The new normal


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A guy called Rani approached me at a conference recently and asked if he had to give up a normal life to be a success in business. I answered no but said he would have to think about giving up living a normal business life!

There is a notion that only the 24-seven constant worker can build a red-hot successful business but I would argue that it is ideal that you remain committed to your business’s success 24-seven. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t spend quality time with your family but it does mean that when you get up each morning, just like Ian Thorpe now that he has recommitted to winning a gold medal in the pool again, you have to remind yourself of the goal to build a great business.

Practice makes perfect

The same programming applies to anyone wanting to succeed with a career, a sporting achievement or any life goal. Malcolm Gladwell in his best-seller Outliers found that concert musicians did about 10,000 hours practice while a music teacher had done only 3000 hours.

He makes the point that in many areas of endeavour, 10,000 hours of practice is often the defining benchmark between good and great performers. 

Personally, I don’t know how reliable that measure is but I reckon if you do anything for 10,000 hours it is bound to make a difference, though if it was under great tutorage the result would likely be exceptional.

Break on through

Australia’s great marathon man, Rob de Castella, told me on my SWITZER program on Sky News Business Channel that he went training for 1000 days straight, and it explained his jump as a runner from a good to potentially great. He talked about a thing he called “trainability” – part physiology and part psychology – that kicks in after someone puts in the long yards.

De Castella says it is inexplicable: still, two people could do the same work but one’s reaction has a great multiplier effect on their performance compared to another.

The great English Channel swimmer Des Renford once told me that he learnt to master the pain barrier – or the wall – you hit when you cross the Channel. Herb Elliott, our great male Olympic athlete and chairman of Fortescue Metals, said he learnt to beat that little voice inside our head that gets us to give in when we are at our most vulnerable points.

So, building a great business has the same challenges as great athletes or musicians and it requires a similar program to make it happen.

Yes, coach!

The fun runner goes running but the champion athlete has a coach, who is the objective eyes and who corrects the things you are doing wrong.

I asked Rani if he owned a business or did it own him? He admitted that it owned him and his wife hated it.

I asked him if he had a business that would succeed even if he weren’t there? And to that he said it would go broke.

My reply?

“You don’t really have a business but merely a job and you have a boss who is a maniac!”

I told him that he needed a business coach and that he needed to systemise his business so it worked whether he was there or not. The great franchises of the world are such well-systemised businesses that McDonald’s can sell hundreds of thousands of its businesses and they work everywhere they go.

That is the goal: build a business that is franchisable or at least one that works independent of your input.

The real cost

Rani loved the idea but he asked the same question I always field:

“How much will it cost?”

This is the ball-breaker that often makes or breaks someone who thinks they want to succeed.

I said I could vary between $3000 and, say, $10,000 a year depending on how much time you want to get from a coach but I have to say Rani surprised me that he did not reel when I gave him the figures.

Sure he had a turnover of about $700,000 and so it was affordable but a lot of would-be successful business owners can’t see the wisdom in the investment.

I believe it is the difference between a business owner and an entrepreneur. The latter gets it: you have to take risks to build something great but investing in yourself is actually not risky at all. In fact, it is actually risk management!

Taking care of business

Before I left Rani, I asked if he had any frustrations in his business and he laughed. I told him to list them top to bottom in order of importance but to start at the bottom to eliminate these obstacles to success.

I asked him for a business card and he apologised that he had run out. I said to him go back to work and write out a system to make sure that when he runs out of cards it is one phone call and they will be delivered overnight.

A good coach will help you build a pile of systems that defines your business and combined is the manual for your business. When this is completed you have a business that operates without you. And you have a business that is easy to sell or franchise. Or you should have a business that you will love to keep because it does not stop you from seeing your loved ones or prevent you from going on holidays or having a game of golf or going for a surf.

This sort of outcome happens when you embrace a new normal and become abnormal – do the opposite of most anyone else – and it helps you become exceptional.


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