Rewiring your brand for innovation during COVID-19.

The times they are a-changin’ am I right?

At Smack Bang, we’ve entered our 5th week working from home as the story of 2020 continues to unfold in ways none of us could have ever imagined.

Right now, it’s unclear how long this period of unpredicted turmoil might last. The duration of our isolation and the severity of the subsequent financial fallout seems hinged on the race for a vaccine. And whilst many economists suggest that we’re at the start of a recession that could go on for years, many of us are already looking toward the next chapter.

Thankfully, looking ahead is hard-wired into the human condition. It’s what’s kept our species thriving thus far. In my opinion, looking ahead with optimism, hope and a thirst for transformation is, quite literally, all we can do right now. I’m choosing to remain positive whilst mining for opportunities, recognising the silver linings and seeking out the bright spots. This is undoubtedly where my head is at. After all, blue sky thinking just so happens to be my specialty.

As Covid-19 descends on more and more communities around the world, Bob Dylan’s lyrics seem ever more pertinent;

Come gather ’round people, wherever you roam

And admit that the waters around you have grown

And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you is worth saving

Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone

The so-called ‘waters’ of 2020 sure have grown, but so too, has our resilience and natural inclination for innovation. We’re seeing brands across categories pivot and reframe to move with, not against the tides. Those of us who practise agility and creative expansion will no doubt be swimming, and those who don’t? As Dylan precludes, will sadly be sinking like stones.

As history has proven true on numerous occasions, a crisis is the ultimate innovation accelerator.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at the conception of some of the world’s most impressive innovations: Uber, Airbnb, Slack, Pinterest and Venmo. Spoiler alert: The 2008-10 World Financial Crisis gave birth to a fair dose of creativity.

But let’s not forget that innovation applies to all facets of business. In fact, today it’s not enough alone to purely innovate your product or service. What is required is that you innovate across your brand, your customer experience, your fulfilment, your systems, your team. When we look at some of the most successful brands right now – like Glossier, Away, and Warby Parker, for instance, these guys didn’t develop radically original products; they simply innovated the sphere that surrounds the product to offer a more valuable brand experience to their customer.

If you’re staring at your product or service wondering how on earth to ‘pivot’ during this time, try thinking laterally and consider instead, innovating the sphere that surrounds it.

Innovate your customer experience

According to a 2019 Salesforce customer research piece, 84% of customers claimed that a company’s experience is as important as its products. This trend is projected to reach a 100% parity between experience and product quality by 2023.

So how do we as brand builders create an unparalleled customer experience? We start by giving consumers what they may not even yet realise they want. Of course, this concept is entirely applicable to ‘normal’ times, but even more relevant to a time of crisis. Brands must consider how their product or service fits into their consumers’ lives during this time. We must seek to understand what consumers are struggling with—how this crisis is affecting them on a daily basis. Learn how they think, feel, and behave towards your brand through the filter of this crisis. This isn’t easy, but if you can decode these drivers, you’ll be better positioned to create long-term customers. Start by talking to your existing audience. Read their comments about you and your products on the web. Most of all, truly listen to what your customers are saying.

For businesses willing to adapt to convenience throughout their business, a great exercise is walking through the customer journey at each step and asking yourself, “Is this the most convenient option for our user?”

If you’re not continually evolving your business or service to be as relevant, valuable and convenient as possible – particularly during this time of uncertainty – you’ll be left behind with Dylan’s sinking stones.

Innovate your brand messaging

It may seem counter intuitive, but times of crisis actually provide fruitful grounds for brand’s to grow market share if they’re prepared to be creative, inventive and some-what unconventional with their messaging.

Right now, brand engagement has never been higher. Facebook and Instagram are reporting upto 40% more usage than normal (source).

To put it politely, business owners and brand marketers alike would be damn right out of their minds to not use this crisis as an opportunity to reach new audiences, provide more value and thus gain deeper and more expansive loyalties.

But, and it’s a rather large ‘but’, we simply can’t do as we have always done. During tough times the reflex is often to “turn up” the noise for a better yield rather than fine-tune it for a stronger harvest. And whilst we certainly believe this is not the time to be cutting your marketing budgets, I do think that the turbulent and constantly shifting landscape requires us to carefully, but considerably innovate our messaging too.

Being able to adapt to changing consumer behaviour, the dynamics of business and new developments throughout this crisis while maintaining a strong customer focus is essential to great marketing right now.

Harvard student Roland Vaile spent a year following the fortunes of 250 companies throughout the period of time following the Great Depression. “Using secondary data and an occasional survey, he followed these companies through the recession and into the growth period that ensued. Tracking both advertising investment and annual revenues, Vaile was able to divide the firms into three groups: those that did not believe in advertising, those that cut back advertising during the Depression and those that increased it.

His results demonstrated that companies that increased their ad budgets during the recession grew sales much faster than their rivals – not only during the downturn but also beyond it. Companies that decreased their advertising spend saw their sales decline both during the recession and then for the following three years. In relative terms, these companies actually underperformed even those that elected to do no advertising at all.” (source.)

Innovate your team workings

At Smack Bang, I’ve spent a huge amount of time building my team. It’s taken years of refinement, hard lessons and constant work to bring this team of brilliant minds together. So, it goes without saying that I want to hold on to these incredible individuals throughout this time – the first reason being that I care deeply for their wellbeing, and the second, more selfish reason is that I know this team of individuals will help Smack Bang come out strong on the other side.

Necessity is the mother of invention and there’s no time like a crisis or a recession to force a business to look very frankly at it’s systems and processes. Right now, at Smack Bang we are using this time to work productively and strategically at building a fool-proof future strategy. As a team, we’re considering where we want Smack Bang to be when the storm has passed. To do so however, we’ve had to adapt with speed to our remote working situation.

Luckily for us we’ve had a bit of practice, with the entire team working from home at least one day per week for the last 12 months.

Remote working aside, we’re using this time to fine-tune the way we communicate with each other, how we approach our work in a multitude of ways, and also, fostering new skills with additional training and online courses. Our focus at the moment is to over communicate with each other, celebrate every green shoot and go above and beyond for our clients and each other.

What I’ve learned is that people love improving the way they do things, they love when flaws are exposed and more efficient ways of doing things are uncovered. And surprisingly, they all seem to be thriving throughout this crisis.

Ask yourself, how will I use this crisis to strengthen my team and our processes so that we are even more united, productive and future ready on the other side of this?

 

Image credit: Maiko Gubler

Why now is the time to better your brand.

I am all too aware of the tragedy COVID-19 has caused the world over. The sheer scale and enormity of this crisis isn’t lost on me for one second.

However, in spite of the human health concerns and economic calamity, it’s important to recognise this crisis as an opportunity for growth and innovation across all aspects of our lives.

By definition, a crisis is caused by a major, temporary change. And as is always the cyclic pattern of life, death gives way to birth and destruction leads to creation. As they say, when something falls apart, that leaves room for a new beginning.

I’m currently reading ‘Simplicity Parenting’, by Kim John Payne. It’s a fascinating approach to parenting which asserts that children need time to be bored, as this is where creativity is bred. And I feel like we can all relate to this concept now as adults amidst a global lockdown. We’ve seen it in our (pre-pandemic) ‘past’ lives – when we’re buried in our own busyness and caught up in the daily chaos, we so often miss the opportunities and moments for ideation, innovation and creation. Just like our kids, us adults need stillness, space and a degree of boredom to be able to think creatively and expansively.

A crisis of this scale – not to mention a degree of boredom felt in self-isolation – presents major opportunity for growth, creativity and innovation. And we’re seeing it already, only weeks in. Brands across the globe traversing all industries are pivoting, reinventing and recalibrating to this new normal with grace, gusto and a strong inclination for long-lasting, well received transformation.

So, let’s talk about the ways in which you could use this time to stop and take stock, adopt a growth mindset and build out your brand for the better.

Get clarity on your mission.

As brand builders, we often get caught up in the day-to-day busyness, meaning the clarity of our brands’ core mission tends to fade into the shadows. Great brands – those building and equipping for longevity – are using this time to thoughtfully and strategically revisit and rethink their long-term trajectory and foundational brand purpose. They are looking to refine and distil their brand DNA and positioning, and tighten up their aligning comms and key messaging.

This crisis is a time for brands to reconnect with their core purpose, focus on what really matters, and embrace the opportunity to pursue business goals in a more meaningful, principle-driven way.

Develop a 3-6 month action plan.

Our brand plans for 2020 will absolutely need to be adjusted to accommodate the turbulence that is COVID-19. If you haven’t already, it’s imperative that you develop a plan for what the next 3-6 months will look like for your brand. This includes an overarching strategy, positioning, promotions, marketing opportunities and considerations for the unknown.

Consider ways you can adapt your offering to the current climate, whilst also anticipating changes in your customer behaviour as we move through the stages of this pandemic and what that means for consumers on a daily basis. Consider ways in which you might expand your offering to cater for what your customer truly needs during this crisis. This is a time for brands to take more risks and play a little outside their comfort zone, saying yes to opportunities they perhaps normally wouldn’t.

At Smack Bang we are building out 3-6month Brand Action Plans with our clients to ensure they survive, thrive and ride the momentum this crisis has to offer. We’re providing key insights, creative and opportunistic ideas to prove their value, ways to do good business that warrants lasting longevity and the ability to outshine their competitive counterparts. It’s about understanding the unique role our clients’ brands play in their consumers’ lives, how that has now changed, and how they can be of utmost value during this crisis.

Build community and connection

As humans, we’re programmed to seek out connection. While social distancing measures are absolutely imperative right now, they come with significant impact on individuals, communities and the world at large. Your audience is looking for alternative ways to fill this void and are connecting in ways they’ve never had to before. It’s a great time for brands to be supporting this notion, extending their reach and building true, genuine and lasting connection with their community.

