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Icon from : http://www.danilodemarco.com/Many small business owners decide to go it alone, because they want a better quality of life – less commuting, shorter hours, better pay and more job satisfaction. But how long does it take before you realize that it’s not quite working out?

You’re working 70 to 80 hour a week, including weekends and you’ve been doing it for a few years now. As someone building a business, you don’t think you the luxury of saying no to new opportunities. Whenever a prospective client asks for a meeting with you, or an actual clients asks to you to do some paid work for you, the answer is always “Yes”, isn’t it? You can’t afford to turn work away, so you work longer and longer hours. You don’t want to spend your hard earned turnover on hiring someone else to do some of the work you don’t like doing, so you bravely learn to build a website, understand your accounts package and attempt to keep on top of all the paperwork.

But sooner or later you will hit a wall. You’ll start having trouble focusing on the project you should really be working on, because there are so many other things to be done. You’ll start to miss a few deadlines and your clients will start to notice that something isn’t quite right with the service you’re supposed to deliver to them. Your family will start to see a problem too – mostly because they will hardly ever see you.

The good news is that you’re not alone. Many small business owners work more and play less than people who work for others. About 31% of entrepreneurs work at least 10 hours a day and 15% work every day of the week, according to a Discover Small Business Watch survey. The poll also found that 59% of respondents define a ‘day off’ as being available for calls and emails, or working at least part of the day.

Do you recognize yourself here?

The truth is that this pace is unsustainable. Creativity suffers, resilience falters and your sense of accomplishment plummets. What’s the solution? Take a break in order to reboot your life and your business!

This break could be as short as a one hour lunch break, a whole day off a week (or two!) or even a long weekend away. It could be time outside your office in the sunshine, time off at time, or time completely away from it all. There are no rules about how much time you must take off, where you should go and what you are supposed to do in the time. It’s more about finding out whatever works for you. The important thing is that you do take time out, before you burn out.

How often do you really take time from your business and what do you to reboot yourself?

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Cabinet shuffling and collaborative relationships…

CabinetThe Prime Minister has shuffled his cabinet in a pretty major shakeup. Some even described it as bigger than Harold MacMillan’s night of the long knives in 1962. Reshuffles allow leaders to move the team around and put new thought and new blood into the executive. It’s not, unless done well, usually a good step for collaboration. 

Underneath the changes will continue to ripple for some time as the Civil Service appointments follow, and it’s often difficult to see where policy change will happen and where it will not, just from a change of figurehead. One example of this may be Michael Gove, who has superficially had a demotion to chief whip. The underlying purpose of his move may reflect less on his role in education and more on the need to have an attack dog with media presence to take on the opposition in the run up to the next election. Not well liked in his Education role his departure has been greeted with glee by some, but they may well rue that day if his replacement is simply going to maintain the current policy. Given the proximity of the election messing with education policy now would be high risk for any government. My guess is no real change will happen there. 

Hague’s retirement from foreign secretary to a more euro sceptic and more european focussed Philip Hammond. This and the change in Attorney General signals quite big change on the European front, departing A-G Dominic Grieve’s comments on the risks of breaking from the European Human Rights act suggests his understanding of the underlying thinking.

Watch now for some fall out as collaborative partnerships between departments within our government that have worked well falter and new relationships forge themselves. That’s true in Europe too, for all the talk of dispute and dissonance it’s still a highly collaborative relationship that we have with the key countries. That may show some signs of frustration over the next few months. Watch out too for some early gaffs as new ministers get caught out without knowing the detail of their portfolios.

We may not have had much of a say in it, but, today, we have a different government.

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Social Networks and connectedness….

The debate about whether you should accept connections or keep your online networks small has gone on for some time, some choose to accept all incoming connection requests, others only to connect with those they know well. It’s a choice. For a while I chose to keep things small, and thought that, logically, there were good reasons for that. About 4 years ago I changed my strategy, I realised that I couldn’t verify my assumptions unless I chose to try all the options, and then see what actually happened. I learned a lot of things, mostly though it confirmed that much of what I assumed about connections on the internet was misplaced.

As things develop the choices we make need to be revisited too. Our markets change, the people in them start working differently and the underlying architecture is dynamic.

Here’s my learning from having grown big networks on most platforms (I’m at the limits on LinkedIN FB and G+) in light of the current way those big three work.

  1. Your content isn’t shown to all your connections. All the networks deliberately limit the people who see your material, even publicly visible content. Of course your connections can find it, but it’s not necessarily in their ‘stream’ or notifications. This is a recent change and it is driven by wanting to sell more advertising. If you want your posts to (potentially) be seen by 100 people it used to require connecting with 100, now it’s probably more like 5000 connections.

    Linked in is rolling out articles that you can post on your profile page – These appear in your stream and get a lot of attention, but not if you only have a few connections. To get more people  to see it you need more connections. things on Facebook pages and profiles work in the same way. On google plus you can opt to send a notification email, but only to a small list, not your whole network.

    Organic reach is greatest when you have a large network.

  2. When others share what you share then a proportion of their network will see it too. Those that like and share it on will also be more likely to see the next few items you post because both LinkedIn and Facebook seem to push content to people their algorithms determine are “relevant”. Great content is one thing, engagement by many means many more see it organically.

    Engagement begets engagement and engagement by many means having a large network.

  3. Searching for people now tends (on all networks) to use a form of ‘graph’ search. So people who are close to you get found much more than people who are distant. If you want to be found by others you need to be closer to them than your competitor.

    Big networks mean being found more often by people who need what you do.
So a big network gives you reach, engagement and gets you found, but doesn’t it come with downsides? Let’s dispel a few myths:
  1. “I’ll get more spam” – I didn’t.
  2. “I can’t build a relationship with that many people” – I realised that connections aren’t relationships. All the major networks provide ways to keep my important relationships separate, Tags, lists and so on do this.
  3. “I’ll get too many emails” – Technology is dealing with that with tools that presort, and manage your inbox, and Facebook’s lists and G+ circles allow differential notifications, it needs strategy, but I still control my inbox. Don’t expect the volume of emails to decline, because it’s set to increase anyway, so get (really) good at handling it quickly and efficiently.
  4. “It takes too long” – Actually it takes less time, I stopped looking at each connection and reading profiles at the time of the connection and only did that with someone engaged with me later, and that’s usually as a result of content, when they can see the relevance clearly. Switching when I researched from when they first connect to when we first engage substantively improved the quality of my online networking immensely. It may do that for you too.
  5. “I’ll keep my network small” – Your network is going to get big over time anyway. Some connections go silent, but we don’t remove them, (and there is no need to, they have gone quiet…) – It tends to be the noisy irrelevant people we remove. New connections are made all the time, so a large network is almost inevitable eventually. Once I realised it was valuable I just accelerated.

The other thing that it does is help remove confusion about ownership of IP. New material circulated online can be plagiarised but if the original source has a big reach, of engaged people then a copyist with a small network really doesn’t get a look in, so the final point is a risk management one, it helps you to be who you really are, with certainty.

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