Circle of trust

Circle of trust

As business leaders there are regulations and laws that control how you move an employee out of your business.  These rules were rightly put in place to curtail unscrupulous exploitation of people by some employers but the fallout means that good businesses who treat their employees well are often too worried about the potential ramifications to move an employee on when they have  broken their trust and are no longer an employee that they have confidence in.  This is hard when as an employer you are the one with the overdraft, the mortgage, putting in the long hours and taking the risk every day to build a business.

Over the years there is one lesson I have learned and that is that trust goes both ways.  Why should I put up with people in my business who are not trustworthy?  Why should I put up with their dramas that distract the whole team?  Why should I always keep giving and in return receive nothing?  Why? Because I am a business leader, and the law puts hurdle after hurdle in my way making it almost impossible to move on unproductive and untrustworthy people.

Team members, supervisors, leaders – it happens – their value to your business expires.  This is a fact of life.  Moving on is always easier when the team member calls it quits.  But we have all been in situations where they don’t make this decision because they are comfortable in their role, it’s too hard to move on, they fear they won’t get another job.  Meanwhile your business is carrying the burden of their employment.

I have a few thoughts on this:

  1. If trust is gone, I cannot come back from this. It’s in my DNA. So, I need to resolve it.
  2. If I can put my hand on my heart and know that I have been ethical, supportive, communicative and fair – then I will not invest more energy in trying to fix it.
  3. Full transparency and honesty is required. I have no problem telling a team member that I have no trust left, my respect for them is diminished and it’s time for them to consider their options.
  4. My decision is made so I now work with the team member to help them reach a similar conclusion.
  5. I accept that it may end up in a nasty situation and am ready to live with that. Sometimes the fear of a hefty pay out paralyses us, but when you weigh up the cost of a toxic team member who is not doing their job, is destabilising your team and eating into your energy, then sometimes it is better to pay for the problem to go away.  Having said that, if your processes are sound, you’ve kept notes and followed process, then it’s my experience that FairWork Australia are a reasonable organisation to deal with.

It’s always vitally important that you, as an employer, have lived up to your end of the bargain and have treated the employee fairly in all instances, but when the circle of trust is broken despite this, then it’s time to move that person on.


Employer obligations for mental health and wellbeing

Mental health is an important factor in the success of an individual, a team, a business and the broader community. Wellness is not just a new age buzz word – it is defined as the state of being comfortable, healthy and happy. It is not just about an absence of illness or disease, or negative feelings – it is a sense of positivity, happiness and satisfaction. Essentially, its how you feel about yourself and your life.

And while every aspect of our lives influences our state of wellbeing, for many people the workplace and our careers occupy a high percentage of our waking hours therefore the effects of poor workplace culture can have a significant impact on our overall mental health and wellbeing.

As an employer, not only is there a legal obligation to the do what is reasonable to support the general health and safety of team members within the workplace, this obligation extends to situations that may affect their mental health and wellbeing. Knowing the mental health risks in your workplace means you can work towards removing them.

What you should be doing

  • Understanding mental health issues and what a ‘mentally healthy’ workplace is
  • Identifying wellbeing initiatives that you can implement
  • Supporting team members to have conversations about mental health and wellbeing
  • Assess and manage mental health risks within your workplace

What not to do

  • Sweep mental health issues under the rug
  • Treat team members with mental health issues differently to others
  • Ignore red flags in relation to workplace risks to mental health and wellbeing

Final Statement:

Workplaces that support the mental health of their employees have more successful businesses, because their employees perform better, are happier, and stay in their jobs for longer. They also have fewer days off work.


High performance teams

What do you need to be doing to have a team that can be running at their optimum output and effectiveness?

Having a high performing team is not just about having the most talented individuals, it’s about having the right mix of skills and abilities, with the right attributes and personalities. Plus, ensuring that you are equipping the team for success with the right tools and tech, guidance and structure, and support from within the businesses other departments.

Whether we’re talking about the sales team, the marketing team, the finance team, or a field-based service team or any other, having the right people in the team at the right time is critical. Shortfalls in talent and numbers of employees within a team can be detrimental, as can an abundance of ‘thinkers’ or ‘planners’ and not enough ‘doers’. Workforce planning is critical as part of your broader business planning activities.

