Want a more successful business in 2014? 

2014 is here and it’s now a great time to set out your plan to help you to achieve your business goals. As a business it’s easy to always be “busy” with your day-to-day activities and before you know it time slips by and you realise that you haven’t actually achieved what you wanted or your business isn’t where it should be. Most of the businesses I see spend so much time working on the $10 tasks that they don’t get a chance to step out of the business and focus on the $1000 tasks like strategy. This is a big problem and can significantly impact the success of your business. So here are some simple things that you can do this year to get you started in helping your business have a successful year.

1. Review your business purpose and vision

If you have a purpose and vision statement for your business, stick it up on a wall and review it with your team. Think about why you are in business, what is it that your business wants to achieve, where do you see yourself and the business in 5 or 10 years time. Is your existing purpose and vision still relevant? Are you on track to achieving it? If you don’t have a vision or purpose yet then it’s important to develop one. This will help your business to stay focused and achieve something.

2. Set your goals for 2014

Think about what you want your business to look like at the end of 2014. What will you see, feel, hear that is different and shows that your business is better. Get your team or friends and family involved to help you with your brainstorming. Identify 3-5 key goals that you want to achieve in 2014 that are aligned to your business purpose and will help you achieve your longer-term vision. This could be growing your business, increasing your customers, selling new products or services, increasing your team and so on.

3. Set some metrics and targets

Now that you have agreed your top goals for 2014, you will need to establish how you will measure the goals and what your target will be. If you don’t measure something and don’t have targets in place, it’s very hard to know how well you are going and if you have actually achieved your goals or not. You need to decide what will be good metrics for each goal and keep them simple. This can be the number of customers, the $ value of sales, or the number of people in your team. Next you need to know where you are today in relation to that metric and where you hope to be at the end of the year. This will help you to set a specific number as your target for each metric which you want to achieve. The old saying “if you don’t measure it you won’t get it” really is true. But also remember not to measure something for the sake of measuring – it must help you to achieve the goal otherwise don’t waste your time measuring it.

4. Establish an action plan

The hardest part will be to actually make your goals a reality. By setting some clear actions for each goal and allocating a specific person from your team to take ownership and responsibility for the action, you can spread the workload and are more likely to complete the actions. It will also optimise engagement in your team. Importantly you need to set a clear timeline, and have regular milestones in place. A good way to tackle a big challenging action is to break it down into small bite sized actions.

5. Monitor and manage progress

Don’t leave it until the end of the year to check if the actions have been completed and you have achieved your goals or not. It will be too late to do anything about it if you haven’t reached your targets. Set regular reviews such as monthly to monitor your progress against the target. If the numbers aren’t changing you can then re-look at your actions and decide if something needs to change or improve to achieve the target.

Jana Krizova Hocken

Jana is a Business Improvement and Lean specialist, trainer and coach with over 12 years of experience working in more than 20 countries and with some of the world’s leading companies, helping hundreds of people and their businesses to continuously improve and evolve. She founded Improve8 in 2012 to inspire, empower and support small businesses to achieve their potential.


Have you ever noticed that when your workplace or home is full of clutter: paper notes all over your desk, documents that haven’t been filed, items all over table tops, piles on the floor, things that don’t have a home and are just making everything look messy…. You get more stressed out?

A disorganised office or home can leave you feeling out of control, frustrated and add to your stress levels. It also makes your day super unproductive. Do you regularly ask “where is it?” or are trying to look for things and can’t find them? Do others constantly ask you where they can find something? Have you re-done something simply because you couldn’t find it the first time? Or maybe even bought a new one of something? A disorganised office or home can create a lot of inefficiencies. Furthermore it can look very unprofessional and we all want to make the best impact on people around us whether they are our colleagues or friends visiting our home.

The Japanese realised this decades ago in their factories and developed a concept called 5S which has been used by some of the biggest and best companies globally to improve their quality, safety and productivity, and also the work environment for employees.

So what is this tool all about? Here are the 5S steps:

Step 1 – SORT

This is about Sorting through what is needed (really needed) from what is not needed in an area (your office or home e.g the wardrobe). This can be quite challenging but you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the area? What does it need to do?
  • Do I need these items?
  • How often do I use them?
  • When did I last use them?
  • Are they still relevant?

You should then sort things into three groups: “not needed at all” and you will get rid of, “needed occasionally” – you should move this stuff into labelled cupboards away from the area, and “needed often” – keep in the immediate area.

