About Avril

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Mentoring Project - Session 2 'How?'

Based on the questions that I had put to the group last session to work on, I used the second session to dig deeper into each person’s offering by focusing on:

  • How does the offering look?
  • How is it authentic or competitive or different?
  • How is it going to be marketed?
  • How is it going to be marketed?

These questions and the second session were designed to prepare everyone for the next theme titled ‘What’ which may be a little raw and uncomfortable because it will be about:
  • Getting real on the numbers
  • Committing to milestones, timelines
  • Proving that the concept works... (ouch!)

I just don’t want to fall into the trap of spending the next three mentoring sessions on ideas and strategies when it’s most important to get real and practical on the numbers and effort required to make our ideas fly and most importantly, to prove our concept in the most cost and time efficient ways. 

In working on the ‘How’ questions above, it forced each mentee to start carving out their business ideas and we saw a huge amount of progress from session one to session two in this area. 

Although each mentee is at a different stage, I think that it’s important just to ‘start’ the business processes that we will progress to at each session because in starting and doing, you learn as you go and get great momentum.  You also learn to be agile and flexible as you go so that you can pivot your products and services to suit your market.

Mentee Focus for Session 2

The mentee I chose to focus on has been thinking about her business idea for four years and wanted to just start to make it happen now.  She said that she noticed that when you are the mentee of focus for the session, it’s surprising how much you feel you don’t know about your idea (which is also what the first session’s mentee found). 

Obviously the purpose of the focused 1-2-1  is certainly not to make people feel intimated but it’s a good exercise to try and apply a little bit of pressure to help you articulate your business offering and helps you to identify where your gaps are either in knowledge or training.   Other ways to do this are to talk about your business idea to as many people as you can and ask them to tell you why they think it won’t work.

In working out what your offering is and how it can do something more or different to your current competitors, I recommended a great and extremely relevant book by Daniel H Pink called ‘A Whole New Mind’.   

In his book, Pink offers a fresh look at what it takes to excel in today’s world which he describes as ‘The Conceptual Age’ and he reveals the six essential aptitudes on which professional success and personal fulfilment now depend:

1.       Design – Making something beautiful and emotionally engaging
2.       Story – Fashioning a compelling narrative
3.       Symphony – Seeing the big picture, combining disparate pieces into a new whole
4.       Empathy –Forging relationships and caring for others
5.       Play - PLAYING!
6.       Meaning – Finding and giving meaning

So now that the group have worked on crystallising their offering, it’s time to start getting real and here are some ideas I suggested to help with that:

1. Calculate a High level business model

I would suggest a month by month plan (see attached example format)

Revenues – Work out your high level monthly revenue estimates:
  • Work out what you will charge for your products and/or services
  • Work out how much you will need to sell to make enough profit to be sustainable or to reach the level you require e.g:
    • Aiming for turnover of £80,000 in year one.
    • Day rate: £700 - £1500 + VAT
In order to reach target from solely consultancy services will need to do:
  • 54 days at highest rate (£1500) - average of 1 day a week
  • 80 days at mid rate (£1000) - average of 1.5 days a week
  • 115 days at lowest rate (£700)- average of just over three days a week
Costs - Work out your high level business costs:
  • Roughly calculate your predicted monthly business running costs e.g. for:Equipment, marketing, any training you require, any help you require from Accountants e.t.c.(see attached example to give you some ideas
  • Try and calculate three basic scenarios; a best case, good case and worst case scenario (this will help you track your progress as  you go). 
  • Once you have your projected revenues and costs, then you can start to see your net profit by taking all of your costs and expenses away from your revenues.  Doing this will give you a good view on what month you will break even and start making money and what it will take to get there.  Some businesses can take 3 to 5 years to do this. 
Spend time on the things you are good at and get help for things you are not e.g:  Accountants, Tax experts, lawyers… Recommendations from friends are always a great way to find people or you can find help across all business areas at sites like::  www.elance.com

Also – you can claim tax back on any expenses you incur as part of setting up your own business.  You can register as a ‘Sole Trader’ for this gestation period and claim back for a number of years – it’s a good idea to hire a Tax Accountant to help you do this. 