Putting in place an appropriate management framework for each team or department can have a big impact on the performance of a team – think about the team meetings, the regularity, how they’re run – via zoom or in person, who is chairing them. There is such a thing as too many meetings, but, in the age of remote and field-based work we can also fall into the trap of not checking in, getting the team together and ensuring that there is a good level of engagement and collaboration between team members to maximise their output.

Another key to high performing teams rests in the tools, tech and systems that are in place to support the individuals in collaborating, communicating, and getting things done. Are they trying to use complex software on a computer that hangs every five minutes trying to sync to the server, is their tablet or mobile phone struggling to hold battery life, even considering – for field-based team members especially – which mobile phone network the business subscribes to in order to avoid call drops and connectivity issues while on the road. Sometimes, saving money by delaying review and update of tech and systems is counterproductive as the team could spend more time being held up to be as productive as possible.

Final Statement:

Ultimately, there is no silver bullet to having a high performing team. Every team is different, and the key is to put the right resources, tech, culture and people in the mix based on the expected outputs of the team.


Workplace health and safety

As a business owner, you have a legal responsibility to manage health and safety in your workplace. What these responsibilities are specifically varies depending on the type and location of your business. Each Australian state and territory has its own laws in place, however the overall aim of each of these is similar.

Essentially WHS involves the management of risks to the health and safety of everyone in your workplace. This includes your employees and contractors, as well as customers, visitors and suppliers.

At a minimum, business owners should:

  • provide a safe work environment, equipment and facilities
  • establish safe ways of working, use and handling of equipment and substances
  • provide information, training and supervision when required
  • monitor the health of workers and conditions at the workplace

While it may cost time and money to establish safe practices, policies and procedures, the costs of not doing so could include prosecution, fines and business interruption or – worst case – injury or death to a team member or someone else.

Workers’ compensation laws also require you to have a workers’ compensation insurance policy for your employees in the event that they suffer an injury or illness as a result of a workplace incident.

Of course, safety is not just responsibility of the employer – employees are expected to support their employers

What you should be doing

  • Understand your obligations under the relevant legislation
  • Assess risks to mental and physical health and wellbeing
  • Create health and safety policy and procedure
  • Review health and safety policy, procedures and reports
  • Involve team members to develop a culture that supports health and wellbeing

What not to do

  • Ignore real or perceived risks to health and safety of your team members
  • Assume that your team members know what they should do – training is a must!

Key features to a website

Building a business includes many facets, one of those being a strong digital presence. Customers are online more than ever and statistics show that the average internet user consumes an average 6 hours and 30 minutes of online content a day. With such a staggering amount, how do you ensure that customers find you, engage with you and ultimately benefit from your products and services? A website is generally the first step to a consumer’s research when making a purchasing decision, and not guaranteeing a seamless user experience leads to lost sales and leads.

So, what exactly makes a website effective? Here are five tips to help you make sure your website is helping you grow your business.

Stay on brand

Having a website that uses different styling across its pages will cause a disconnect for customers. Are you using the same colours throughout your website? Are images consistent sizing? Are your fonts the same and create a standardised hierarchy between titles and articles? Without these key areas addressed, your brand is going to be forgotten. Utilising a brand styleguide is the best way to ensure your brand is memorable.

Keep your website fast

Ever landed on a website that took so long to load that you decided to close off and go to the next link? Time and time again, businesses make the mistake of not optimising their websites, that will lead to a high bounce rate (rate in which a user will immediately leave your website). Statistics show that a website should load within 2-5 seconds; for every second after, the bounce rate increases exponentially. There are many tools that can help speed up a website including:

Cacheing assets – This is a process in which a user does not have to re-download assets such as images, fonts and text. When going page to page, they will only load files that are needed rather than all new content that will increase page load times.

Don’t use too many plugins – Websites that use systems such as WordPress can give a wealth of additions through the use of plugins, but too many can cause major slowdowns across your site. Look into minimising or developing your own code for the fastest possible performance.

Optimise images – One area that many websites fail to optimise is the size of the images being loaded on the website. The larger the image, the slower the website. Using the correct compression tools and serving next-gen file formats, such as WebP, will greatly reduce load times.