Step 2 – SET

This step means to decide where the items you will keep should be placed/ stored or positioned within the area. This is about having a place for everything and everything in its place. Items that you use regularly should be placed near to where you use them so that you reduce unnecessary movement. Items used less regularly can be stored a little further away. Importantly, you should have clearly marked locations for things such as labelled drawers or cupboards so that the things are very easy and visual to find.

Step 3 – SHINE

Now it’s time to clean up – this is about ensuring that the area is thoroughly cleaned. So time to pull out the cleaning gloves and products and make your area shine! Don’t forget hidden spots. As a practical point, it is sometimes easier and more practical to do this step before step 2.

Step 4 – STANDARDISE

This is a really important step but often gets forgotten. Once you have put in all the hard work in steps 1-3 you must create a Standard for how the area will continue to look. This is about documenting or making it clear what the expected level of cleanliness and organisation that needs to be maintained, how often cleaning or organising is required, who is responsible, where the standard locations for things are and so on. A good visual standard will ensure that everyone is aware of the expected condition and your workplace or home will stay organised. If you don’t put this standard in place, you can be sure that within a very short time your area will be back to square one.

Step 5 – SUSTAIN

This is probably the hardest bit but most certainly a standard will help you to sustain a well-organised and professional looking workplace or home. Regularly monitoring the condition of the area and comparing it to the standard will help you to keep it looking good. A good idea is to set yourself a standard frequency of checking your area and maintaining its condition.

Now it’s time to get organised! Have fun and enjoy the feeling of control and freedom a well-organised environment brings :-).

Image credit: Gregory Han

Jana Krizova Hocken

Jana is a Business Improvement and Lean specialist, trainer and coach with over 12 years of experience working in more than 20 countries and with some of the world’s leading companies, helping hundreds of people and their businesses to continuously improve and evolve. She founded Improve8 in 2012 to inspire, empower and support small businesses to achieve their potential.


Being a Lean expert, I am always obsessively spotting inefficiencies everywhere! While it can be to my own detriment, the good thing is that I’m always trying to think about how I can be more efficient. This lets me manage all the things I need to do, such as running two businesses, being a treasurer for a not for profit, investing in property, writing a book, helping my husband on his 1000 herd dairy farm, renovating etc.

So here are the 8 things which I do to better manage my time and increase productivity:

1. Synchronised Outlook

Having my email accounts connected via exchange on all my devices (iPhone, iPad and Mac – yes I am a Apple fan) is essential for me to be flexible and connected no matter where I am. This way I can type emails during what I call non-value add times for example while waiting in a queue, waiting for a flight, sitting in the car.

2. Electronic calendar with categorisation

This is a must – everything I do goes in my Outlook calendar and is synchronised across all my devices. I also colour code each entry such as travel, business meetings, networking, client work, personal appointments, etc. Birthdays also go in to reminders. This way I can easily and quickly see what I have on and where my priorities are.

3. Whiteboard

While I use tasks in Outlook or on my iPhone app to keep track of my to-do items, the best way to keep track is a Visual Management Board that I keep in my office. This is a whiteboard that I’ve split into key categories eg Property, Business, Book, Association and under each category I add in bullet points the things I need to work on. I also have a column for Today and This Week. I find this a great visual way of tracking everything and ticking things off all on one board and in one place. It also makes you feel and be in control.

4. Electronic Notes

There is nothing worse than having a million post its stuck all over your desk (although I do admit that I have a few) or bits of paper everywhere. Worse still is when you are madly trying to find an important note you made amongst all that paper. I write all my notes and reminders on my devices (e.g iPhone) and it is synchronised via cloud so that I never lose any info again and I can find it very quickly if needed.

5. Go Paperless

I used to get so stressed when I would have hundreds of bills, paper documents and files lying around needing to be filed somewhere. My shelves were full of folders. Not anymore. If I need to keep a document or a bill, as soon as I receive it, I scan and file it electronically. I keep backup hard drives to ensure nothing gets lost. I also have a shredder to destroy information sensitive documents.

6. Clear Desk Policy

At the end of each day, I clear my desk and put everything away into allocated spots. This way I can start the next day with a clean slate and a fresh mind. This does wonders for your mind clarity and productivity.

