We’re in a room full of business owners, freelancers, the self-employed. So I want to start out by asking you to think about a simple question - Do you own a business, or does your business own you? Are you spending your time doing the work you truly enjoy and which enables you to make the greatest impact, or are you frustrated at feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things you feel you need to do every day.
Do you miss opportunities? Do you struggle to make time to do the things you WANT to do in life and business, because you’re too busy doing the things you feel you HAVE to do? For myself, I enjoy my work a great deal. In fact, the line between work and play for me is fairly blurred. Steve Jobs said the only way to do great work is to love what you do. So, do you love what you do? If not, why not?
Why you think about that, let me give you a glimpse into how I’ve spent time recently working!
Recently, at short notice, one of my clients – Jonathan Fox – dropped me a line. He’d been invited to take a trip to Google HQ in Dublin and wondered if I wanted to join him.
So I’m a massive geek. What do you think my answer was? Of course!
Jonnie and I had an awesome couple of days in Dublin peeking into the wacky wonderland that is Google HQ. They’ve got restaurants on every floor. They’ve got a gym, a physio, a bicycle repair shop. I’m surprised anybody at Google actually ever goes home from work when work is that cool! In short, it was an incredible experience.
Why do I share this with you? Well, Jonathan extended the invite to me on the Friday for the following Wednesday. It was short notice, but I’ve structured my business so that I have the flexibility to say yes to opportunities like having a private tour of Google HQ. I’m not a slave to my business and I don’t want you to be either.
Here’s another glimpse into my work week.
Here’s me having a Cheeky Nando’s with three of my clients, Stephen Pretlove of CCS in Milton Keynes, and Michael Freeman and Ian Waters of Southern IT in Brighton.
I love a Nando’s – who doesn’t – and so now I have lots of my “business meetings” in Nando’s. Because, why not?
I’ve built my work life so I don’t have to do business the traditional work. I’m not alone in wanting that – which is why these folks work with me.
Here’s Ian after he chose poorly in the Nando’s roulette and ended up with a super hot chicken wing.
Anybody played Nando’s roulette? It’s hilarious.
Anybody never been for a Cheeky Nandos? Come on! See me after and we’ll schedule it in.
Here are two of my closest friends. Gemma Telford is the Partner Marketing VP at Sage.
Phylip Morgan is a serial IT entrepreneur and a great mentor of mine. Phylip has built and sold more businesses than I’ve had eaten hot Nando’s.
However, to my knowledge, in all the times I’ve been out with Phylip to Nando’s, I can’t recall him ever paying for a Nando’s.
So we mentioned Google earlier, and there motto is “Do no evil”.
My motto is “Create more mischief”.
CLICK FORWARDS - So I want you all to Tweet Phylip now and ask him when he’s actually going to buy me a Cheeky Nando’s?
Being Welsh is no excuse, Phylip.
Some other insights into my work time.
For the past few years I’ve only worked four days a week. I take Friday’s off.
That enabled me to write more blog posts for the sheer fun of it.
One blog post entitled “It’s all about communication” (explain blog) led to the Chief Inspector of West Midlands Police getting in touch with me to help them with their communications. The other month I spent the day with their Armed Response unit and before that I’ve live tweeted from the front of a Police patrol car.
It’s an opportunity I was able to commit to because I’d freed up my time to allow it.
Who here knows where Estonia is? I certainly didn’t – other than Eurovision.
Did you know Estonia is the most technologically advanced country in the world? A friend told me about this and I’ve become an eResident of Estonia to do more business there.
That’s a presentation in of itself, but the point is, I’m able to explore new opportunities in business that others are perhaps not even aware of yet. Why? Because I’ve structured my professional life to allow the time to explore these opportunities.
And here’s Natalie (or Nathalie as the chef at HanaHana restaurant called her) and a group of us at Newcastle Startup Week. Natalie is presenting later and she’s awesome. Anyway, I took a week out of my business to attend this event and get to know people. ROI? Perhaps not. But because I’ve structured my life this way, I had the choice to attend. I actually met a load of people who are great contacts – and one I may be doing business with.
Why do I share all of this with you? Is it because I’m boasting? Well, I recall that Beverly Sherratt, who asked me to speak here today, tells me that the first time she heard me tell my story, she thought “What an arrogant twat”.
In fact, my wife Claire tells me she said that the first time she met me too – one for me to think over.
Anyway, it’s not to boast, but it’s to demonstrate that I’ve built the structures and routines into my business to enable me to live the life I want to, and it’s the ideas behind those structures and routines that I want to share with you today.
Just before I do though, I want to make something clear. While I may well be a twat, be very clear that this is my highlight reel.
This is the good stuff. You don’t see me sat at home in my boxer shorts, filling my face with pizza and chocolate.
