[EP 047] Growing Pains – Tips for business owners who are scaling up, or working too hard

Business Tips, Business Legal Advice, Ben Fewtrell, Joanna Oakey, Talking Law


CLICK HERE to download the transcript for this episode.

Episode Highlights:

  • The birth story behind Max My Profit
  • Self-employed versus business owner
  • Telltale signs for when to leave the business
  • Reasons why a business may not be viable
  • Cash flow challenges in the growth phase
  • Risks of personal liability for directors
  • Transition from working IN to ON the business
  • Taking your business to the next level
  • How to contact Ben

Hi, it’s Joanna Oakey here and welcome back to Talking law – a podcast brought to you by our commercial legal practice, Aspect Legal.

Now today, we have on the show Ben Fewtrell who is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Max My Profit. He’s a business advisor and keynote speaker and also has his own podcast called Business Brain Food, where he interviews leading experts on business building tips.

Now in this episode today, we are moving a bit broader than our usual discussion of legal topics and instead we’re looking at some of those legal issues in the context of growing and scaling a business.

Ben and I in this episode talk about the most common challenges that business owners grapple with when their scaling up their business. We talk about the risks facing directors and we highlight some action steps that business owners can adopt in order to take their business to the next level.

So here we go!


The Birth Story Behind Max My Profit

Joanna: Hi Ben. Thank you so much for joining us. Could you start off perhaps by giving us a bit of your background and how you ended up at Max My profit.

Ben: Sure. I’ll try and give the short story because I turn 45 next week. I’ve been on this planet for a little while now. But I actually didn’t do very well in school. I know a lot of people hear this from people that run businesses.

I remember going through one year where I had just as many jobs as there were months in a year. I said to people, What do you think I’ll learn out of that? They go Well then you can work for someone else. That’s 100% correct. As I quickly worked out that I’m not a good employee.

I ended up starting a transport company of all things and it was only because when the one job that I did love was being a independent contractor, which is the terminology they used for a courier driver basically.

I had my own van. I was driving around Sydney. But I loved the fact that I was autonomous. I could choose the hours I was going to work. I didn’t have to really answer to anybody. If I wanted the day off, I could take the day off.

So that was sort of what I did when I was 18 and that made me realise that I love that sort of thing. But it got me into the transport industry, otherwise I probably would not have ended up being in the transport industry.

But one of the things that happens when you’re really good at knowing your way around Sydney is companies then look for radio operators to be able to operate its fleet because back then computers and GPS wasn’t a very big thing.

So I ended up getting a job as a radio operator. It would then led to me in a management position and then going one day having what I call E-seizure, which is that entrepreneur seizure where I go you know what I’m making all this money for someone else. I could be doing things for myself. So I started a transport company.

Going about four years into that and was working ridiculous hours. I mean ridiculous hours like I would start at five in the morning and I finish at 9 at night. That was my normal day, five days a week.

I had a young family I had a wife who was really getting fed up with the hours I had to work. I wasn’t making any money out of my business.

To be honest, men’s depression or depression in a whole wasn’t really well educated back then but there was no doubt I was suffering from depression.

I was not feeling good. I was not eating well. I was lethargic. I didn’t want to be at work. I didn’t want to do anything. I wasn’t motivated.

It got to the point where I had to make a decision and all these things happen at critical points in your life and the decision I made was that I had to get out of that business.

It was a tough one because I was actually in business with my father in law. He funded the business when we started it.

I just woke up one morning and said “I’ve had enough.” I went in and said “Dear mate, I can’t do this anymore. I’m going to leave.” He said, “How long we got?” I said, “Well I’m going to go today. I just can’t do this anymore.”

I’d had all sorts of weird thoughts going through my head which people with depression would probably understand. I think from that point forward I actually asked myself the question Joanna which is funny. I met a business coach about a month, maybe not, about six months before that point in my life at a networking event.

You know those networking events where you go. They are breakfast events. You’ve got to do, I think they call it the elevator speech. You get 60 seconds. And he stood up and he said “My name’s Andrew.” He said, “I help business owners make more money and work less hours.” Then he sat down and I thought “that’s exactly what I need. I need this guy.”

I remember telling my father in law about it and he wasn’t really open to these new things so it never happened. But when I made that decision to get out of the transport came, I thought I wonder if I could do what that guy does. I wonder how many business owners are in the same boat I was where I was under the illusion that by working hard I was actually going to be successful.

