reintroduce some more biscuit collections (and some new things too!) by September. If you’d like to stay informed, please sign up to our newsletter.

How to share this information

If you have an active email list (i.e. you send emails semi-regularly), email your people! Use the structure and examples above as a starting point, and add your own flavour and details.

If you post on social media, share an update post (or a series of posts) in your Instagram feed or Stories, or on Facebook. I’ve created some templates to make this easier for you:

Use Canva’s free editing tools to make your own sharable stories!

Some things to remember

Keep it really simple! Clarity is key. Don’t overwhelm your customer, just give them what they need to know.

Anyone who has been waiting for an order, has pre-ordered, or placed a big order with you deserves a great big thank you! Write a note or an email – let them know how much it means to you.

If you do collect email addresses for those interested in future launches or news, don’t forget to email them. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just a quick “It’s ready!” is enough.

More resources

You might like my free COVID-19 workbook, or even my latest course, Create Your Mini Business Plan, available on its own or with a strategic coaching session.

The whole damn cake

A few years ago, I was in a relationship that – it turned out – didn’t really work for me. In many ways it was fun and exciting and adventurous, but something was amiss. The guy I was with was kind of aloof, and it felt like, no matter what I did, I didn’t get the love or time or affection I really wanted.

My coach at the time, Rachel Cole (whom I adore), is all about living a well-fed life, and she had the perfect food-based metaphor.

She said, “You feel like you’re gathering up the crumbs from under the table, when what you really want is the whole damn cake.”

Well. Rachel put words to something I had been feeling intensely, but hadn’t been able to articulate. I hadn’t even known I was allowed to want anything other than what I had. (This, for the record, is one of the moments that made me fall in love with coaching…)

In fact, it felt like I’d been wanting the whole damn cake my whole damn life: relationships, work, friendships, family, food – everything.

It wasn’t just this one relationship in which I was gathering the crumbs from someone else’s table. The metaphor applied to almost everything.

This was probably the moment I woke up from my frustration in my job, and started wanting to ask for the whole cake in my career (which brought me to starting my own business…).

I share this story because I’ve heard variations from my clients, too. They want the whole damn cake: the support they really need, the success they really deserve.

We can be guilty of making do with just the crumbs in our businesses as well as our love lives, thinking we don’t deserve even a slice.

Or maybe we kind of forget that there even IS a big old cake available, we’re so used to crumbs.

Like me in that relationship, we have to figure out how to ask for more. (And sometimes we have to go someplace else where they sell cakes, because it turns out that this place doesn’t have whole cakes available, or perhaps not the flavour that we really want…)

If you feel like you’ve been gathering crumbs, I invite you to grab a notebook or have a conversation with a friend, and perhaps consider the following questions and ideas, designed to help you ask for, discover, or even bake your own whole damn cake:

What does the cake you want right now look like? If you take the metaphor as far as you can, what do you want from the sponge, the icing, the decorations? What flavour is it? What ingredients does it use? What could these things mean to you?

When you see the cake, take the first bite, enjoy it over a few days – what does that feel like? What would be different if you went from gathering crumbs to having the whole damn cake?

How could you ask for the whole damn cake? Would it be asking for the help you really want, carving out the time to be creative, pricing your products appropriately? Or perhaps something else?

How could you learn to make your own cake? Maybe you’d learn about cultivating your audience and making your marketing really effective so that you get the results you want. Maybe you’d learn about scalable income or wholesaling your products. Maybe you’d learn about adding in strong foundations to your business so that it becomes really enjoyable and satisfying to run (aka eat!).

I share this story and these prompts because we all deserve to have the whole damn cake. We don’t need to scrabble around on the floor for crumbs, left over from someone else’s perfect cake.

My job is to take clients from feeling frustrated, feeling stuck, and feeling overwhelmed to feeling confident, clear, and courageous. Normally this requires heavy doses of defining success on your own terms – making up your OWN recipe, rather than following someone else’s. (You like the darker chocolate for the icing, right? Or the frosted rose petals? Or maybe a perfectly ripe, perfectly organic lemon drizzle…)

The cake, to me, symbolises more joy, more fulfilment, and having business and life in flow.

How about you?

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