2. Understand the efforts required for marketing your products and/or services:

You can make and/or provide the best products and services in the world but if you don’t have traffic or customers passing by your door, you won’t be selling them!  These days with so many websites and ‘noise’, if you build it, it doesn’t mean that ‘they will come’. 

Marketing is the key to getting the traffic you need to convert sales.  Below is a basic example calculation and assumption for you to be able to start to understand how direct marketing campaigns can work and what they might bring you. 

Now there are obviously exceptions to these rules but from my experience, these are good numbers to ‘get real’ on the realities of what effort you may need to exert in marketing to convert into sales. 

Once you understand these numbers, it will help you start to shape how you see your business being marketed and/or partners that might be necessary to collaborate with in order to make your business (e.g. a partner such as www.notonthehighstreet.com who has 5 million visitors a month if you are wanting to sell products v’s the amount of traffic you might get to your own ecommerce site)

If you want to set up a consultancy business in a very specific area, then you may already have a very targeted list of potential customers to market to and your conversion rate may therefore be very high.  Every business is different however it’s good to understand some high level numbers and what that might mean for you and your business.  

I trust that this has given you some ideas on how to get real and understand what you need to do in order to get real about your business and take the next steps to make it all a reality.  Remember the 3 great points from Miisa Mink who I had a little skype interview with this week:
  1. Take steps even if they are in the wrong direction (just start because you learn through doing)
  2. Knowledge is not the problem – the problem in attitude and commitment
  3. Have Patience!
You can watch the interview here:

All information, articles and videos can be found at www.businessofbrave.com
See you next session!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

How to break the spell of nightmares and scary things - As published in 'Little Treasures' Magazines April/May Issue

Here is an article I wrote for NZ's Mother and Baby Magazine 'Little Treasures' for their April/May issue.

It’s a bit of a harsh reality when you bring home your bundle of joy from the hospital only to discover that instructions were not included.  You can read books, ask ‘Dr Google’ (with caution) or go to your trusty Emergency Department to help you navigate your way around managing their ‘physical bodies’,  but it’s not so cut and dried when they start speaking and you realise that there is also this whole ‘emotional body’ that no one ever briefed you on the management of!

Where do you find solutions to such things as recurring nightmares (that put an end to your long awaited undisturbed sleep) or separation anxiety?  There is more information out there now than ever before, but it’s hard to sift through and find simple strategies that will work for that little person whose anxiety on any level has the ability to rip your heart open. 

I experienced my first severe panic attack as a small child, and whilst my mother used her natural instinct to make sure I was physically OK, she knew nothing about (what we later learnt was) ‘Agoraphobia’ and how to live with it.   My subsequent panic attacks made me insatiably curious about the mind/body connection and the effect that emotions can physically have on us. 

Original Illustration by Olga Minima (10 Years old ONLY!)
When I was woken by the screams of my daughter from her first recurring nightmare, managing that situation then actually came very naturally to me from my own experience and learnings.  I am certainly no expert but knew what had worked for me so I used similar techniques on her.  I listened to and acknowledged the details of her nightmare (because it is very real to them), and then I started retelling her nightmare back to her but with some key changes to the original story…

She dreamt that she was walking through a forest and a monkey jumped on her back.  The monkey was big and terrifying to her.  In my new story, she was walking through the forest and still felt the impact on her back of something that seemed scary but she easily managed to brush it off.  When she turned to look at it on the ground, she was amazed to discover a teeny weeny cute monkey with big wide frightened eyes looking back up at her.  The monkey told her that it was just lonely and wanted a friend to play with.  She picked it up and put it in her pocket so that it would never feel lonely again. 

Not only did this story work in settling her back to sleep, she liked it so much that she wanted me to tell it to her every night before bed.  That nightmare never occurred again and was the catalyst for me creating www.feelbrave.com  (Characters and Stories to help kids manage tough emotions and Feel Brave!)