Think about how you could extend your offerings to reach more people, how you could adapt your services to give deeper and more added value. What comms could you release that show how much you genuinely care and want to support your customer. If there was ever a time to go above and beyond for your customer, it’s during a serious crisis.

It’s important though, to consider ways you can connect on a more meaningful level, not just starting conversation for conversation’s sake. Think about ways you can rally your troops around purposeful concepts or thought-provoking ideas. How could you rally your community together to collectively give back in some way? Remember, how you deal with this crisis and the ways in which you support your customer through this will shape their view of you well beyond the end of this calamity.

Seize the social

There’s no denying social media proved its worth long before this crisis, but now, we’re realising its unparalleled value once again. As people are locked down with more time on their hands than ever, social platforms are seeing a huge increase in usage, engagement and overall growth. Brand engagement has never been higher. Instagram and Facebook have reported a 40% usage increase, with doubled ‘Live’ views and a 20% increase in stories’ impressions (source). The influencer agency (Obvious.ly) which analysed more than 7.5 million Instagram posts and data from 2,152 TikTok influencers, found a 76% increase in daily accumulated likes on Instagram #ad posts over the last two weeks. These stats are staggering, and if they don’t spur you into content action, then I’m not sure what will.

As we know, social is key to gaining and maintaining consumer connection. Make sure your present and pursuing content that creates compelling conversation, giving your brand the best opportunity to connect authentically with your audience.

Elevate your digital experience

Alongside social, there’s been an obvious and expected increase for ecommerce across the board with a reported 32% increase in online shopping, in stark contrast to a 35% decrease in bricks and mortar retail outlet shopping (source: Doyle Dane Bernbach). This acceleration of digitisation, as nations adopt self-isolation policies, shows how rapidly businesses can (and should!) be fulfilling customer demands online. We’ve seen a big shift to brands investing in their online experiences during this crisis, and rightly so.

At Smack Bang, we are adamant that a brand cannot and should not create an ecommerce platform without considering how their brand essence translates into an online experience.

Brand stories should be told, moods should be conveyed, and tone should remain authentic. Your online home should feel unique and relevant to the brand you’ve spent so long create in an offline space. The digital experiences we create are iconic to the brands themselves – a distinctive digital statement if you will.

Let’s face it, the proliferation of e-commerce, digital automation, virtual experiences, teleworking, and www enabled offerings are here to stay. COVID-19 is just the impetus to spring us into making the most of them.

Craft clever content

Use every opportunity of connection to support and serve your community, with your ‘sell’ very much being the secondary and more subtle sentiment.Be thoughtful about tone, sensitive to context and above all, just be human. Ensure you accommodate for the fear and anxiety that is felt by all, and communicate in a way that is not tone deaf to the situation.

As we navigate the intricacies of social distancing, content production may be a little more complex and time-consuming to create, but don’t let this stop you. With more eyeballs on your content than ever, it’s important you continue to develop strong, compelling and clever content. Although our process might be slightly altered, our photography studio is still creating content to ensure our clients don’t lose momentum. So, don’t be afraid to use this time to get creative. Be innovative with your content strategy and do something out of your comfort zone.

Image Credit: Jeff Hahn

Steering your brand through challenging times.

Brands across the globe are at battle.

As well as the usual battles of fighting for market share, being heard amongst the noise or racing to permeate a gap, we’re now facing a battle of another kind.

The battle to simply stay alive.

It’s safe to say that most businesses, regardless of their industry have been hit by COVID-19 in one way or another and are facing great economic impact – just how severe, only time will tell. Whilst we’re all doing our best to simply stay afloat during these times, it’s important to not revert to primal instincts, but rather, to act with elevated consciousness.

I believe the most appropriate brand response to a cultural moment that shifts as dramatically as it has in the face of COVID-19, is a human one. We need to steer our brands through the eye of the storm with even greater empathy, tact and mindful messaging.

As Marc Benioff suggests in his recent book, “Innovation can’t advance in a positive direction unless it’s grounded in genuine and continued efforts to lift up all humanity.”

While every brand is different, we’re all facing the same reality – the only way out of this crisis is through. No matter what that journey looks like specifically for your brand though, I implore you to pack with you the deepest respect and compassion for the world around you.

While we’re all doing our best to stay afloat, put out urgent fires, make tough decisions and future proof our business for the storm ahead, we can’t forget the one thing that’s going to save us all.

Our customers.

Don’t let the battle to stay alive, dim your ability to serve your customer. Because, if there’s one thing that’s going to help you weather this storm, it’s those loyal customers who have enabled your success thus far.

I have outlined below a six step basic action plan that can help brands of all sizes make the move forward through this storm with as much grace as one can have when facing a pandemic and world-wide recession.

Find your angle, and then your soapbox

During crises, industry leaders emerge as those who willingly roll up their sleeves, acknowledge the situation and give sage advice or creative guidance to navigate the storm ahead. Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or a large organisation, if you want to be seen as a thought leader, you need to have a voice on the topic. In my opinion, the only way to be valued is to have something valuable to say. And whilst I don’t prescribe to the notion that your business needs to become wholly centered around coronavirus, I do think it’s imperative that you acknowledge the reality of the situation we’re in, in a way that feels right for you.

Your community is looking to you as a voice of reason or guidance – it doesn’t matter whether they buy shoes or sandwiches from you – you’ve become a trusted ally to them for good reason.

The one thing that I will remind you of however, is to find your angle before finding your soapbox. Make it authentic, make it genuine and make it of lasting value. Use your brand values to remind yourself what your brand stands for, and what that means in the context of COVID-19. Lean into your humanity, let empathy set the tone and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.

Serve, don’t sell

Being in business right now, is simply put, tricky business. Going out and forcing your products on the world right now is insensitive, to say the least. But, the fact is, we want (dare I say ‘need’) our businesses to come out on the other side of this without becoming completely hijacked by it.

So, what does that mean for selling? It means you continue doing your best to focus on getting sales through the door while running it through this filter:

How does the service you offer up in an ordinary context make sense during an extraordinary crisis?

Ask yourself whether your product or service (or a variation of) could be of additional use or relevance in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, and adapt your messaging to reflect this.

Even if you can’t physically offer your service or product anymore, your aim is to offer exceptional value right now. Think about ways that you could offer up free content to ensure you keep your loyal community engaged. I would even go as far as to say that this could be the prime opportunity for you to win their loyalty on a whole new level by going over and above and delivering amazing value during this time.

Remember, right now we’ve been granted an incredible opportunity to connect with our customers – for the most part, a lot of them are sitting at home with more time on their hands than usual. How can you put time and effort into strengthening your ties with them so that on the other side of this they are your number one fans for life. As economist Paul Romer once said, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

Practice empathetic marketing

People the world over are feeling a heightening sense of vulnerability. The floor below us feels like lava, and our sense of security is unsteady to say the least. No matter how or what you share during this crisis, keep that in mind. Cross-check, double-check and triple-check all of your brand comms to ensure they are crafted with considerable attention toward any possible sensitivities.

The best marketing right now, will illuminate your values, tell compelling stories with a focus on helping others through the challenge of this crisis. This crisis is an opportunity for your brand story to deepen, grow, and evolve.

Hold your positioning, but bend to the notion

When facing a crisis there is a tendency for brands to drop everything and run in a whole new direction. And whilst I do believe pivoting is important, I think it’s equally important to not lose sight of your long-term agenda or entirely sacrifice your plans for 2020. I encourage you to see how you might be able to tweak and adapt your proposed positioning to the current climate, rather than abandon it all together. Perhaps there are ways in which you can evolve your positioning so that it bends toward the challenges we are facing, whilst still adhering to the messaging you had planned to run with. This way, you’ll better prepare yourself for life after COVID-19, because as we know, this too shall pass. I strongly believe that brands who are able to play both the short game and the long game right now, are the brands who will survive this storm and perhaps even thrive throughout it.

Don’t drop your standards

Now is absolutely the time to be nimble, agile and adapt quickly. ‘Tis true, brands who are slow to move and acclimatise to this crisis are the brands who will get left behind it. But, (and I can’t stress this enough), moving quickly doesn’t mean dropping the ball on your comms. It doesn’t mean sending something out that’s sub-standard for the sake of timeliness. Now more than ever, it’s important that you adapt your brand messaging strategically, carefully and with great care for detail. Just because you’re working quickly to recalibrate, doesn’t mean that you have license to drop your standards or create comms that are off-brand. Ensure that everything that goes out is to your normal standards – that means, no sloppy design, no spelling mistakes, no ad-hoc “this’ll do” work, just to get it out there.

Right now, more than anything, your customers need stability – provide that to them by remaining consistent and credible.

Keep it crystal clear

I am so curious to know how much brand engagement is up at the moment. I have no doubt that social media engagement is through the roof – global audiences suddenly have a lot more time on their hands (well most do anyways).  I also think brands are also working quickly and more aggressively to be seen and heard. Subsequently there is a lot of noise out there.

To think that we thought it was a noisy marketplace before! As brands now fight tooth and nail for market share, things just got even more heated.

The most important thing you can do with your messaging right now is to keep it crystal clear.

Remember, just because an idea is louder or flashier, that doesn’t mean the message is being heard. To be heard, we have to be smarter not louder. Expertly crafted messaging is what is going to cut-through, disrupt and connect.

 

Image credit: Vanessa Rees

Braving the Covid-19 Storm.

To our delightful Smack Bang community,

The speed with which COVID-19 has swept across our planet has been breathtaking. 

I wanted to take a moment to check-in with you all, not to let you know how often we are washing our hands (because we’ve lost count), but just to connect and send love. 

I’m aware that your inbox is already full with emails from many businesses with updates on how COVID-19 is affecting them. Like most, we at Smack Bang are facing an economic impact, just how severe only time will tell. 