I thought on the outside the harder you work, the luckier I get. I don’t think that’s true right. I think it’s the smarter you work, the luckier you get.

So I was at a point where I go there must be so many other business owners that are struggling and they’re working hard and this false impression that working really hard grinding grinding grinding is what’s going to make them successful and really all it was doing was costing my personal life, my friendships, my own health, my own mental well-being.

And so I went and seek this guy and said “How do you do what you do? How do I do what you do?” He explained to me he was a part of a franchise group and that was business coaching.

It wasn’t long. It was only a few months I bought a franchise and then I became a really successful business coach in the sense that I was good at getting clients, good at helping plants grow their businesses through sales and marketing. I then built a team.

Then about four or five years ago, I decided that I had outgrown the franchise and needed to do my own thing. I moved on from that, developed new systems and Max My Profit was born.

Max My Profit is a business that has turned, I feel we’ve turned business coaching on its head because we’re not a business coaching company. What we are is we’re a business growth company and we support business owners to grow their business. We do have coaches for accountability if people want them but they don’t need to access them.

The other thing that I learned after all these years of working with hundreds of businesses was that every business has five different stages of business growth they have to go through. Doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, what you do. There are commonalities and there to do things like marketing and team and systems and financials etc.

So we’ve developed this, I’m gonna say we as me and my business partner have developed a five stage what we call a business exploration blueprint. It’s a step by step process probably as close as you get to growing a business well through an instruction manual as you’re ever going to find for growing a business.

So Max My Profit was born and it’s been gaining strength to strength. We’re finding that people really love the fact that they can access a community, all the tools resources and helps them grow their business.

You have to go from a mindset of earning money to making money. Ben Fewtrell #BusinessTips Click To Tweet

Self-employed versus business owner

Joanna: Wow that’s great. That’s a really good background Ben. And so obviously you’ve been in quite a few businesses yourself and obviously worked with it sounds like many many businesses over time.

Are there any commonalities in some of the issues that you’ve seen businesses facing and grappling with over time?

Ben: Yeah absolutely. I think there’s a few key issues that businesses face or business owners face because businesses are just an entity, right.

To put it in perspective Joanna, most business owners start a business because they’re good at what they do or they love what they do, and they don’t have the training to manage the things that they’re going to have to manage in their business.

I always say to people being good at what you do is not enough. They are challenged with things. They’re challenged with things like when their business grows they have to hire somebody to help them. That’s a decision they quite often make. They’re challenged with hiring, their challenged with managing people.

The other thing is you have to go from a mindset of earning money to making money. A business is different right? You’re gonna get paid for your job within the business but your business should also make money, should make profit. That’s how businesses survive. So you’ve got to have a different mindset.

I find people are really challenged with thinking about a business as a separate entity to themselves and especially very small businesses.

Joanna: Yeah, I think that’s true.

Ben: They see every dollar is their own dollar and it’s not. It’s the businesses money and they should be getting a wage. But they don’t pay themselves that much.

Joanna: Yeah and often I find in that sense that one of the issues that can also come with the way a business is structured. So for example I see that issue as a strong issue for sole traders for example who really in their head can’t really separate the emotion of the business versus themselves.

None of our clients are sole traders because by the time you get to the point of realising that you need a lot of legal assistance you’ve already sort of realised you need an entity to protect you like a company or a trust structure. But it is just one example I guess of how the psychology between how you look at a business and then operate it really needs to be this separation to you.

Ben: Yeah I think there’s definitely a difference in being self-employed and owning a business. There’s nothing wrong with either. I always say to people “Don’t be ashamed to just be self-employed.”

If you’re happy to take all the risks that there are with that, then that’s okay because there is also risk with having a business. A lot of people out there say you should be building a business. You should be doing this. But a lot of people aren’t suited to that.

The one thing I’ve learned Joanna is that some people just aren’t good business owners, right? That’s just the reality. Some people just aren’t cut out for it. They’re better off having a job and sometimes they’re better off being self-employed. They’ve run their own race. But if they take a holiday or if they get sick of course their income stops so they’ve got to protect themselves from that.


Business Tips, Business advice, Ben Fewtrell, Talking Law

Telltale signs for when to leave the business

Joanna: It’s a really interesting point that you’re talking about here. Usually in this podcast I talk more about specific legal issues and I’d really like this as an opportunity for us to get a bit deeper into some of these issues.