7. Standardised Work Week

This is a big one! I set myself a standard week schedule which has Mon – Friday on it and for each day I have standard time slots allocated to specific tasks. For example Monday morning from 7-9am is blocked out for writing my book, Tues 8-10am is blocked out for writing articles, Friday from 7-8 am is blocked for my weekly Improvement Tip and 8-10am is blocked out for working on my business marketing & strategy. This way you ensure that you work on the important $1000 tasks and not just fill your day with emails, calls and possibly lots of $10 tasks. This is a fundamental way that you prioritise the right things and actually get them done rather than procrastinating.

8. Small Bite Sized Chunks

I try to do a small amount of everything everyday. So rather than have a big mammoth task, I break things down into bite sized chunks and work on a part each day. This way a big daunting task becomes much more manageable. So for example everyday I allocate some time to business, to property, to my Treasurer role, to my book etc. That way it gets done a little bit each day and doesn’t feel so overwhelming. And surprisingly you get things done much quicker when they are broken down into small components and worked on one step at a time.

Image credit: orcmid

Jana Krizova Hocken

Jana is a Business Improvement and Lean specialist, trainer and coach with over 12 years of experience working in more than 20 countries and with some of the world’s leading companies, helping hundreds of people and their businesses continuously improve and evolve. She founded Improve8 in 2012 to inspire, empower and support small businesses to achieve their potential.

Check out Get Your Life Back ebook by Kasia Gospos, founder of Leaders in Heels, on how you can get more productive, streamline and automate your business and life so that you have more time for what you really love.

 


Recently I attended a Women’s Network breakfast with Richard Branson as the VIP.

I thought that this was a great opportunity and I set myself a goal of not only getting a photo with Sir Branson but to also hand Richard a business proposal. Many of my friends thought I was nuts and had no chance – that he’d probably have another 100 people running after him trying to tell him their business idea.  Despite this warning, I still put together my A4 business proposal and headed off for the breakfast.

I arrived at the venue and quickly realised that I had been quite naïve – this was actually going to be a pretty big event – in fact 1700 people were estimated to be present. There were 170 or more tables seating nine. I sat myself down in my allocated table which was pretty much in the centre of the room around ten tables back from the stage.

The event started and the room filled up with people. Sir Richard Branson entered from the main entrance and was escorted by a clapping crowd down the side of the hall and ushered onto the stage. I thought to myself, “Well there is no way I am even going to get close to the guy let alone give him my proposal”…. But I still didn’t let this stop me.

The turning point with Sir Richard Branson

When Sir Richard Branson finished speaking, he chose my side of the aisle to exit from and as he walked right past me, I managed to shake hands with him, but he was swept away before I even touched my proposal! I grabbed my bags and headed after him but he was rushed off into another room to do VIP photos. Next minute however the door opened and he walked right past me. No one else had even noticed him! So I walked up to him and said “Richard – can I just give you this proposal“ and I handed him my proposal with my business card attached. He said “thanks” and I watched him leave that event with my A4 proposal in his hands reading it!!

In the end I was the only person in that room of 1700 people that had a proposal on paper to give to Richard Branson. My piece of paper was the only piece of paper Richard Branson left with that day.

The key message of this story is that most of us follow and listen to the crowds who usually don’t have the courage and determination to follow their goals. Especially as women we tend not to take as many risks as men and also often not pursue our ambitions in fear of being embarrassed or failing.Never assume and always make the most of any opportunity – you have nothing to lose

As this story shows, it’s so important to take advantage of situations and just go for it. And it’s only through persistence and courage that you can actually achieve anything you set your mind to. Not one other person had the initiative that day to do what I did – why? Most likely because they all thought the same and assumed that it was just not possible. Never assume and always make the most of any opportunity – you have nothing to lose. I hope this story inspires all the women out there to always orchestrate an opportunity to take advantage of a good situation and to follow your ideas and goals.

I am still waiting to hear back from Sir Richard Branson, but I am definitely a big step ahead from the millions of others out there that would only dream of personally handing him a business proposal.

Will keep you posted :-)

Image credit : Gulltaggen

Jana Krizova Hocken

Jana is a Business Improvement and Lean specialist, trainer and coach with over 12 years of experience working in more than 20 countries and with some of the world’s leading companies, helping hundreds of people and their businesses continuously improve and evolve. She founded Improve8 in 2012 to inspire, empower and support small businesses to achieve their potential.