What I had used was a simple Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) technique called ‘Reframing’.   CBT is a form of talking therapy that focuses on how you think about the things going on in your life – your thoughts, images, beliefs and attitudes (your cognitive processes) and how this impacts on the way you behave and deal with emotional problems. It then looks at how you can change any negative patterns of thinking or behavior that may be causing you difficulties. In turn, this can change the way you feel.  Reframing simply involves seeing things from a different perspective.  Much like the way we change our response to a work of art by placing it in a frame, we can change our response to emotions by putting them in a different frame. 

Humour is a great natural way of reframing a situation like most jokes which involve an unexpected twist of perspective (a ‘reframe’).  Children love nothing more than a funny story (especially if they feature in it), or a story about when you were a child.  If you can change their scary story into something that involves any of these elements, it becomes relevant to them and can break the spell of a nightmare or things that scare them.       

Another great example I have seen work was with a child who was getting increasingly anxious about her father being away from home a lot due to his work.  She was told a story about a great chief of a village.  This chief had a big responsibility to make sure everyone had food in their tummies so he would go off on wonderful adventures to gather the food and was a much loved and respected hero.  This warming story was relevant to her own situation and helped her create parallels with her anxiety by reframing the feelings that she originally had. 

Something else that children find curiously delightful is when you role play and act out a scenario that scares them but you play the part of your child and they play the part of another person (e.g. they play mummy leaving them at Kindergarten or a person that is not being very nice to them).  This gives them a safe and enjoyable way to try out various scenarios and choose one that feels right for them to use in the future.        

Storytelling and role play doesn’t always come easily or obviously to us but with just a little prior planning and practice, you can conjure up some delightful enchanting tales and magically break some nasty spells in the process. 



Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Mentoring Project - Helping 6 women transform their business ideas into reality!

The mentoring journey has officially begun at www.businessofbrave.com   

I have never done this type of thing before so it’s a bit of a social experiment to see if we can share a simple mentoring programme to encourage more people to do it because mentors are so helpful and (I believe) critical when you are bravely trying to start your own business. 

I was a little nervous before the first meeting because it’s all new to me too but I was excited about being a part of 6 women’s journeys.  I might not have all of the answers for them, but I certainly know how to help them identify what they need to ‘go find out’ and to help them structure a sales and marketing plan and/or create an online business.

The Format:
  • We have invited 6 women who want to transform their business idea into a reality to join us for 6 sessions.
  • Each session is an hour and a half in duration and deals with a specific relevant ‘theme’.
  • Each session has a mentee chosen in advance to be the focus during the session.
  • We spend the first 30 mins going around each person with an update on what they have achieved since last time against their objectives and/or any challenges/progress.
  • We then have an open 1-2-1 session between of the mentees and myself for 30 mins which focuses on their specific journey and highlights the sessions ‘theme’.The idea is that through the 1-2-1 session, the others draw parallels with their own journey and get value out of it.
  • The floor is then opened up for the other 5 women to question, suggest or challenge the chosen mentee (15 mins).This gives each mentee the chance for the whole group to drill into their business and help them by questioning and challenging or sharing valuable input and ideas.
  • We close the session off with another round of what each person got out of the session and clarify their objectives for the next meeting (15 mins).
  • The 6 sessions are designed to be an ‘injection’ to get the mentees on their way.Then we will set up a longer term solution to keep them motivated, on track and supported on their journeys.
I didn’t know if this format would work but after the first session, feedback proved that it did and as a mentor, I thought it was effective. You can find and download all of the planning documents that I used to set up the session here
The first session is difficult to fully prepare for as a mentor because you don’t have a deep understanding of the business each mentee is trying to set up and/or their current challenges and situations.  I did ask for their progress trackers (download here) in advance to see what their short and long term goals were, but I needed to hear their stories to fully understand and connect with them.  
For the first session’s open 1-2-1, I chose a mentee who had a really clear idea for her business and seemed to need to launch straight into the structure of building her high level business plan and offering. 
Session 1:  Why?