There’s no denying COVID-19 has thrown a (rather large and extremely unwanted) spanner in the works for us all. But that, my dear friends, is the key sentiment – 

For. Us. ALL. 

We are bound together, as business owners, as humans, as part of this wonderful, crazy and somewhat collapsing world, we are one. 

During this time of uncertainty and heightened emotions, I implore you to adopt a growth mindset, over a fearful one. Let’s see what opportunities we can make from this. How can we pivot, tweak and adjust our businesses to cater to our new normal? How can we innovate, transform and reframe our current ways of working and thinking to give us the tools and opportunities that will not only see us survive this storm, but maybe even thrive throughout it.

In times of darkness, there is always an unimaginable, innovative and beautiful growth that starts to shine brighter and brighter, until the storm itself is blinded by the light.

Let’s take this time to recalibrate. Ask yourself, what felt heavy in your business well before this crisis? What have you been too scared to let go of, until now? And more importantly, in what ways could you BETTER serve your customers? How could you be offering real value to help your wonderful customers stay afloat in a time of such unease? 

Now is the time to implement, tweak, change and pivot. Don’t wait to hear tomorrow’s news, don’t wait to see what relief package you’re eligible for. As I’ve always believed, it’s not the big that eat the small, but the fast that eat the slow. In this situation, nimbleness will be your ally, creativity your guiding light and innovation your life raft.

Here at Smack Bang HQ, the team and I are going to keep at it! All day, everyday. We’re gonna keep working our arses off to keep driving our business forward – no matter how uncertain the waters are ahead of us. We know, if we band together, knuckle down, be brave and think laterally, we will find a way to weather this storm so that we can be there for, and with, all of our customers and community on the other side. 

To anyone who is feeling anxious, overwhelmed and paralysed by fear, please reach out to my team and I. You are not alone, we’ve got you.

With love, sanitiser and bravery,

Tess

Ps. Stop picking your nose. 

My 5 greatest business a-ha moments.

I vividly remember when we moved into our first ‘real’ studio. We upgraded from our quasi-illegal, deeply humbling alleyway warehouse we shared with a family of mice and an abundance of quirky neighbours and moved into a light-filled office above an art gallery in Woollahra. It was beautiful, clean and very on-brand. To our sheer delight, it even had OH&S approved stairs, windows and walls! 

And what’s more, we no longer had a studio that backed onto a lane smelling like a million garbage trucks just had an orgy! (sorry Mum)

Hoorah!

I felt like Julia Roberts in the latter half of Pretty Woman.

For me, starting a business at 22 could have been described as a case of insanity. I was a college drop out after four failed attempts, with zero savings and zero experience. It took the next three years of working 70 hour weeks to get Smack Bang off the ground. I said goodbye to weekends, holidays, friends’ birthdays, my own birthday, good health and devastatingly a loaf of Iggy’s sourdough bread on a Sunday morning (if you know, you know).

To outsiders, we’ve always looked primped and polished, but let me tell you, what may look like a well-oiled machine now has certainly had a few burnouts along the way.

This eight-year narrative contains far more ups, downs, and inside outs than I have time to write. We’ve outgrown 4 office spaces over that time, and with that went our Kikki K diaries and our USB sticks. We’ve lost clients, staff members, sleep and unashamedly our dignity (cue Xmas party 2016).

The intensity and the hurdles of the last eight years have truly built me into a bigger and better businesswoman, and woman for that matter. I feel as though I am able to handle more every day and turn each problem into an opportunity that works in my favour.

Fast forward and here we are now with 15 incredibly hard-working and capable employees, over 100 clients under our belt all the while thriving from our very own two-story light-filled studio in Woollahra. It’s been wild, it’s been chaotic, but mostly it’s been incredibly rewarding.

I’m still not entirely sure where I’m heading, and there are still many dark corners of the business. But I do feel that as a business and a collective of individuals, we are proud of the work we’ve done.

I’m still figuring out my definition of success. If you Google “success” you get a lot of trite quotes and corny cliches that feel similar to the positive affirmations hurled at me during that spin class I went to once, (in 1999….)

But when I stop and take a break from the merciless to-do’s, I can see that it’s all worth it. When my staff tell me that they’re happy and when our clients tell me they’ve had a 30% increase in sales, it’s all worth it. The moments when I’m standing in our pokey little staff kitchen making a cuppa and I can hear the team in a mix of hardcore taking-over-the-world brainstorm ideas and intense belly laughs, it’s all worth it. And when I get home to a lifestyle that I love and that I have worked my bloody ass off for, it’s all worth it.

Like most other entrepreneurs, I learned how to build a business whilst building my business. It’s been an on-the-fly, trial-by-fire kinda lesson.

  1. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step up
    Going on maternity leave forced me to take a step back and consequently, a step up. In the months leading up to the birth of my daughter, my General Manager and I were meticulous in planning and implementing systems that meant I could actually have time off.Stepping back allowed me to see the business and its working objectively. I could see the flaws and the parts that needed attention because I wasn’t in it. It also allowed me the freedom to decide how, upon returning, I wanted to step back into it – where I would be of the greatest value and what I wanted to prioritise.
  1. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should
    Everybody knows about the 10,000-hour theory of expertise. What most people forget is that it’s 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” — applying yourself and staying woke — not 10,000 hours of sleepwalking through your job.If I could give you any single piece of advice, this would be it, 10,000%. Continually ask yourself, is this the best way of doing it? Am I the right person to be doing this? Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. Learn the power of delegating, and it will allow you to have far greater impact.
  1. Diversification isn’t always the answer
    Creative genius is literally the ability to give birth to new ideas or solutions. As an entrepreneur, it can be so exciting to have the freedom to explore a million and one fun ideas – but just because you have a million ideas doesn’t mean you should pursue them all. Think about your end goal, and ensure these creative ideas are in complete alignment with your values as a person, and as a business.
  1. Pleasing two of the three P’s to stay in alignment
    At Smack Bang, we work with clients who fit a specific criteria. They must tick two of three boxes; Passion, Profile and/or Profit. Obviously, the trifecta is the goal. It took me years to be able to conceptualise and articulate this criteria. For a long time, I consulted my crystal ball and made decisions about which projects to take on with my gut. And then I heard from a friend of a friend, who was describing his methodology for choosing which projects to work on – Profit, Passion, Profile –  Wham bam, thank you, Ma’am, finally, we had a clear framework to base our clients off.
  1. Word of mouth is the O.G of marketing.
    Gone are the days where simply having a presence and a nice looking website were enough. Building trust with your audience is imperative if you want to remain relevant and memorable. Your brand is your reputation. Prioritise offline over online. You need to connect with your market, and not just collect them.Growing your online presence needs to be organic, and from this will come genuine and real relationships beyond the mere double-tap, and the sense of instant, false reassurance that comes with it. Be kind to everyone, simply because that’s the right thing to do, but also because of who you are and how you treat people is what leads to work and building a good reputation.
  1. You gotta do the work.
    I know I said I’d give you 5 tips, but like my local Indian takeaway joint, I like to under-promise and over-deliver. Consider this last point me throwing in some delicious (and free) samosas with your curry order.I hate to break it to you, but reading a book on how to kick a ball doesn’t qualify you for the World Cup. You need to do the work. Put in the time and build up the practice. You need to show up, with your sleeves roll up and consistently give it your all.

Image credit: Nat Turnbull

The pleasures and perils of scaling a business.

Before I had my daughter, I assumed my life would seamlessly and swiftly fall ‘back’ into place after my baby was born. She would enter the world effortlessly and gracefully in a similar motion to a dollop of ice cream leaving a scalding hot spoon. We’d fall instantly love and then I’d return to my busy schedule and growing business after 4 months of maternity leave. She’d be my trusty and obliging sidekick – happily tagging along to work with me and championing my every move. We’d have a nanny on hand, ‘sort out’ the daycare situation when the time came and I’d be able to return to my normal levels of busy with a beautifully balanced side of baby. 

…I’ll just wait here while all the parents on my list have a good old belly laugh.

Fast forward 10 months and I can tell you that I’m about as close to the above reality as I am to joining NASA and flying to the moon in a zebra spacesuit by 4pm Friday.

The integration of baby and business has been about as smooth as a flying mallet through a pane of glass. It has been crazy, yes, but beyond beautiful and utterly humbling – I speak more about my journey so far on the One Wild Ride Podcast.

But I’m not here to give you the blow by blow, nappy by nappy account of how incredible this journey into motherhood has been. I’m here to talk about how scaling my business early on allowed me the time, space and freedom to become a mother.

Retrospect is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?! When I was 22 I sacrificed travelling, partying and a wardrobe full of Zimmermann frills to get this business off the ground. At the time, it was a lonely journey and most days I questioned whether I was doing the right thing. But looking back today I am utterly and eternally grateful to my younger self. The beauty of starting a business at 22 meant that I got a few runs on the board, built this baby up to a team of 15 very capable staff and put plenty of systems in place before I even started thinking about having a family.

It wasn’t easy. There have been moments of demoralising and debilitating doubt, complete and utter exhaustion and, on multiple occasions, wanting to fake my own death, move to the Bermuda Triangle and never look back.

But the one thing I’ve been continually surprised by is how satisfying it is to grow and scale a business. This feeling of satisfaction, reward and gratification became especially apparent last year when I took maternity leave and Smack Bang continued to grow and thrive without me.

Let it be known, there are still many rough edges at Smack Bang. And dark corners of the business that still scare the pants off me. There are still, and always will be, plenty of mess and mistakes. It’s not glamorous, it’s not easy and most of the time I’m just Googling the answer to simple business equations like how to balance my income with my expenses.

Buckle in folks, this one is a biggy.

Let’s start with the perils.

The perils.

