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Archive for February, 2015

Free software from Sackmans

I am delighted to tell you that from next month I am able to offer free financial planning software.

Here is some background why I am doing this.

A survey of 1,600 people revealed that less than a third of 40-70 year-olds have taken advice about the upcoming pension reforms. And, only 16% of these have taken advice from an independent adviser. This means, 95% of people have NOT taken professional independent advice about one of the crucial issues of their life.

This is worrying because Age Concern are worried that Pensioners could run out of money by age 75 if they choose to withdraw cash from their pension savings and use income draw down, rather than buy an annuity.

At Sackmans we work to help people achieve financial freedom. The first step is calculating what that means so from next month we are able to offer all clients free access to E-life Planner. This is a lifetime cashflow calculator designed especially for business owners and includes the valuation of your business.

When you know how much money you need for the rest of your life you can figure out how much you need to sell the business for, what profits you need to make and retain as well as can slow down and stop work knowing you won’t run out of money.

If you are interested in using the Life Planner let me know.




Employees core needs

In 2014 the Harvard Business Review researched more than 12,000 (mostly white-collar) employees to find out what style of management increased productivity.

The study found that employees respond best when four core needs are met.

Core need 1 – working for a purpose

Employees who were aligned with the company Core Purpose are 170% higher job satisfaction and they were 140% more engaged at work.

And, employees who perceive meaning and significance of their work were more than 300% more likely to stay with you.

Core need 2 – feeling valued

Feeling cared for by a manager has a more significant impact than any other behaviour by a leader. Employees who feel they have a supportive boss are 67% more positive and engaged.

Core need 3 – time for renewal

Perhaps unsurprisingly, if people work more continuously and longer hours feel less positive.

Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30% higher level of focus compared to those who take no breaks, or who take just one break during a day.

Those employees who take frequent breaks report a nearly 50% greater capacity to think creatively and a 46% higher level of health and well-being.

Core need 4 – ability to focus

Only one is five people said they were able to focus on one task at a time without being distracted or interrupted at work.

Those who did have the space and freedom to focus without interruptions were 50% more positive and engaged.

Interestingly, the research found that employees want flexibility about where and when they work, and have far higher engagement levels when they have more choice.

Here are a few suggestions you can implement right now

  • Define and share your reason why
  • Ask your team to score you based on how much they think you care about them
  • Make sure meetings do not last more than 90 minutes
  • Encourage people to get up out of their seats and walk around every 90 minutes
  • Provide the opportunity for staff to take regular breaks
  • Set clear boundaries when people are not expected to take calls and answer emails
  • Create distraction free environment with spaces and culture so employees can work without interruption


Perhaps the first thing you can do is go first and set the example for your employees. Even if you don’t have employees use the strategies on yourself and with contractors and key suppliers.


Pricing lesson from Apple

There are many different pricing strategies but by far the most common is cost-plus.

This is where a business looks at the cost of time and/or materials and adds a margin on to work out the price. The problem with this is that you are internally focussed rather than external which is thinking about the customer.

Cost plus pricing works and is low risk but there can be huge opportunity costs because you are not focussed on what the customer wants. You can overlook opportunities to make more sales and achieve higher prices.

An alternative to cost-plus pricing is customer value pricing and Apple is a good example of a business that does this well.

This year Apple launches the Apple Watch with three editions – Watch, Sport and Edition. They are basically the same watch but they are aimed at different segments of their market.

You can do the same by using “Personas”. This is where you create fictitious ideal customers and use them to help you develop your product/service based on your understanding of what they value.

The three Apple watches are aimed at Average Adam, Sporty Sam and Businessman Bill. The product has been differentiated on design rather than functionally. The design is driven by the intended use.

Think about it. It’s not ideal to wear a sports watch into a serious business meeting and who wants to wear a heavy metal watch on a run or into the gym?

Apple wants as many people to enjoy value from their product and they want to extract the maximum possible price from each segment.

You can explore doing the same by using personas.

Big goals, small wins

It’s good to be ambitious in business and think big. Aim to offer at least 10 times more than the status quo because in today’s world you need to be remarkable to stand a chance.

In terms of your goals, think about these being so big that you are unlikely to achieve in your lifetime. Big goals are more likely to inspire you, your market and your team.

But, the danger is that these goals can feel so far away and we don’t experience the joy of achievement.

Ticking things off your to-do list is great but how long does the feeling last?

One way you can increase you and your team’s sense of achievement, motivation and productivity is to celebrate small wins. Small wins are the tiny steps toward the bigger goals. And, research shared in the book The Progress Principle show that when people see they are making progress each step of the way they become more productive.

The research supports the case that people are much happier, more creative and productive when they can see progress on their goals from much smaller daily and weekly steps.

So, there are two things you can do to in your business:

  • Make sure everyone sees the progress you are making every step of the way.
  • Make time reflect and celebrate your progress


Don’t just review your to-do list. Take a few minutes each week to review your done-list and ask:

  • What tasks did I complete this week?
  • What did I learn?


Putting structure to this process with software will help ensure it happens. You could use a survey tool and include responses in your weekly team meeting. And, this can be used to help you define your culture by say we:

  • Acknowledge and praise our accomplishments
  • Share our learnings in a knowledge bank
  • Are willing to be held accountable for our agreed tasks and actions
  • Openly share our challenges and ask for help


When was the last time you and your team acknowledged your small wins?