Monthly Archives: October 2014

Alchemy A-Z of running your own business: K is for kaizen

Alchemy A-Z of running your own business: K is for kaizen

Kaizen is Japanese for ‘good change’, although in the West we usually refer to it as ‘continuous improvement’, and is a principle first adopted by Japanese manufacturers in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s with the intention of improving processes and eliminating waste.  Continuous improvement sounds exhausting but actually it’s simple: every day look at what you can do to make you and your business better (remember for small businesses everything starts with you, the business owner: assume you’re the problem until proven otherwise). So how do you do this and why does it matter?

The how is easy; it’s about learning from mistakes but also actively looking for and finding ways to do things better. You may well be doing it already, perhaps in response to customer issues and complaints, perhaps because one of the team has spotted a way of doing things differently and so save time, money or improve quality. For successful businesses kaizen is usually part of the culture, they consciously seek out ways of improving what they do.  Instead of blaming people when things go wrong they treat mistakes as a learning opportunity, looking at what happened and why and making sure that they never happen again.

One of my clients is proactive about kaizen.  They end every week with a team discussion about what they liked best about the week just gone and what they will do differently next week.  It’s positive and keeps them focussed on getting better.

I sometimes record workshops I run or individual coaching sessions (with the permission of the participants of course) and play them back a few days later, critiquing myself as I go.  Yes, it’s excruciating but what I learn is invaluable and makes me a better coach.  Kaizen can be hard work, even painful, but it’s worth it.

Why does it matter? Occasionally I come across businesses who think that what they’re doing is always right and the only way to do things and if customers don’t like it then they know what they can do. Guess what, customers will indeed do one. Closely related to kaizen is cycling guru Dave Brailsford’s notion of ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’, small, incremental positive changes which, when taken together, make a massive difference to performance.  The impact of this is nicely illustrated in this graphic by James Clear


Marginal gains

So take a moment to think of a few things you know you can do better.  What resources do you need to improve them?  How can you make the necessary changes?  What difference will they make to your life or your business?  What’s stopping you?  Remember, this is where coaching might help – someone not involved in the day to day can often see things you’re missing and hold you accountable for making the changes needed to make your business better.

For more information about how coaching might help you improve your business please get in touch for a no-obligation chat. You can do by calling me on 01235 861 311 or emailing me at   I look forward to hearing from you.

Alchemy A-Z of running a business: J is for jokes


Alchemy A-Z of running your own business: J is for Jokes

A man went to his bank manager and said: “I’d like to start a small business. How do I go about it?” “Simple,” said the bank manager. “Buy a big one and wait.” (source:

Hmmm. Business jokes are seldom funny, though they may contain a grain of truth.  Being self-employed or owning a business isn’t always that funny either so including jokes in my A-Z of running your own business might seem a bit strange.  But I’m a great believer in the power of humour, here’s just a few of the things it can help you do:

  • cope with extremely difficult situations. My brother’s a paramedic and his humour is as dark as dark can be but it helps him cope with some of the terrible things he has to deal with in his job
  • reframe a situation so you see it from a different angle. In fact that’s what makes a joke funny – there’s a twist so the outcome isn’t what you expected and you have to look at something in a different way.
  • keep things in perspective
  • keep fit. Honestly: research has shown that laughter boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones and gives your body a bit of a workout.
  • build relationships. Who doesn’t like people we can have a good laugh with?

The reaction to a joke is really subjective. I groaned when I heard the funniest joke from the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe (Rob Auton’s ‘I heard a rumour that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar. Could be a Chinese Wispa.’) On the other hand my favourite joke never fails to make me smile (if you want to know what it is you’ll have to give me a call). However humour itself is universal, everybody finds something funny. So the next time it’s all getting a bit much look for something amusing in the situation you find yourself in – it just might help you deal with the stress a little bit better.