  1. You’re like a hamster on a ferris wheel
    The other day I was watching an episode of the late great Anthony Bourdain (rip my man, can’t wait to eat pasta with you in heaven), and he was in the Philippines watching a makeshift ferris wheel. It was as rickety as an old rotting bridge and dangerous as a red rag to a bull. Forget automation, there were a dozen or so, barefooted guys making this 30ft thing spin. To me, it was not dissimilar to running a growing business. As a founder, you’re both the person on the ride (holding on for dear life, hoping that this precarious thing has at least 10 more minutes of life span in it). But you’re also the guy running, jumping and pulling – you’re exhausted, running on adrenaline, your feet are burnt by the ground beneath you and you’re getting paid VERY little for the output you’re exerting.
  1. There’s a bit (read: a lot) of unpaid overtime
    When I first started Smack Bang we were incredibly lucky, we were Busy, with a capital B. Our workflow felt akin to drinking from a firehose. I would design for seemingly 90 hours straight. Then write for the next 90 hours. And then hustle new clients for 90 hours. Then when I was done that, I’d move onto the next thing for 90hours. Things got messy. When you’re moving at the speed of light, you’re also out-growing your systems just as they’re getting implemented – it’s chaotic, stress-inducing and you feel like your life is one giant game of hot potato.
  1. Growth is a truly scary thing
    The more clients, the more hires. The more hires, the more demand for work and therefore, more clients. It’s easy to start feeling like a G.I Joe being pulled every-which-way with no end in sight. Managing people is no easy feat (which is why I count my lucky stars for my General Manager each and every day) . Let me tell you, there is no worse feeling than letting people down. Whether that’s a member of your staff or one of your clients. You’ll make some crappy decisions along the way that could possibly end in a pile of your salty tears on the floor. You’ll have moments in business of absolute self-doubt and overwhelming anxiety. Moments that will downright make you want to quit.
  1. More money = more problems
    There’s no denying that running a business comes with a fair dose of fear. Particular when it comes to cash flow – every small business owner’s pile of steaming hot mess. In the words of Notorious B.I.G, more money = more problems. More money typically means more clients. More clients mean more staff. More staff means more cash flow issues. And on top of all that, as your business grows, taxes just get more and more complicated. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that Rolex might have to wait a couple more years.
  1. Time is scarce
    Business is hard enough as is, and somehow in between skimming your eyes over important emails, checking your P&L, processing payroll, woofing down another meal at your desk, frantically meeting deadlines all whilst planning the most instagrammable Christmas party for your staff, you’re meant to find room for life. Lack of time is no joke.
  1. You’ll sometimes forget to breathe
    There will be moments of serve burnout where self care feels like it is simply not an option. But when you’re suffering from stress, overwhelm, anxiety it will 100% be reflected in your work. I’m telling you loud and clear that as a business owner, your business depends on your health, happiness and productivity. If you’re tired, there’s a reason. Honour it and address the fatigue.

To this day, I’m still learning on the fly and despite the pitfalls that sometimes come with running a business, I wouldn’t have it any other way. So now, to end on a much lighter note – the pleasures of scaling a business.

The pleasures.

  1. You’re in the driver’s seat
    The liberation that comes with doing what you want, when you want to do it. I’ve always loved the thrill that comes with being in the driver’s seat – the risk and responsibility is all yours, but you get to drive as fast as you like, take the bends how you want and create your own destination. I’m super grateful to get to do that every day.
  1. You can stop doing for the sake of doing
    I believe the worst epidemic that our modern world faces is the disease of being constantly ‘busy’. So, my one piece of advice for you, If it doesn’t exactly spark joy (thanks Marie Kondo) you outsource it. Cut out the stuff you don’t want to do and focus on doing what you’re best at. I love this quote by Beyonce and can 100% relate – “I don’t like too much structure. I like to be free. I’m not alive unless I am creating something. I’m not happy if I’m not creating, if I’m not dreaming, if I’m not creating a dream and making it into something real. I’m not happy if I’m not improving, evolving, moving forward, inspiring, teaching, and learning.” Focus on the tasks that inspire and promote growth and your business will thank you in tenfold.
  1. Play to your strengths and delegate the rest
    Creating an uplifting and thriving culture is 1 part science, 2 parts art. When you get it right though, boy does it feel good. We have a great leadership team in place that inspires everyone (including me) to do beautiful, smart and thoughtful work. I feel constantly inspired because of my team, each member having their own unique skill set. So rather than wasting my time on things I don’t love or tasks I know someone else can do better, I champion our staff to operate in their genius zone. Once you’ve figured this out, you can start delegating and begin narrowing in on the shit you love doing.
  1. You get to keep your curiosity alive
    I am a big believer in being a forever student, and let me tell you, owning and running a business involves SO. MUCH. Learning. You’ll be faced with new challenges on the reg, but each one is an opportunity to learn and grow. Going all the way to the fiery pits of hells and coming back allows you to enforce some serious boundaries in your daily work life. And if I can let you in on a little secret; scaling your business is all about working smarter not harder.
  1. You get to watch your Sea-Monkeys grow
    Watching your team grow is an incredibly rewarding experience. From one kid who loved watching Sea-Monkeys grow to another, you know how satisfying that was. I love knowing each member of my team personally. I love knowing what drives them and what excites them. I love hearing about what they had for breakfast and what their Mum’s cousin’s next-door neighbours favourite song is. Truly, I do. Managing a small army has made me a better person, truly. I’m more compassionate. More empathetic. More resilient. More engaged. More accountable.
  1. Getting to work when it best suits you
    Leave your 9-5 mindset at the door because you get to determine your own hours of work now, and ain’t nobody gonna make you feel guilty about it. Discover when you’re most productive and form your days around a schedule that not only works for your lifestyle but promotes an effective working cycle, meaning you are on the clock when you are at your sharpest.
  1. It’s an empowering challenge
    Launching and running a business is a wild adventure. It’s like the heart monitor you hear in the ER. A blearing signal that lets you know your soul is not just rotting away in some grey cubicle with a hoard of other lifeless robots. The thrill of entrepreneurship is your daily dose of adrenaline. Self expansion and seeing what you’re capable of and unlocking your true limits is one seriously empowering adventure.
  1. You might just change the world
    Call it an ambitious target, but you can create some serious change by harnessing your platforms for the greater good. Your business doesn’t have to be the next Facebook or Patagonia to be an agent of powerful change. It can be as simple as opening the doors to a bigger conversation within your community in order to inspire and provoke change. And this alone is a good enough reason for me.

Image credit: Maria Esme del Rio

How to promote yourself without promoting yourself.

This is an excerpt from our Calling the Shots Ebook.

When I cast my mind back seven big-fat-exhausting years to starting this thing called Smack Bang, I’m instantly awash with nerves, apprehension and the urge to inject a good lashing of valium into my eyeballs. I was 22-years-old and had no idea what I was doing. I should have been scared out of my mind.

The funny thing is though, back then I wasn’t. Not even an incy-wincy-little-bit. I guess I didn’t know what I was in for. I was ballsy, brash and bright with optimism. I was young, dumb and I hadn’t yet worked out what a scary place this world is. I was crazy confident and gave zero F’s about what other people thought of me. The idea of putting myself out there to get new clients came to me just easily as eating 17 Caramello Koalas in one hit. I was capable of blasting my work out into the public, the same way my dog blasts out a wee in the middle of the street – with no shame and a strong dose of #sorrynotsorry.

And let me tell you, it’s a good thing I didn’t care back then. It meant that we got busy, fast. I was building an Instagram audience, writing blogs, perfecting my portfolio, meeting and greeting, and kissing babies. Before I knew it, we were fully booked. It was exciting, and on behalf of my naive, green, younger self, I am forever grateful.

Still, I know as well as every entrepreneur that the ‘Marketing Hat’ isn’t always the comfiest one us business owners have to wear. If the thought of writing an ‘about page’ makes you want to punch yourself in the face, or the thought of getting headshots makes you want to fake your own death and run away to Mexico, then this blog is for you. Putting yourself out there can be terrifying – we all know that visibility triggers vulnerability. Promoting yourself and your work can set off a string of self-doubt, followed by procrastination or paralysis, and a perpetual internal soundtrack of ‘this is lame’, ‘I am lame’, ‘what if people think my work is ugly?’, ‘what if people think that I am ugly?’, ‘who am I to do this?’. The miserable shame spiral continues.

I get it, PROMOTING YOUR WORK TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD IS DAUNTING (caps required). It brings up the most deep-seeded feelings from within your glass-case of emotions. This is particularly apparent in today’s context, as we now communicate on a global scale. We no longer bang up a sign on the front door only visible to those within our postcode, we upload an image that is instantly visible to 7.5 billion people. If that doesn’t fill you with all the dread of bumping into Pennywise the clown in the middle of the night, I don’t know what will. I am going to tell you to pull up your adult pants, take a spoonful of concrete and wrap your laughing gear around it, because if you want to do the work you were set upon this earth to do, and make the impact you were born to make, at some point you’re gonna have to face the music and put yourself out there. You don’t like the word ‘marketing’? Cool, it’s still crucially important. Call it, ‘Sassy reach-out mode’, whatever you will, but if you take anything away from this chapter, let it be this: Marketing is simply reminding people to hire you.

If you’re serious about attracting more dream clients into your life (and I know you are), then cast your weary eyes over these quick hacks to get you in the mood for a little bit of Promotion with a capital P. I’m not going to pretend I have this whole marketing thing figured out, but I’ve certainly come a long way since uploading an exceptionally fluorescent, lime green logo to my website.