Strong call to actions

As important as it is to deliver the information to your customers, every page should have a “call to action”. Call to actions need to be the focal point of each page on the website; they can either be a banner with the latest promotion, a contact button for more information, or even a highlighted section to allow customers to find more detail beyond the section they are currently viewing.

Connect with social media

Having a social media presence shows that you are actively engaged in a community, and having links to your Facebook / Instagram and LinkedIn page helps build trust with your brand. If a consumer goes to your website and sees content from years past, the immediate thought process is that the business is out of date and no longer relevant. A website should be dynamic, not static and having constantly updated content is what will drive customers to come back to your website.


Showcase your wins

How can you add instant credibility to your products and services? Display major client lists and use case studies. Leverage the brand power of your clients to benefit your own brand. By displaying a list of companies which you are affiliated with, you can instantly build a level of trust with a customer. Consumers already value, why wouldn’t they value yours? Case studies are also a strong way to visually represent your past work, so that customers can get a sneak preview of what they can expect when it comes to engaging your products or  services. If you’re running an e-commerce platform, use the power of customer reviews, which add credence that your product has worked for others.

Final Statement:

There are many more pieces to delivering an effective website, whether it is starting a new brand or improving on an antiquated version. A fast and effective way to know where to start would be a website audit. A website audit will break down your website into core areas that need improvement, and it will then let you prioritise what you should tackle first.



Effective social media management

Many businesses have changed how they operate, especially in the social media sphere. With more customers online than ever, a strong social media strategy for any business should be mapped and actioned throughout the year. However, many simple strategies are being missed by business owners that could help increase awareness and boost sales.

Here are the top 5 social media strategies that a business should start implementing today:

Segment your audience.

If you have a strong following on social media such as Facebook and Instagram, it’s important to look at who your demographic is, from both a new and retention point of view. Creating audiences when running your ads will keep CPC (Cost per clicks) down and deliver better efficiency in your advertising dollars. Not sure how to set this up? Facebook for Business has a helpful guide in creating on “Lookalike Audiences”

Call to actions

Using call to actions will help customers understand the journey you want to take them when leading them into a product or page. In social media posts, it’s important to have a clear call to action such as an enquiry form, a link to your website or a purchase link. By having just information or an image, a customer should not have to do the heavy lifting of finding more information. Facebook also include a “Call-to-action” ad option when promoting your products and services .

Setup chat bots

Having the touchpoint for your customers gives them instant answers when first engaging with your brand. Whether you want having those following your Facebook page being able to interact or your own website to have a direct line to your customer service, Facebook chat is a great option. Using automated responses can also save you time for frequently asked questions such as “when you are your opening times?”.

Got a WordPress site? Why not add the Facebook Chat plugin for quickly getting your chat up on your site.

Use boosted posting

By boosting your post, you can capture customers who aren’t already following you. Boosting posts will reach a larger audience, make up any decline in organic reach and with no minimum, you can start your advertising budget on a small scale and ramp up after taking a look at your analytics and reports.

Stories in your platform.

The rise of Instagram from a consumer level has increased exponentially over the years with close to 10 million users in Australia alone. However the stories option also expands to both Facebook and LinkedIn. By utilising the power of video, your brand is able to deliver more digestible content, increase consumer engagement and lead to better connections with your audience.

Final Statement:

Social media is about building a brand that resonates with your clients.  A brand that isn’t one dimensional, but has a personality.  It involves constant touch points with your potential clients, working to engage them.


The now/future of work

Traditional workplaces are no longer bricks and mortar. The workplace of today is mobile, agile and flexible. And as a result of the pandemic of 2020 we moved very quickly into embracing a virtual workplace, a workplace of the future  – accepting that people can be productive, both in a physical workplace and working remote wherever they choose to with their tablets, mobile phones and any other resources and tools that help them be effective.

Today, we need to start thinking about how do we manage and how do we lead the remote workplace or the virtual workplace. How do we check in each day with our team members, ensuring that we entrust them in delivering their deliverables, enable them to communicate, enable to have a check in, connect with one another and be able to collaborate across projects that they may be working on.