I think your example of running this business and running yourself into the ground through a business and yet not making any money is a phase that many business owners have had in their life. Sometimes that phase will never pass in the business that they’re in.

This is a really hard reality to get to, that crunch point of working out when is it, what are the signs that I should be leaving a business?

What do you think those signs are? I mean I’ve got an example of some sort of signs in my head which I’ll throw in there. But I’d love to hear what your thoughts are.

Do you ever see people or did you ever in your coaching time see businesses that you just said look you’ve just got to cut it or this is the point where you’ve just got to walk away and maybe the future is in something else or in employment for you.

Ben: Definitely. I mean I myself have suffered from that because I think as entrepreneurs, we’re extremely optimistic.

Joanna: Yeah.

Ben: So we get an idea and we think it’s the greatest idea on the planet. And so we will push the envelope to try and make it work. Part of it is probably pride. But part of it is just the passion for what we do is so strong that we just can’t imagine that it wouldn’t exist and so we push harder than we should.

And so I’ve seen plenty of people that have had opportunities, myself included. I’ve had businesses that just didn’t work. I’ve had to let them go. I had to shut them down. Sometimes that could be I’ve given a business away just because it was a distraction.

I think sometimes as business owners we have to think about the fact that our idea as we might love it, maybe other people don’t. I quite often look at business, people come to me as “Oh Ben I’ve got a great new idea, nobody else is doing it”. Well to me that’s alarm bells. I go well hang on a bit. If no one else is doing it. How are you going to sell this thing?

Look at Uber for example, right? They just went to a market that already existed that were frustrated with the current options and gave them a new option. That’s the best way to build a business is to disrupt the market and any industry can do that. They may not have to disrupt at scale but certainly if you can do something better than your competitors you’re going to win the business.


Reasons why a business may not be viable

Joanna: Absolutely. If you’re in the business, if the hours are getting on top of you, if you feel like you’re getting nowhere and you just can’t see where to go, what was your general recommendation or what would have been your recommendation to yourself in the past to work out whether or not this business was viable?

Ben: There’s a lot of different reasons why a business is not viable so it’s difficult to answer the question as if it was one example but I think there’s several things you can look at.

First of all, are you charging enough because if your issue was cash flow and quite often this is the issue here. So business owners will be working crazy hours as they can’t afford to leverage themselves by hiring other people or investing in systems, and so it will be a cash flow issue.

Quite often it’s just because you’re not charging enough. So you’ve got to make sure your business model is right. That means that you’ve got to be charging enough to make sure you can cover all your fixed expenses, your variable expenses and have a little bit left over for a rainy day. That’s just the reality of it.

I think another thing is you got to actual market demand is there. If you’re selling something that people don’t want to buy, well then that’s really tough isn’t it. It’s going to be a big drain on you to try and market and sell this thing if people aren’t really wanting it but doesn’t really solve the problem that people need solved. Well then you’re in trouble. You’ve got to think about that as well.

The third thing is that if you’re not really passionate about driving it because you don’t have the skills required to do it, to build a business and grow a business, then that’s something else you have to think about as well.

That’s why I always say to people, if you’re going to go on a business do it apprenticeship first. I was very lucky in a sense that I came through my business career the way I did because I got to do an apprenticeship with other people who had business experience.

I think by working, I did end up finding a job where I worked for several years as a manager inside a transport company. I then partnered with my father in law, he’d had his own business for many years beforehand. My dad had always had businesses. And then when I did finally start my own business as a business coach of course I was working with many businesses. So it was a huge apprenticeship when you think about how many years experience I had of trying different things in different industries with different people.

I think there’s many reasons why businesses don’t work. I think the thing is just if something’s not working you must really be objective about it. Take a step back and try and work out is this viable. Put a model together. Go and speak to other people. Get outsider’s opinion.

There’s plenty of people out there who would be willing to to sit with you for half an hour over a cup of coffee and just bounce some ideas off them and say “What do you think? Do you think this is going to work?”

Joanna: Yeah. I think also at this point I should say, business owners need to be very careful if they’re at this point where they have cash flow issues and they’re barely able to pay themselves because if you’re barely able to pay yourself then it means that you’re in a crunch position where if something was to happen to your business in a negative way often you’ve not got the buffer to deal it. You just need to make sure you’re protected personally. Your assets are protected and you’re in a space where you once again you’ve got this business that separated to you and if the worst happens and you have to close it down that it doesn’t close down your own personal assets as well. It doesn’t take you out in terms of your asset holdings.