  1. Get out of your own way.
    Sometimes we become the biggest roadblock to our greatest vision. When it comes to promoting work, usually, it’s ego and self-doubt that get in the way of kicking major goals. Feel this creeping into your world? Try taking a step back and look at the bigger picture. Often, the vision is far bigger than you are and your purpose far greater than you, so feel free to stop honing in on the granular reasons why people won’t hire you (that mole on your left shoulder, the slightly peculiar sense of humour), and zoom out to see what it is that you’re actually creating! What value are you adding to the world? Focus on that and forget your own stuff. Just do good work.
  1. Stop waiting for perfection.
    Waiting for perfection is like waiting for your children to put two of the correct shoes on in the morning (or so I’ve heard). I used to be a prisoner to perfection and would lose myself in the perfecting of each pixel and every goddamn micro-detail imaginable. But then I slowly began to see that things didn’t need to be perfect to generate epic results. Striving for excellence is all well and good, but striving for perfection is a bit crazy. Obsessive perfectionism is the arch-nemesis of productivity, second only to laying on the couch doing diddly-squat all day. Of course, aim for genuine, brilliant and extremely high value at all times, but don’t aim for perfection. Do what you can, with what you’ve got and put it out there and test the result yourself. If you stress too much-overdoing everything exactly right, you’ll never hit publish on your website, you’ll never send out that blog post, and you’ll certainly never send that ebook you’ve been working on for months on end to market. Fretting and being a perfectionist about everything you do merely keeps those sparkly dreams just out of reach.
  1. Make it about your message, not about you.
    If the bright shiny ‘me’ spotlight feels uncomfortable, feel free to pivot it slightly. Shine the light on your work, your purpose, your process, your brand, your surrounding assets. The key is to get purposeful and focused on promoting your message rather than you as an individual. I’ve found using this approach makes the art of promotion feel eleventy-billion times easier. When I feel like digging a hole and hiding out, I shine the spotlight on my team, our studio, our portfolio, our clients and our ethos. It’s great, because it keeps the momentum, without making you feel like you’ve sold your soul.
  1. Don’t be desperate.
    As a freelancer or small business owner, it’s easy to get panicky when the phone begins to stop ringing. It’s easy to scream to your boyfriend over the phone “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!”. But for the love of all things good and holy, don’t panic. Slice up some cucumbers, pat those babies onto your eyes and take a chill pill. Transcending into an emergency state of panic fuels your sense of desperation… and I hate to break it you, but clients can smell desperation a mile away. Even when you’re drowning in desperation and self-pity, you need to slap on a smile, and pretend like you’ve got everything under control, and your rent isn’t in fact twenty days overdue.
  1. Chew on abundance.
    Without getting too Tony Robbins on yo’ ass, I do believe the idea of manifestation has some merit. If you have a good scroll through Instagram, you’re bound to find at least 17 million inspirational quotes. Ignore the “live, laugh, love” ones and find one that says something along the lines of “what you focus on expands”. This is the shiz. If you focus on constantly having “zero clients, zero money, and zero ways to feed yourself or pay your rent” chances are things aren’t going to improve anytime soon. However, if you shift your perspective to focus on the bright spots, you’ll begin to attract more of that into your life. Even when our bank account begins to dwindle here and there, I always believe that I am 100% abundant. Whether it’s just a simple reminder I tell myself, or within my morning meditation, I focus my drive and my vision on abundance. And abundance is what I get. If you tell yourself for long enough, you’ll eventually convince yourself… and your bank account. Chew on that.

At Smack Bang, we’ve been lucky enough to have a somewhat steady flow of customers for the most part of our existence. But I guess that’s not just luck; we work tirelessly and endlessly to do great work, give our clients a first-class experience and market ourselves silly. Of course, just like any business, there are slower seasons, when we’re racking our brains to come up with new tactics and ideas to get more clients through our doors.

I know the stress of stumbling around trying to come up with new and improved ways of generating new leads all the while losing sleep at night wondering if I might eventually have to jazz up my resume and go get a real job. Whilst it often feels that our amount of leads coming in is out of our control, I can tell you right now, it’s not. That’s just one of the B.S. myths we tell ourselves that keeps us playing small. Generating red-hot leads isn’t rocket science or the exclusive rights of other more established businesses around. Instead, I believe that with a little skill, practice, creativity and persistence with our marketing, we can learn to attract a steady flow of dream clients through our doors quick smart.

Image credit: Gabriel Isak

Why a strong tone of voice is the ultimate Tinder turn on for your brand.

Correct grammar AND a witty tone of voice – The biggest turn on, ever. 

Spare me the six pack, body oil and Al Green tunes, my Tinder profile would be all about Merriam Webster approved lingo and dates who know their shit, as opposed to not knowing they’re shit. If you can spin the keyboard decks like Pandora Sykes or Zoe Foster Blake I’ll happily don a white dress, or should I say, take off a white dress. 

Before I get too Fifty Shades of Grey on you, let me relate this back to branding and business.

The thing is, like me, your customers too, want to read prose as smooth as honey and tasty as treacle. As you know, over the last decade ‘branding’ and all that it encompasses has really come into the spotlight. At first, companies started focusing on the idea of branding by simply jazzing up their logos – cue the millions of makeovers from traditional block serif to sexy sans serif, and a complete exodus of intricate illustrations and literal icons. Then, fast forward a few more years and we see this movement morph as companies start taking all visual aspects of their business up a notch – no longer was it okay to have mis-matched fonts, crappy stock imagery and neon gyrating gifs. And now, in 2019?! It’s all about that clever copy and distinct tone of voice. Straight shooting, heartfelt, emotionally engaging, creative, concise, charming, trust-inducing, share-worthy, SEO-genius copy that converts. Right now, I’d say your copy is the difference between a booming business or a business booing.

But, like, no pressure, or anything.

Since the inception of Smack Bang in 2011, I’ve been writing this here ol’ little blog every two weeks, (that was at least until my daughter came into the world and robbed me of my sleep). It’s been an absolute labour of love, super satisfying and at times hard to keep up with (FYI – sleep deprivation and creativity are a match made in hell). But the one thing that I have loved most about this writing commitment is the practice it has granted me in refining my writing skills.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something. I’ve written almost 220 blogs, and at approximately 4 hours each, that makes me not quite yet a master (juuuuust missed my quota by a mere 9,120 hours). However, I do feel the beauty of writing consistently is that over time you begin to distil your process and whilst the blank paper in front of you never gets any less daunting, the practice of storytelling and articulation becomes all the more easier. In my 880 hours, I’ve had a truck load of practice at refining the Smack Bang tone of voice. So much so, I can no longer discern between it and my own personal tone of voice – which, I believe it just as it should be as a founder.

But why is clever copywriting and nailing your tone of voice so important to your business’ bottom line?

Because simply put, copy converts.

The right copy aligned with the right brand builds trust with the right target market. And we all know that trust means loyalty, and that loyalty is the bedrock of a thriving business.

If you use the right copy to help market your business, it can skyrocket your exposure, clarify your offering, catapult your conversion rate and put you on the fast train to the business hall of fame.

The thought of writing something that strangers, and god-forbid, potential customers might read used to make my spleen shiver in fear. But over time and with a hell of a lot of practice, it has now become second nature to me. I’ve written about how to craft the perfect tone of voice before, and even shared with you a book that I think every copy writing marketer needs to read. But today I want to talk about WHY copywriting is so darn important for your brand.

‘Tis true, design captures your audience’s attention, but it’s your tone of voice that keeps them engaged, communicates your viewpoint and forms a lasting connection. At Smack Bang, we like to say ‘Design turns heads and copy turns minds’. After all, design is the heart of your brand, and your writing is the lungs, you need both to keep your brand alive and thriving.

Having a strategic, strong and clear copy guide in place will keep your brand voice from straying into no-man’s land.

Crafting a unique tone of voice means you’ll be talking to the right people – people who work with you, for you and who champion your every move from the sidelines.

Here’s what I know for sure:

  1. Bad copy is bad for business.

    We have all read copy that makes us cringe. It may be hard to put a finger on exactly what it is that makes the copy so bad but nonetheless, a lack of appeal definitely does not go unnoticed. You might have the most resplendent design to have ever graced the Earth, but if you can’t get your words in order, or if your grammar makes your text read like pig latin, then you’ll reap what you sow. A lack of care in the way you are presenting yourself and your business just shows pure unprofessionalism – just ask Trump.

  1. Good copy gets you noticed.

    Good salesmen (and women) are not verbose. They don’t use unnecessary, fancy, extravagant words for the sake of it. They speak like your loving older sister. Clear, kind and confident. You should be able to communicate your copy without the over-the-top embellishment of sale language that’s about as smooth as a bulldog chewing a wasp. Remember, consumers buy products from brands that they connect with on an emotional level and steer clear from brands that they don’t so make sure your copy conveys empathy rather than hard sells.

  1. Clear copy clarifies what you stand for.

    Words bring your brand to life. Building familiarity and trust is crucial to building a successful brand. To keep your loyal supporters loyal and your hard workers working hard, you’ve got to not only gain their trust but keep it. Therefore, you’ve got to practice what you preach. If you’re always banging on about being an eco-conscious sustainable brand, don’t go wrapping your products in layers of plastic while sipping on your Starbucks-mocha-latte just do your best to uphold your values.

  1. Copy gives your brand a human heart.

    People won’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they will always remember how you made them feel. That’s why it’s so important to give your brand a personality that your ideal customer can not only recognise but can relate to on a human level. People love hearing about people – we are one seriously narcissistic species. We want to know they aren’t alone in our struggles, that someone has suffered the same challenges we have and can tell us how they overcame them.

  1. Meaningful copy makes you memorable.

    In a sea of bland and boring content, a distinctive, grabbing voice can make you easily stand out from your competition. Therefore, you’ve got to make it considered and impactful. To quote the father of advertising, David Ogilvy, himself, “Tell the truth but make truth fascinating. You know, you can’t bore people into buying your project. You can only interest them in buying it”. Think about the way you use your words and the impression it makes on everyone who comes in contact with them – meaningful copy will influence and persuade.