Team members all work and operation differently and we need to accept as leaders and owners of businesses that some will work really well in a virtual workplace, they’ll be self accountable, self driven, no discipline is required because they’re naturally like that. Whereas for others, the virtual workplace – whether that be the local café, local library or their homes may not be their optimum way of performing.

Its our responsibility to change the way we do work, and change the flows of the way we communicate to accommodate the hybrid model of working in an office and those that are working remote.

A tick off and a check off every morning and night is a great way to kickoff and ensure that people are staying in touch, and staying relevant. Each of those sessions via some sort of virtual mechanism, don’t need to be long, don’t need to be structured – all they need is an opportunity to be able to connect, engage and relate to one another.

Keep in mind, that the ‘water cooler’ conversations are not happening, so therefore a check in and a check out only once a week or once a fortnight is probably going to cause you some grief. Maybe not in the short term, but perhaps in the longer term. And probably provide a disengagement level between team members because they’re not checking in, or feeling like they belong to the tribe.

Set up your methods and your system, check what’s working and what’s not – is it a daily, is it twice daily, it is every couple of days and how many different levels of check in do we need. Drive and empower that accountability of self-drive, self-accountability and self-deliverables and make sure you’ve provided the systems and processes to enable the culture of thinking and being proud of the fact we are self-driven, self-accountable and we’re getting on with the job and the outputs regardless of where we are.

Establish that ability that where we need to connect quickly with someone on the team, that we’re using other means. We’re using our phones, our text messages, our online chat forums, whether its through a project management tool or email.

Set a culture not about the hours of work, but about the output and so therefore when someone is having a low or heavy day that they’re able to take a 000 day to tap out because they need a moment.

We all work differently, we all embrace different energy levels in the morning, afternoon and night. So enable your team members to deliver at their optimum time, as long as the end goal is that we’re available and we continue to delivery the outputs.

The future of work will continue to be agile, will continue to be remote and will continue to increase what we call gig or portfolio work. The truest sense of the traditional full time head count will continue to decrease as people continue to harness their portfolio of skills, and choose where they share those skills and be purpose driven and meaningful in their work.


Bringing your vision, strategy and goals to life

The way many businesses operate has changed forever, we’ve had to pivot to meet new demands, processes and customer habits. In the face of uncertainty, it is increasingly challenging to plan for the future.

While it’s tempting to put aside future planning, and often it’s not seen as a priority – now more than ever, what you need is a vision, a strategic direction and realistic goals to accomplish in the coming year or two.

Unless you’re a large multinational with significant infrastructure, five-year plans are no longer the go – if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that in small business we need to be able to pivot quickly and in a way that makes the most of the resources, people and best laid plans that were already in place.

In many businesses, people are the resource and assets with the biggest impact on you achieving your vision. Have you communicated the vision, strategies and goals? Are they on board? Do they have the skills and attitude to help you get there? Ensure that the people are part of your planning.

Given the ongoing uncertainty and getting to know the ‘new normal’, it’s good to have one or more backup plans for your business. Lay out potential contingencies that you may face, but keep them realistic, and consider strategic responses to these possibilities.

What you should be doing

  • Identify your ultimate vision for your business. It might be ‘break even by Q12022’, ‘Have a saleable asset by end of 2022 and exit the business by mid 2023’. – it should a very high level, succinct, and achievable.
  • From there, make it bite size – turn the succinct vision statement into the underlying strategies that are going to get you there. A strategy could be ‘Document the department SOPs in a digital format’ or ‘Increase social media presence to drive sales’
  • Then, identify the short, sharp, executable goals that are going to make your vision achievable. A goal could be ‘Maintain COGS within X%’, ‘Update branding and imagery on social media profiles’, or ‘Digitalise all menu recipes and costings’.
  • Develop ways to assess the strategies and goals, and the resources around you to achieve them. Regularly refer back to your vision plan – how are you tracking? What adjustments can you make?
  • Be ready to change and adapt – the visual may not change, but the strategies, timing and goals might. Just don’t lose sight of the end game!
  • Don’t be afraid to shed to move forward – people, plans, thought patterns… If they no longer serve you and your business, move them on.

Final Statement:

Gone are the days of thinking five years ahead, be pointed on two year vision, supported by a pointed strategy and short sharp goals.