Business Tips, Business advice, Talking Law, Joanna Oakey

Let’s take a break

Let’s take a short break. When we get back, we’ll launch into a discussion on the most common challenges that business owners grapple with when they’re scaling up their business. We’ll also drill into the real risks of personal liability that directors may fall into during times of tight cash flow. Ben then talks to us about this concept of transitioning from working IN the business to working ON the business. And finally, we’ll close this episode with some great and easy actions steps that business owners can adopt in order to take their business to the next level.

And that’s next! I’m Joanna Oakey and you are listening to Talking Law – a podcast proudly brought to you by Aspect Legal.


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Welcome back

Welcome back! Earlier, Ben talked to us about his background and the lessons he picked up along the way that lead to him to establish Max My Profit. He also explained the differences between being self-employed versus being a business owner. We also had some rich discussion on some of the telltale signs for when you ought to consider leaving the business and the reasons why a business may not be viable.

Let’s jump back into our conversation with Ben and talk about cash flow challenges that business owners commonly face when they’re scaling up their business. And then we’ll dig into the real risks of directors being personally liable during times of tight cash flow.


Cash flow challenges in the growth phase

Joanna: All right. Well we’ve talked about that side of business. Maybe let’s launch forward a bit more to growth businesses. I presume you’ve probably dealt with a number of businesses before. They are in growth phase that are going well, going great guns and have decided to scale. Looking at those sorts of businesses, I’d like to talk about two aspects here.

Firstly, what issues you’ve seen businesses facing that sort of phase that can derail them. Then maybe after that, we can just have a quick chat about what businesses should most be focusing on in that phase.

But let’s start off with businesses heading into a growth phase. What have you seen that can be the biggest derailers of businesses in this phase?

Ben: Yeah I think once again cash flow could be it. Growing a business is expensive. It takes a lot of resources.

Joanna: Yeah.

Ben: You’re hiring people. You’re investing in marketing. You may be moving to bigger premises, getting more machinery, hiring more contractors who knows.

It takes a lot of resources to build a business and to scale a business and I think what you touched on before about making sure you’re protected is really important. I’ve seen many people go on that process of scaling and unfortunately run out of money and when you run out of money, you stop paying your bills. When you stop paying your bills, people start getting cranky and taking action.

I think business owners really need to understand their responsibility as a director because the laws change back in 2012 and made you much more liable for some of the expenses you can rack up with the ATO and with superannuation that a lot of business owners are unaware of.

Joanna: Yeah .  Absolutely.

Ben: I don’t know if you touched on that in your podcast but certainly I’ve seen many people come on stuck with that where they personally end up being so affected by closing down a business and then of course having a personal liability follow them around for a while whilst they try and sort that out and that can cost them their house.

Growing a business is expensive. It takes a lot of resources. Ben Fewtrell #BusinessTips Click To Tweet

Risks of personal liability for directors

Joanna: That’s it. We do talk a bit about this. But I think it’s one thing us talking about it from a legal perspective. I think that it’s great people also hearing it from the perspective of someone who’s worked with a lot of businesses in the positive and in these more difficult phases.

Do any examples pop to mind? I think examples are great for people to really understand some of the risks that are faced. But can you think of any clients that you’ve worked with and some of the real issues that have occurred when they’ve not really understood the issues that can occur as a director of a company?

Ben: Yeah absolutely. I remember meeting with a woman about three months ago in fact. She came chatting to me about the fact she was relaunching her business.

I will keep all the industry and the names very oblique so we don’t cross any lines there with privacy. She had run into trouble. They had grow in the business massively and run out of money on the way.

Like many business owners, they find the tax department a really easy place to get a loan from because there’s no loan application. You just don’t pay your bills and then it gets out of hand. As a director, they’ve got this responsibility.

What was introduced in 2012 to stop these phoenix companies happening is that if you don’t report your pay wage or suppenuation I think it is.

Joanna: Yeah. For three months essentially.

Ben: You become personally liable. So this particular woman, she built a business up. She scaled it up and things didn’t go to plan. They ran out of money and they couldn’t pay their bills and one day without any notice.