We all have our own struggles. This presentation isn’t about comparing your life to others. That is madness.
What you choose to do is your decision, but I want you to remember that while we all have our struggles – what I want to share today is tactics to free up your time to build the life you want, not the life you think others want you to have.
With that in mind, if there’s one thing I’d like to you to take away from today it’s this, “Discipline brings freedom.”
Systems and routines can free up your time to develop the lifestyle you want. Whether that be eating a cheeky Nando's with clients, spending more time with your family, or just sitting and eating pizza in your underwear.
So over the next few minutes I’d like to share three practical techniques and ideas with you can take away today to help you to build that discipline, free up your time and concentrate on what is important.
First tip. Make it easy for yourself to do the important. I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator. If I can put something off until tomorrow, then I will do.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t just include work, that includes looking after myself physically and mentally – and there’s an old phrase I’m fond of reminding myself “Being dead isn’t good for business”.
Show of hands? Who is happy with the amount of exercise they do in a working day? Who wishes they could make more time to go walking, for instance? I did. Shoes. Route. Weather. Notes.
Show of hands? Who wishes they could do more personal development for work? Listen to Podcasts, read books? Share my morning routine.
In short, I overcome this procrastination in all areas of my life by asking myself “What would this look like if it were easy?”
I create routines, I create checklists, I basically reduce the amount of decisions I have to make in a day so it becomes easy to do the right thing
We have enough decisions to make every day in business as it is, without having to decide what to eat for breakfast, or what to wear that day, or whether to go for a walk that day and if so, what route to take.
Decision fatigue. Is there a client you know you should fire, but can’t find the energy to? Is there a telephone call you need to make but haven’t? Decision fatigue.
If you ever saw Steve Jobs deliver a presentation, you’ll be familiar with the fact he wore the same outfit – a black polo neck and jeans – every time. Steve Jobs has got more important things to spend his energy on than deciding what he’s going to wear for the day.
I’ve created some resources that I’m happy to give away that contain all the geeky stuff – the tools, the apps, my own checklists. Just grab me afterwards and I’ll share them with you. Discipline brings freedom. What healthy routines could you bring into your personal and professional life?
Number two. Surround yourself with people who are better than you!
This is a tough one for us to come to terms with as business owners. Our ego gets in the way. It did with me.
“Nobody can do this as well as me?” you tell yourself. So you end up doing the things you’ve always done, rather than delegate the work out to others who can do the work not just as well as you, but better!
This frees up your time and energy to do the things that are the highest value use of your time. Team Tubb.
There are others. I’ve worked with Laura Pearman who has created some game changing headshots and social media advice for me.
Gerry King helped me with my website too. Claire Jenks designed us an awesome new logo. Too many other people to list them all. All experts. All awesome. All better than me.
None of these folks are employees. They’re all self-employed. They all live and die by their service. And importantly, they’re all experts in what they do.
Could I do their job myself? Sure. For the most part. But should I? No. Having these experts around me allows me to concentrate on what I’m good at and what I enjoy.
The cost of working with these folks is also a drop in the ocean compared to how much time it frees me up to do real paying work. And have lots of Nando’s.
And if you need convincing that my team are better than me, then let me tell you a story about last years TPBiz…
This is an illustration from the book, which will be released soon. It’s all Gudrun’s work, so as the official author I might give her a small acknowledgement near the end.
Bottom line. Surround yourself with people who are better than you are.
Third and final tip. I hope you agree that all of this sounds great, but you need to understand why you’re doing this.
What’s your why?
What’s important to you?
Why do you work for yourself? What do you really want from work and life?
Until you answer this, when you’re low or tired, none of the things I’ve mentioned here feel important.
Perversely, if you implement the strategies that I’ve suggested here, it will free up your time to find your why!
Here’s my why. This is my Mom, my brother and sister, my wife Claire and my step-children, Ben and Ryan.
I’ve built a life that I love here in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne over the past two years.
Thanks to the structures I’ve built into my work life, I’m able to take advantage of opportunities that come my way.
Every time I need to remind myself of why I’m being disciplined or why I’m working hard – I remember this. Life is fun. I am loved. And I’ve got the time to let the people around me know I love them too.
What’s your why? Why are you doing what you’re doing? Why do you need to make changes to your personal or professional life? Why do you want to free up your time, or make more money?
So, in summary –
Make it easy for yourself to do the important. Surround yourself with people who are better than you. Know why you are doing this.
I love Newcastle. I love my friends here. Thanks for making me feel like an honorary Geordie.
And if you’re still struggling with your why, buy me a beer at the after party and I’ll tell you why then.
Thanks for listening to me today.
Effectiveness, Efficiency and a Cheeky Nando's
Effectiveness, Efficiency and a Cheeky Nando’s
Or how to free up your time to build the business and lifestyle you really want