IP and Knowledge Transfer – Online Systems

You may be in a scenario where you’re hiring a new team member, or you might be looking to sell your business – the problem is that all of the IP, the knowledge and the information that would need to be transferred in these situations is ‘in your head’. Its not documented or recorded, and it most certainly is not safe from the ‘bus test’, that is the simple principle that knowledge should be duplicated between multiple people to avoid it being lost in the event that that one person got hit by a bus.

Whether your operation is a ‘one (hu)man band’, or relies on key team members to the extent that losing that person would significantly negatively impact your business, literally every repeated activity in a business should be recorded as a standard operating procedures (SOPs). At a basic level, SOPs represent a set of instructions that outlines the actions for a task or routine activity. The structure of an SOP should be linear, easy to follow, concise, with simple and clearly outlined steps.

Taking advantage of software and tools that this age of technology offers to make the documenting of SOPs significantly easier. The tech options will save you time and will make the SOPs more accessible compared to hard-copy. Its 2021 – we should not be looking at printed, hard copy manuals.

For one human bands, digital SOPs do not have to be stored on complex, purpose built platforms that cost thousands of dollars a year – keep it simple with videos recorded on a mobile device or screen record software and saved to ‘the cloud’ in a logical, easy to identify file structure.

For small to large enterprises, there are a vast range of software and cloud-based portals that can support the documentation and sharing of your company’s SOPs. At the very least it should be able to control access, provide alerts and notices for new and updated content, and record acknowledgement and sign off.

Regardless of whether you go hi-tech or keep it simple, consider a solution that is more than just a repository for static pdf documents that must be downloaded to be read. Because, chances are, no one will read them. Aim to use photos, videos and interactive formats as much as possible to support the written form.

What you should be doing

  • Record the why, when, what and how of tasks makes it easier for someone else to get the job done.
  • Keep it bite sized, concise, and easy to follow
  • Take advantage of the myriad of software tools you can use for creating, housing, distributing and monitoring SOPs
  • Make a list, and knock off recording a couple of SOPs each day while you’re going about your daily tasks
  • Delegate the documenting to the people who do the tasks regularly

What not to do

  • Assume tasks are being completed consistently, correctly, and safely
  • Leave yourself vulnerable to the bus test, regardless of the size of your business
  • Wait until it’s too late, be proactive about recording your SOPs

Should it be a meeting, an email or a chat?

Are there meetings you or your team could do without? And are there email streams that would have been more efficiently managed with a phone call, a quick meeting or an online chat?

We’ve all been in at least one of those meetings… you know, the ones that should have been an email. Or the email stream that goes back and forth cc-ing and distracting 10 different people over the course of an afternoon, that should have been a 5 minute zoom meeting.

Finding the right balance between zooms, phone calls, chats, texts, in person meetings (do we still do those?) is key to efficiency within your business.

The question of what should be a meeting – and what shouldn’t – can often be circumvented by setting regular, mandatory attendance team, department and project team meetings.

If you are going to schedule a meeting, always state the purpose of the meeting in the calendar invite and include further information if possible. And, as a modern approach, include a Zoom or Teams link for the meeting – even if most the team will be in the office that day.

Keeping meetings on track is best achieved with an agenda – and that doesn’t have to be a traditional agenda. Using your team’s project management and task list tool (e.g. Teamwork, Trello, Asana) as the run sheet for a meeting, can be an effective way to ensure that the critical items are covered.

In some cases, a traditional agenda is necessary. Consider this – instead of listing out topics, pose the questions you want answered in the meeting. This will ensure interaction, which is why you called the meeting in the first place. If you don’t have any questions to ask, then you may not need a meeting.

What you should be doing

  • Establishing regular, consistent meeting cycles, e.g. Monday morning weekly team meeting, Tuesday morning weekly Project X meeting, Wednesday morning fortnightly Department meeting.
  • Create an ‘agenda’ – whether that be a traditional layout or using your project management tool
  • Sharing an online meeting link, even you plan to be in the office that day.

What not to do

  • Set a meeting without an agenda or without questions that need to be answered in that meeting.
  • Don’t play a match of email tennis that has a that cc’s five other people – pickup the phone, or call a meeting.