She happened to have a personal little nest egg (because the business was really profitable) that she’d put aside but wasn’t willing to reinvest back in the business. So it was a bit of partnership also issue there as well where a couple of partners didn’t agree on investing back into the business. Of course in that case, when they don’t have a clear agreement, one partner is not going to whack a whole bunch of money and the other person doesn’t.

So the business became stripped of capital, didn’t have the money to grow. It went bust and one day her savings just disappeared out of her bank account and she said it was a garnishee from the ATO.

Joanna: Wow. Gosh.

Ben: And it really derailed her as you can imagine. It was a couple hundred thousand dollars. We’re not talking chump change.

Joanna: Yeah. That could happen on its own without her being notified. But often what happens is that directors won’t update the ASIC records with their addresses. So ASIC and the ATO will try and contact them on the basis of the old records that they have registered on their ASIC register and so they miss all of these notifications. The first thing they know is as you say, a garnishee order that’s been whacked on them.

You might be able to negotiate a payment plan. Of course once they’ve got the money,  you’re not going to be able to pull it back out again. But before you get to that point you might be able to organise a payment plan.

But once you’ve triggered personal liability, that’s it. You’ve triggered it. There’s no let’s now look at liquidating the company and try and save ourselves from the personal liability element in that way. Really good point for you to bring up. As I say, it’s great for our audience to hear someone other than us as the lawyers talking about it because they realise that it’s real and out there it does.

Ben: It does happen. I’ve got a lot of different stories. That’s probably the one that comes to mind because I remember what a huge effect it had on her mentally and the phone call that I received.

Quite often in our industry we build relationships with people and they are these trusted relationships where they do tell us these things that are going on. There are times when if you don’t know your obligations the ATO can be really really aggressive in collecting their money. They will send out nasty letters. They’ll give you 21 days to pay or they’re wanting you up.

If you structure yourself properly, which I know you would be all on top of. But if company structure themselves properly where they different companies set up for their assets, for their trading accounts etc., it is very simple to negotiate a way through.

Funnily enough, we talk about the issues of growth. I see a lot of people who hold on too long, but the tax department and the government actually promote you doing the right thing.

So if you are insolvent, if you’re not trading solvently, they actually encourage you to liquidate. That’s what the process is there for. They want you to be doing the right thing. And it’s difficult. Of course the ego takes a hit. Some people are going to ask a lot of questions. Maybe employees need new contracts who knows. But it’s there to protect yourself primarily so use it to your advantage is what I say.

Joanna: Yeah, absolutely. I think these changes that created this automatic liability for directors if they’re are more than three months late in in reporting and then paying their BASs, they’re in place because they don’t want business owners to do what had been happening which was stop just stop reporting.

Business owners tend to when they’ve got a tight cash flow, they can’t pay their bills, as you say they use the ATO as their line of credit. But they do that or traditionally they did it by just not reporting anymore to the ATO, by just not doing their BASs. So that’s why these changes came into place .  

It’s quite simple to comply and to protect yourself. You need to keep filing even if you’re having difficulty with cash flow. You need to seek help quickly. I think that’s the point. Quick assistance.

Okay. All right. What else in growth phase have you seen sometimes trip up organizations?


Transition from working IN to ON the business

Ben: I’ve seen another big issue for business owners as they grow a business is being able to let go. If the business is all about you as a business owner and you grow. Let’s say you grow rapidly and you have a whole bunch new clients, you’re gonna get busy real fast doing the work.

You’ve got to make this transition from working in the business to on business. I think that’s also very very important, which then brings another issue which we’ve got to become really good at recruiting people, leading people, managing people.

When I say managing people, obviously managing them to do their job. But some of them you’ve got to manage people out as well. You’ve got to manage people in. You’ve got to manage relationships between people. It’s a whole new ballgame once you start hiring people.

One of my good friends Natasha Hawker from Hage. She’s an HR specialist in a company called Employee Matters. She has this saying that I love and she says “People are your greatest asset but they’re also your greatest liability.” Because if you don’t get it right, that could be a real issue.

I’ve seen a lot of people as they grow their business just hire people who haven’t put a lot of thought into job descriptions, KPI systems, accountability, training. All these things that have to go along with that.

Joanna: Where do you suggest business owners get some of these skills they need for leadership and for management?

Ben: It depends on your background. It’s a hard question to answer. It is definitely something that we do on our programs. We teach people to be better at recruiting, leading and managing people. But not everybody wants to work with a coach.