  1. To state the obvious, words sell.

    Words hold the power to tell a story and captivate the hearts of many. Once you understand your audiences’ needs, your copy will then convince them that your solution can alleviate their pain most efficiently. At the end of the day, we are not just using language to list our features, or strategically serve up words to encourage your audience to take further action, we want to use copy to help our customers find reasons to fall in love with us. Because after all, all the best stories have a happily ever after.

Image credit: Jessica Walsh

Staying inspired.

This is an excerpt from our Calling the Shots Ebook.

Sometimes, I want to fake my own death and move to The Bahamas. I feel sluggish, lethargic and about as uninspired as a kid in a mortgage broker’s office.

Creativity is a fickle thing. And we often feel the furthest from it at approximately 3:14pm when all our energy has been sucked dry from a lunchtime meeting and a morning spent preparing for it. If your never-ending to-do list is putting the fire out on your creative spirit, you need to have a set of jump-start leads at the ready to ignite your creative process again.

When you work for yourself, there comes a point where you have, in fact, created a job of your own making. You’ve settled down into your routines, settled into the pattern of busy times and not-so-busy times, and you aren’t as freaked that you’ll never get another client again (but sure are grateful when you do!) You’ve systemised things so that you’re ahead of the curve and feeling the flow.

And not only are your responsible for balancing the books, rallying the troops, paying the people and keeping the plants alive (literally), but you’re also responsible for your own wellbeing and ensuring that your mental health is solid enough to keep carrying you forward.

When you’ve got the head-full-of-cotton feeling, it’s always good to find some inspiration to fill you back up again. It’s time to get re-inspired. Get off social media and into something worthwhile. Find a podcast that makes you laugh, pick up an old faithful book that you know does the trick, head to your local newsagent to score a good mag, or wander through the streets to soak up the creative energy floating about.

If you are committed to sticking with your dream through thick and thin, then I have some good news for you: it’s entirely possible to get the fire back.

Here’s my list of top tips to set fire to your biz in the best way possible.

  1. Set some fresh goals, stat.
    Goals are a force to be reckoned with, when we list them out, we start to have a burning vision to see them come to pass. Every few weeks, I take time to sit down and devour inspiration from a number of sources. I read books, I listen to podcasts, I cyber-stalk my idols, I churn through magazines, and I walk along the beach just taking it all in. Taking time to brainstorm and refocus your energy can be incredibly satisfying and inspiring, as well as produce an instant spark. Write them down, say them out loud, meditate on them, and begin to self-actualise all the exciting new goals you’ve set for yourself.If you need to get other people in the room, hold a brainstorming session over lunch with your team. Refresh their dreams, the company goals and point back towards the overarching vision. All while eating donuts.
  2. Create!
    Get off those emails and turn back to your first love: creating! Conduct a photoshoot, listen to a podcast, write something that’s on your mind, paint, draw, douse yourself in glitter. Create a workspace that’s worthy of your best work. Keep it tidy, keep it pretty, make it green, and make sure there’s always epic tunes playing. While you’re at it, have some fun freshening up your copy and your images. Reflect on whether your current website accurately depicts the current you, and evolve accordingly.As you take a creative detour, let your people know that you’re still alive, but are merely taking a form of sabbatical to get those juices flowing again.
  3. Invest in you.
    Check out an event, take a course, see a musical, watch a film, attend a conference, meet with your mentor. Take time out for yourself to immerse yourself in things that will inspire and refresh you!If it’s a holiday you need, then flipping book one! Make sure you’re positioning yourself in the exact right place you need to be in order to bounce back like those tiny bouncy balls that used to drive your mum crazy when you were a child.
  4. Rework your spending.
    Feeling flat? Chuck a Regina George and take the gang shopping. Retail therapy is a wondrous thing, but we’re talking rebranding. Put your money where your mouth is when it comes to your brand, and attract all those magical people you’ve been so passionately chasing.Meanwhile, critically analyse your current spending. Where is all that money going? Pointless subscriptions? Overheads you could eliminate? Where are the holes where your money is bleeding from? Cutting the fat from your spending means more money for exciting things like millennial pink walls and delicious g trees. Make it rain inspiring, beautiful, attractive branding!

To continue reading and get access to another 4 hot tips to get your creative juices flowing, download our ebook and head to chapter 3.

P.s. To encourage some positive new financial year resolutions, for a limited time only, we’re bundling together the ultimate entrepreneurial bundle to offer you a healthy balance of inspiration and practical application. Saving over $50, you’re not going to want to miss out on this!

Image credit: Joost Termeer

The anatomy of great content.

Pop quiz. What is the goal of any content? To get it seen, read, loved and shared. Duh.

Now let’s agree on another thing from the get go, creating engaging content takes time, perseverance and loads of gusto. It’s a long, hard road, and to be honest, one that has no final destination. In order to reap the benefits of great content, you need to be creative, consistent and committed to the cause.

But why does content matter? How do I go about creating it? Will my business die a painful death if I don’t? And will I win a Nobel Prize if I nail it?

Well, no, we can’t all win Nobel Prizes every day, but what I can promise you is this.

Creating killer content will propel your brand forward, win you some serious street-cred amongst your following and give you a gold star as a bonafide expert in your field. In a nutshell, you’ll hit that sweet spot like Julia Stiles does in the paintball scene of 10 Things I Hate About You, where life is great, her smile is a 10, and she hasn’t yet found out that Heath has been lying to her this whole time.

With the expanse of this thing we call the internet and the many many new businesses popping up, there are mountains upon mountains of mediocre content landfill out there, unless your content is creative, relevant and unique, it’s just added pollution.

The good news is, in this crazy clicking-tweeting-poking world of ours, relevant and engaging content travels faster than my mother to an episode of Grand Designs. Hence why smart companies the world over, are tapping into this epidemic and spoon-feeding their audience killer content to heighten awareness, foster brand loyalty and drive their bottom line. If you simply know and practice the things that create quality content every time, you can’t help but please your audience and win new friends left, right and centre.

I read the other day that between 60-70% of consumers feel better about a company that delivers original content and are more likely to buy from that company than others. So, if you were still questioning whether or not to create your own stuff, stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

I’ve seen first-hand how creating original content can transform both a business and its bottom line. Ever since focusing my energy on content creation and curation for Smack Bang many moons ago, I’ve noticed the impact it has had on our brand awareness, customer loyalty, and even our bottom line. It still surprises me that each time we put out a new piece of content, whether it’s a blog, a newsletter, an Instagram post, or a jet plane message in the sky (we’ve never done that, but we will), we see a spike in our interaction and more often than not, our new business enquiries. It’s this ability to weave our brand culture into every single facet of our business that gives our audience, (and potential customers), a look into our world, a spark of connection and a genuine reason to get in touch with us.

A quick disclaimer; I don’t just write and publish content for this reason. I do it because I hand-on-heart genuinely love it. I love writing, I love sharing and I love using it as a platform to connect with loads of like-minded people. And connect I do.

Creating content has become one of my main focuses of my role. I pour countless hours and drink countless coffees to produce everything you see the Smack Bang Gang deliver. I write, I post, I publish and I track our stats like a kid counting their eggs from an Easter hunt.

So, how do you go about creating your own killer content? Well, let’s first begin with what actually makes a piece of content. You my friend, are about to get schooled in the bizniz of telling stories. And quick tip up front: whatever story you’re writing, make it original and compelling, the cross section of this is where the magic is made.

  1. PIN DOWN THE PURPOSE
    The precise moment between drinking the strongest coffee you can find and putting fingers to keyboard, have a think about the purpose of this piece of content you’re creating. Is it to provide a new perspective? Solve a customer’s problem? Show off a certain aspect of your business? Or are you just blasting out an improvised cat meme hoping that if your Aunt Sue reposts it, it will go Bieber viral?
    Pinning down your purpose means jumping in your customer’s shoes for a second – listening to their problems and responding with timely, targeted and relevant content.
  2. HARNESS THE HUMANITY
    At the risk of sounding like a broken record (not that any of us know what that sounds like anymore), people don’t like to do business with brands, they like to do business with people. Killer content harnesses your humanity. Each piece of content you create should have a fair whack of you injected into it. Don’t just skim the surface of a topic and regurgitate info that Wikipedia could have said better. Dig deep and provide a personal perspective, written from your heart. By doing this, you’ll lift your reader out of their ordinary world and invite them in to see yours.
  3. SELL THE STORY, NOT THE THING
    With every man and his MacBook Pro jumping on the content bandwagon, it’s important, now more than ever, to spin a good yarn. We are living in an age where customers crave more than just flashy features, a jazzed-up catchphrase and will no longer respond to a toothy grinned salesman in a suit. Being ‘sold to’ is so 1990. Today’s customer wants to buy into a lifestyle, a perception, and a philosophy. Sell them the story, and in return, they will want the thing.
  4. OFFER THEM VALUE THEY CAN’T REFUSE
    When I first started creating content I would sit down, consult my magical crystal ball and tap out a compilation of words that I thought sounded ‘chic-nerd’, hit publish and call it a blog post. Here I was thinking I was a ‘blogger’ but in actual fact, I was just a hot mess with a thesaurus and a WordPress login. I was adding absolutely no value to anyone’s life. Not even my Mum’s, and that’s saying something. Take the time to think about how your content will add value to your customer’s lives in a meaningful way. The end goal is for them to walk away with newfound knowledge, a thirst for more and an appreciation for you and your brand.
  5. KEEP OT CONSISTENTLY CONSISTENT
    Consistently produced content is the difference between a one night stand and a long-term relationship. It is the great divider and the ultimate checkmate of killer content. Consistency breeds connection and inspires loyalty. Avoid being the Eiffel65 one-hit wonder (Blue Da Ba De, much?), and instead become the reliable friend and familiar voice, the one they grow to love and trust. Believe me, this ongoing recognition is a powerful thing.
  6. FIND YOUR OWN ‘YOU’
    And last but certainly not least, write your own g-damn story. Being authentic means writing from the heart and telling your own story, not a story that you found, loved and ripped from a web page. A few years ago, I came across an article online that was a word for word rip off of one of my recent posts. At first, I was gobsmacked, not only because of the next-level plagiarism but also at how freaking unlucky this girl was for me to find it? I mean, in the huge labyrinth of online content and the miles of blogs I could have stumbled across, I came across hers! Unlucky for her, but fury-inducing for me. She had quite literally ripped my entire blog post that was littered with personal references about my journey as a business owner – even the one about selling belly button dusters at the age of 5! C’mon girlfriend, you, me and the rest of the world know only one kid was weird enough to do that.