You can watch the video summary (below) and/or read the article and get the relevant links:

The theme that I chose for the first session was  ‘Why?’  Understanding ‘why’ you are wanting to set up your own business helps to  ensure that it is authentic to your true self and helps you carve out the emotional ‘story’ behind it.   It is also important to ensure that what you want to do is aligned with your core values because if you are not living your values through your work, you will feel compromised and you’ll be missing out on deep connectivity and purpose with what you are spending your time on (which I believe is key to success).    
I wanted to use the ‘why’ theme to also try and get the mentees to get clear on whether they have actually made the decision to go ahead with this business idea right now.  It’s one thing to want to start your own business, but like everything you want to change or make happen in your life, you need to actually ‘decide’ because it’s only then that you will commit to taking the right action to get the results.
I thought that it would be a good idea to get the mentees to work out what their core values are before we met for the first time.  I used a process from a book by one of my favourite business Authors (and really helpful and open guy) ‘Stan Slap’   The book is called ‘Bury my heart at conference room B’  (The unbeatable impact of truly committed managers)   You can use Stan Slaps process to work out your own values here and I highly recommend his books!
Going through this process seemed to highlight how much some mentees were unable to live their values at their current workplace which has been a major drive for them to want to set up their own business.   With some mentees it even highlighted to them how some of their current work environments don’t even live their own Corporate Values.  Another great reason to look at Stan Slaps books (if you are in that current environment and want to change it) including his latest book just out now  ‘Under the hood’ (Fire up and fine tune your corporate culture). 
After going through everyone’s values, the business they want to set up and ‘why’ they are wanting to do what they are doing, we started the open 1-2-1 session.  The chosen mentee wants to start her own consulting company which deals with not only the business side of her industry but also the holistic health within her industry which is so current right now with what seems to be an exciting ‘global wellness movement’ taking place all around us.   
We identified that she was at the point of needing to really get clear on what her offer or ‘business proposal’ is.  We set the objective for her to make a draft business proposal by the next session and try to articulate her offering.  This 1-2-1  naturally led us into the importance of articulating what our business would ‘offer’ and I invited all mentees to make a start on creating or carving out their own ‘offering’ which in turn will help them make a start on their high level business plans and identify next actions. 
Starting with ‘What is my offering’ here are some questions to help crystalize it and to identify what you need to ‘go find out’:
  • What will my business offer? (Products, services, content, information, coaching…)
  • What are my current competitors doing and what will I do differently or better than them?
  • Where will the revenue come from?What are current pricings in the market and how can I value my products/services against these?
  • Will I need to have a stepped approach to what I offer?How would that look?
  • What will I need to have in place or ‘get to’ to give up my day job and work solely on my business?
  • Who can I start identifying as a person or company that might give me some advice or mentoring (finding other mentors and networks/organisations or channels to help steer you)
Some other things to start thinking about and capturing
  • What will my website look like and what do I want it to do? Start looking at sites you like and sites like www.wix.com to have a play around with making your own website (which is pretty simple and intuitive - you can even set up an ecommerce shop!)
  • Create some vision boards or ppt’s or files that capture designs you like that give you inspiration for the look and feel of your brand.You don’t have to spend lots of money on designers, you can crowd source designers on great sites like www.peopleperhour.com or www.elance.com
  • In fact – you can pretty much crowd source a whole TEAM to help you do whatever you want to through sites like www.elance.com
  • Vision boards are great also for keeping a view of the ‘bigger picture’.Don’t be afraid to think big and dream up a huge vision for your business.
  • Who is my ideal ‘customer’What does he/she look like, where does he/she go or do e.t.c.If you can start to get really clear on your ‘customer’, you can start to capture ideas about where you can market yourself and get the right traffic to to your offering.
Next session we agreed that in our initial ‘go around’, I will ask each person to reflect on the questions above (in relation to their business idea) and to share how far they have progressed and/or any challlenges they have encountered. 

You can find all videos, articles and documents at www.businessofbrave.com
See you next session!