Image credit: Felix Schöppner

Nailing your branding

This is an excerpt from our Calling the Shots Ebook.

We all have that one friend populating our Insta-feed with seriously perfect, immaculate and downright envy-inducing imagery. Whether it’s an Amalfi throwback, a play-by-play of outfit inspo or some snap-happy moments from a sunshine-filled Saturday, you can always count on them to curate a perfectly cohesive and aesthetically-delectable feed.

She’s the gal with the perfect home, the knack for landing the perfect outfit and the always bouncy, always shiny hair. Her entire feed is like a perfectly glazed donut, beautiful both to look at and to ravenously consume. Meanwhile, you watch from your stained couch, hair in a topknot, surrounded by yesterday’s toast crumbs. She somehow manages to pull off the perfect life with not only a smile on her dial, but the most well-dressed toddler in tow. She is a picture of perfection. Her entire look, a carefully crafted brand.

There is no doubt that we’re living in an age of aesthetic, where our success and worthiness is measured on our presentation, both online and IRL. We live in a world where people are moved by looks first and function second. Even people who have no business, or interest in business are building themselves a brand. The very act of sharing our lives, our stories and our selfies is building a personal brand, whether we like it or not.

To say ‘branding’ is the buzzword of the century is a gross understatement. It’s almost as prominent as the phrase ‘fake news’ on Trump’s daily Twitter meltdown.

And there’s good reason for this. Businesses are popping up left right and centre. Nowadays, it’s never been easier to catch yourself an ABN and set up the most basic of business ideas on the internet.

Back when the store only carried one type of flour, brand wasn’t so important. But now, with the utter dominance of the internet in every facet of our lives, we as consumers are exposed to endless choice. The supermarket is an overwhelming place, why? Because we walk in and are instantly hurled with multiple iterations of the exact same product all screaming for our attention. It’s like walking into a room full of cute puppies, only the supermarket products aren’t cute, furry and we don’t even want to take them home.

Creating and building brands is my obsession-slash-divine calling and, joyously, also my daily 9-5. Over the last 6 years of running Smack Bang I have had the honour of building quite literally hundreds of brands. I am so entrenched in the world of branding, I swear to god sometimes I catch myself wondering how to leverage my dog’s name into the world, and all the clever and fun ways I’d go about doing it. Oh, if I had the time.

When you are building a business, no matter if you’re setting out to be the next Amazon or a solo one-man-band, one of the most critical areas of focus is creating a brand identity – that is, who your company is and what it stands for. And I’m not just saying this because I’m biased and currently sitting in a branding studio with 15 other total brand geeks. Most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that branding is the single most important thing you can do, outside of figuring out what your business model is. In fact, figuring out your brand DNA should arguably be your first order of business – before any products stock the shelves or Insta stories are shared to the masses. It will bring value to your backend and your bottom line.

Your brand identity is a necessary component to helping your business grow because your business identity encapsulates what your business stands for. It’s the purpose, the mission, the look, the feel, the tone and the voice of your company. It’s the determinant of how the audience will perceive you. So many people make decisions about the name, the logo and the colours they use so casually. They are forgetting that each of these decisions should come from the brand identity. There is a science and an art to it. And without it, you will have a difficult time really building your business.

So, building a brand hey… sounds simple enough, right? But it’s layered with complexities. Your brand is your business, and your business is your brand. It’s an all-encompassing entity and a complete manifestation of your business’s values, goals and mission. It’s the catalyst that sparks the emotions you want your customers to experience. It is your true compass – guiding every decision you make, from what design aesthetics you use to the tone of your Instagram feed to the employees that you bring on to be part of your team.

It’s a gigantic, inconceivably tricky ball of tangled jewellery to unravel. But from my perspective, branding can be boiled down to a simple notion:

Branding is the story you tell and the story you sell.

Your brand is the narrative you weave to show people who you are, what you stand for and how you can improve your customers’ lives. It’s the way you position yourself in the market, the way your customers perceive you and the reputation you create for yourself. Your brand is your way of communicating to the world, and to your customers, who you are and just as importantly, who you are not.

A successful brand knows what it is, knows why it’s different and knows why people want it.

But what does a brand do for a small business like yours? And how is building a brand going to change your bottom line?

Well here’s the thing, a brand story isn’t just a valuable marketing asset, it’s also a brand’s guiding principles and impacts every facet of the organisation. In other words, it’s not just a marketing message, it’s also your sales pitch, your guiding compass and a roadmap for your A Team. Branding provides a platform for connection — both with your customers and your suppliers/employees. It allows them to see you for who you really are and therefore allows you to attract the right people into your biz.

So where do you start? What are the guidelines to this process? How do you know you are doing it effectively?

Building a brand is not something that should be rushed. It takes time, a lot of thought, and a lot of soul searching (hemp pants not compulsory). You need to dig deep to get to know yourself, know your audience, the reason why your brand exists and to think long and hard about your future.

When a client waltzes into our Smack Bang studio ready and raring to brand themselves a new Richard Branson-esque empire, we start with the million dollar question, “Who are you?” This question can be either simple or complex, depending how philosophical you want to get and how in touch you are with your existential side.

So how do you figure out who you are, and blend that with the business you want to be known for, even if you’re the type of quirky human who really enjoys plucking the feathers out of your cushions and planting them in the yard? We put together a few thoughts to get your wheels in motion…

To continue reading and get access to another 12 of our favourite tools of the trade that will save your life, download our ebook and head to chapter 3.

Image credit: Panos Moesis

Consistency breeds prosperity

Contrary to the popular song, the best things in life are not free. The best things in life come at the following costs:

Bottle of red – $20 (much under and you’re not invited to dinner)

Chocolate – $3 (Cadbury is still king)

Memory foam pillow – $200 (worth it)

Massage – $55 or $120 (depending on your risk tolerance)

Overseas holiday – $5,000 (those ‘Euro summer’ selfies don’t come cheap)

Therapy – $100-150 an hour (any less and you may as well rent my dog for the day)

The above is a list of the reasons why I work.

Whilst I’d love to be the token philanthropist who works endlessly for free. The above necessities cost money and therefore require me to have money in my bank account at all times. I’m okay with this, particularly because I’m one of the lucky few who get paid to do work I love.

But what I’ve come to realise is that ‘getting paid’ as an entrepreneur, certainly doesn’t come as easy as it did when I used to throw on my Gloria Jeans apron and dish out a coupla hundred coffees a day.

Working hard as a business owner takes on a whole new level of Arnie Schwarzenegger muscle. When you work for yourself, you have to work much, much harder to get those pennies in your pocket. And what’s more, if you’re working in a growing business, you’re last in line for those pennies.

So how does one do it? How do you make ends meet and earn enough keep for your weekly block of Fruit & Nut?

In my opinion, it comes down to consistency. You show up, every damn day.

I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by some pretty exceptional business owner friends, and the common thread that I see amongst those that are striding forward and feeling fulfilled by their work, is consistency. They know that it takes grit, determination and hard bloody yakka to see their dreams come true.

And whilst I don’t condone slogging it out to watch every second of your Apple Mac’s journey of depreciation, I have seen the rewards of consistently showing up to your desk, to your inbox, to your customers, to your staff and to your coffee machine.

Among my mates, there are a few that play with the brakes and accelerator of business like all the good taxi drivers of New York – it’s a game of Russian Roulette – they go hard and go home far too sporadically in my opinion. From what I’ve seen, this just leads to a lack of momentum, a feeling of exhaustion and stopping just short of the finish line each and every time.

Because the thing I believe, is that success isn’t built on strategy. Success is built through execution.

Having a consistent practice of showing up and doing the work is, in my view, far more valuable than any degree of talent or experience. It’s also far more valuable than the business idea itself, no matter how grand that lightbulb is. Having the world’s best talent coupled with the world’s best idea simply doesn’t cut it in the long haul. Being successful and bringing your vision to life is about doing the work and showing up. If you ask me, it’s the defining factor between failure and success.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. That’s a truckload of time, requiring some consistent behaviour and discipline to show up each and everyday and practice. It means putting in the effort, being engaged and interested, and above all, following through.

In my brief, but bracing, time as a business owner (who pays way too much attention to other businesses and how they’re run), I’ve been convinced that brilliance isn’t born, it’s built. Here’s why:

  1. Consistency leads to habits.

For better or for worse, our habits come to define us. Habits are creepy little things, they sneak up on us whilst we’re going about our daily lives and before we know it, they’ve latched onto our souls like permanent parasites. But if you can gain control over your habits, and form positive ones that ensure productive days and conscious choices, you can forge yourself into the person you want to become. My day starts when the sun rises, and from then it’s all systems go as I always do my best work before 9am. This habit allows me to pump out three hours of uninterrupted work before the phone starts ringing and my inbox starts filling. It’s a habit I’ve consciously cultivated for the majority of my working life and will (hopefully) stick to forever.

  1. Consistency creates accountability.

By consistently showing up and doing the work I’m unintentionally but very clearly telling the people around me that they can rely and depend on me. And in return, I give myself a sense of accountability, to be there for those people. Simply put, it’s a two-way street. As business owners, we consistently expect our employees to be accountable for their deliverables and goals. But what I think is even more important than that, is that they should be able to expect the same in return from our leadership. I put a priority on making time for and being available to my team whenever and wherever they need it – no if’s, but’s or maybe’s.

  1. Consistency establishes your reputation.

Just like your street cred, your business growth requires a track record of success. From my experience, it’s difficult to establish a track record if you are constantly shifting gears or failing to follow through. From what I’ve noticed, the majority of business objectives don’t fail before they get to the finish line because the strategy was flawed, but instead because the vision wasn’t played out right to the very end. If you’re showing up, doing the work and following through, you’re building on your reputation and staying relevant, just simply by putting one foot in front of the other.

*

When I back look over my relatively short but sweet career trajectory so far, I’m well aware that I haven’t done anything amazing. I’ve just done the work consistently. And what I’ve noticed is that eventually you reach a point when success can’t outrun you anymore. Not when you’re steadily hunting it down with a dagger in your hand. Success is not about luck or a brilliant idea. It’s about stickability. The stickability to keep going, even when reason and distraction would suggest otherwise.

Image credit: Yoshinori Mizutani

11 Ways to ‘Work Smarter Not Harder’

There are a few idioms that have only ever made about 5-10% sense in my head since day dot of hearing them, but I’ve never really thought long or hard enough about what they actually mean.

For example:

No use crying over spilt milk.

Feeling under the weather.

Wouldn’t be caught dead.

And that ever-so-puzzling adage,

Work smarter not harder.

I’ve spent the last 29 years of my life, not only nodding my head graciously when people use these phrases and pretending like I know what they mean, but heck, sometimes these words have even escaped my own mouth with no freaking clue what the hell I’m talking about.

In particular, I struggle with the last one, ‘Work smarter not harder’. Okay sure, sounds great in theory but how exactly do I work smarter, not harder? It has had me baffled for years. I get the theory behind it and absolutely do my best to put it into practice, but today I’m on a mission to break it down once and for all.

What I’ve come to learn is the phrase ‘work smarter’ means something different for everyone depending on their definition of success and progress – but, one thing we all agree on is that working smarter means getting more value out of the hours that you put in. Kinda like going to an all you can eat buffet. You pay the same price regardless of how much you eat, so you may as well stuff your face ‘til you’re moderately to excruciatingly uncomfortable in your own clothes.

This means leveraging our own time, effort and money, prioritising our own needs, outsourcing help, cutting our losses, and building upon strengths in an intentional manner to advance ourselves in the direction we choose. In other words, working smart essentially means figuring out how to reach your goals in the quickest and most economical way possible. Think a combination of Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss and your mum’s house cleaning abilities on a Saturday morning.

Here are some ways I’ve recently been applying this well-worn motto to my life and business, and getting back some sanity and extra hours in my days.

 

  1. Patch up the holes in your bucket, dear Liza.

So, you’ve got a great business, but you’re leaking money faster than a drunk teen on the pokies? You’ve got too many holes in your bucket, dear Liza. Working smarter not harder, means conducting regular audits of the business to look for holes or gaps where you might be leaking time, energy or money. My general manager and I have a massive spreadsheet that lists literally every aspect our business on it – yes, it’s bigger than Ben Hur (another idiom I have no idea about). I make it my mission to look at one or two of those aspects every few weeks and critically analyse how we are currently approaching it from an operational perspective. Could we be more efficient at how we tackle it? If so, how? It’s generally a matter of looking at the process objectively and asking if the right people are on the job, if software could handle it for us, if we’ve been hitting roadblocks at certain points or if there is a solution we can implement to ensure a faster, smoother process. It requires strategic thought, an objective point of view and asking many, many, often stupid questions of ourselves.

 

  1. I always have a ‘Tess to stop doing list’.

Delegation is a powerful force. Particularly when it’s done well. I have a post-it note sitting on my computer that reads “Is this for me?” No, it’s not the beginnings of an existential crisis, it’s a reminder to critically analyse every task, email or request that comes my way. I do my best to ask myself at each situation, am I the best person to be answering this question or performing this task, or am I better to delegate it? To be more effective, you’ve got to ask for help and enlist people who are better at certain tasks and functions than you are to free you up to do the tasks more suited to you.

But remember, this is only effective if you have the right people in the right positions who know exactly what their job descriptions are.

 

  1. Batching is the bee’s knees.

As our world gets busier and our phones get beepier, it’s important we become more be intentional with the hours in our day and strive for velocity over volume. This means increased focus with decreased distractions, aka no multitasking. As far as I can tell, we’re the only species that goes a little Cray Cray for multi-tasking. I mean, I’ve never seen my dog try to eat, drink, bark and defecate simultaneously. Oh, actually, only that one time after she ate a rotting deer leg at the beach and got incredibly sick.

Anyways, I have an obsession with batching tasks. Each week I list out the days ahead of me and batch tasks under each of those days according to similarities and focus required. The days I’m in the studio, I start at 6am (which means a 4:30am wake up call – yikes), and from the get-go it’s ON – I tackle all the small tasks like emails and 10 minute tasks. The days I’m at home are more bigger picture , strategy days. Which leads me to my next point….

 

  1. Have ‘untouchable’ days.

I recently wrote about why I’m having ‘Untouchable Thursdays’, you can read more about that here, but essentially, I have one day a week where I’m uncontactable. I spend the day at home working on big, fat juicy tasks that will actually propel the business forward. Without any meetings, emails or G-chats from my team I’m able to truly focus and zone in for the entire day. It’s blissfully productive and the business is so much better off for it.

 

  1. Strap in for the long game.

Have a gazillion and one items on your to-do list and double the amount of emails in your inbox? That’s perfectly okay. Stop thinking you need to finish all of them right this second – instead focus on the things that are crucial to your business’ bottom line and your personal gratification. My advice is to slow down and focus on the things that are actually going to propel you towards your goals – those that bring the greatest long-term impact. Often these tasks require greater psychological bandwidth and deeper focus, but trust me, they are so worth scratching your head over when you see the results they bring you.

 

  1. Play to your strengths

I’m sure you’ve heard about the 80/20 rule? It’s a principle often applied to business that argues that if you have a list of 10 items to accomplish, 2 of those items will turn out to be worth more than the other 8 items put together. It sounds unrealistic, but once you put it into practice, it’s veracity becomes undeniably apparent.

When we are busy, stressed and overwhelmed, we tend to procrastinate on the 20% of tasks that are the most valuable to our business, and instead gravitate towards the less important 80% of our tasks that are easy wins, or time-fillers.

In order to have impact and velocity in our days, we should instead, focus on the 20% vital tasks that will bring us most success and satisfaction. The way that I do this is write down a list of 10 goals for the day, and then circle the 2 that will bring most impact to the business – the key here is to think about the long term benefits these tasks will bring you. Then, I get cracking on those tasks first. Once I complete those top 2 tasks, I know that I’ve skewed my day to ensure the 80/20 rule works in my favour. The remaining 8 tasks on the list are simply cherries on the icing.

 

  1. Put some things on auto-pilot.

I’m not suggesting you do as Zuckerberg does and wear the same thing every day for the sake of productivity, but I do agree that reducing the amount of decisions we need to make each day allows us to focus on the more important things. Think about the everyday tasks that you do that you could perhaps automate. By eliminating things like going to the store to buy toilet paper every two weeks (Hello Who Gives a Crap!), you can focus that time and energy on more important tasks instead.

 

  1. Break up with your inbox.

Stop checking your email every two seconds. It turns out we each have one reservoir of will and discipline, and when we start to spiral into exhaustion or burnout, our reservoir gets depleted and we are less inclined to stick to the things we know are good for us. I know for myself, that when I’m feeling tired it’s far easier to spend the day eating Mars Bars over salad, and dawdling my day inside my inbox doing menial tasks, than it is to work on the bigger ticket items that will actually have long last effects on my business.

 

  1. ‘Sleep when you’re dead’ is for suckers.

In the past when I was feeling behind, I’d stay up late trying to catch up. This works if you do it very occasionally, but I did it all the time. That made me tired, meaning more mistakes, less foresight, and less energy focused on the work. Now when I’m feeling behind and tired, I take the day off and come back in the next day refreshed and raring to go. As tempting as it is to handcuff yourself to your desk and force your tired self to smash out all of that work, it’s really just setting you up for burnout in the long run.

 

  1. Research how the big doggies do it.

There’s no denying I’m a sucker for a self-help book. My house is drowning in them and I buy them faster than I can read them. Why? Because I want to know successful people’s’ secrets. I think, surely if they’ve figured out how to maximise their time and reap the rewards, I can learn from them? This is why I devour book, podcasts, blogs and eavesdrop at every chance I can. Tools of Titans is a great starting place for anyone looking for ways to work smarter, not harder.

 

  1. Look back to look forward.

It might seem counterintuitive, but sitting still is actually one of my favourite methods to move forward. I find that when I’m still, be it in meditation or simply enjoying a day at the beach, by creating a sense of spaciousness and looking back, I’m able to look forward.

Reflection allows your brain to better access new strategies and ways of working with greater clarity and focus. To give you an example, the other day I was reflecting on the key things that have allowed me to build SBD to what it is today. Without a doubt, the big glaring thing that sprung to my mind on a flashing neon sign was ‘People’. The people who’ve been on my team over the years, the clients, the friends, the mentors, the ‘network’. So, looking forward I’m placing more focus on relationships and genuine interaction.

Image credit: Joost Termeer