Some people are great with reading books. I remember when I started to build my team. I had about 35 or 40 people in my team. I was really struggling.

I hadn’t had that big a business before with employees. I coached people like that but not myself personally.

I had these little pods of people getting together almost like mini unions if you like within my team, creating these little problems for me. Instead of trying to face it and be proactive,  I was just sort of letting it go on and then it festered and festered to a point where I thought I got to do something about this. A part of it was I wasn’t a great leader. The first thing is admitting that.

No one’s born a leader. You got to train to be a leader, understanding how to work with people because everyone’s different right.

I bought every leadership book I could buy in the local bookstore. I think I bought 21 or 22 books on leadership and I just consumed them. I took all the best bits. That’s how I developed my leadership style and my team love the way I lead.

I think it just depends on what type of person you are as to how you’re going to go about training yourself to be better at managing people and leading people. But you’ve got to do it. It’s a non-negotiable if you’re going to build a team.

Joanna: If you could share with us, what’s the top one or two things that you took from these books and then you implemented that you think of had the biggest outcome?

Ben: The key things that I find I have worked really well for me is I never have anyone work for me and I’m very clear about that.

When I build a team, I don’t put staff on because I think staff do staff all. I build a team of people that will work and we work together. I always say you don’t work for me, you work with me.

So I have this policy where you have to work autonomously and be responsible for yourself. I don’t watch what time you come to work. I don’t watch what time you go. I don’t watch how much time you spend on Facebook, and I don’t mind if you’re on Facebook. I understand that during the day you might need your brain to take a rest from thinking about my business.

My business can’t be the highest priority in your life because then you’re a mixed up person. Your family and yourself has to be highest priority.

I have this whole philosophy that I’m okay with the fact that you’re not going to be at 100 percent go go go all day. It’s impossible. I’m not. I just expect a good couple of hours out of your day.

What I really hold high as a value is integrity. So I say if you say you’re going to do something, then make sure you do it. If you can’t meet that agreement, communicate it at your earliest knowledge of knowing that you’re not going to make that deadline or get that job done.

I found that works really well because people feel empowered if they know you trust them just to get the job done and they feel safe letting you know if there’s been a hurdle or problem that has stopped them from being able to complete the task. It wasn’t something that I had to change what I did. It was that I had a belief that leadership had to be different to that. When I allowed myself just to be that person, which is what I would prefer anyway, I found the team really loved it.

Now there are some people that take advantage of it. Well guess what, they don’t get to stick around. They have to go and work somewhere where there is more accountability and strict and where you put your mobile phone in a locker when you walk into the office. That’s not the environment that I wanted. I found that worked well for me.

Taking your business to the next level

Joanna: Yeah. Great. Okay. All right. Wonderful. What do you think perhaps are the easiest things that business owners can do to create a successful business or take their business to the next level?

Ben: It’s funny. It probably had a Stephen Covey. He had that book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the things I took from learning from him was this thing called the time target.

He talks about the different activities in your day as an entrepreneur. Some things are urgent and important and the demands of a client ringing up or it could be having to get a sale or paying a bill to keep the lights on. He said some things are a distraction so these are things that are not urgent, not important. He said there’s things that we’re in delusions so this avoidance behavior when you’ve got to do some 20 cold calls, but you think Officeworks and getting paper is more important.

But there’s this section he calls the zone of your time, when you’re in the zone. The zone is where you work on things that are important but not urgent.

I always look at a business and say okay how many of those things are you doing. Now these are the things that if you don’t do them, it’s not going to be the end of the world but it’s going to stop your business from growing. They are things like sitting down and doing a plan.

Doing a plan is not urgent but it’s important. Doing a marketing plan, not urgent but it’s important. Working out your default diary, so what are the tasks you’re going to do. It’s not urgent but it’s important. Working out what tasks you can actually delegate that would be easy for you to delegate and free up some of your time to work on more important things, once again not urgent but important.

All of these things that you think about working. I call it working on the business. I see so many business owners working in the business so much that by the time they’re done in their day they’re too tired to work on the business. Well you’ve got to make time to work on the business.

The easiest way to grow a business is to plan it. It’s to sit down and work out okay how am I going to grow this business. Actually think about:

  • How many customers do I need?
  • Where am I going to this customers from?
  • How much am I prepared to pay per customer? So that’s my acquisition cost.
  • What is my sales process? If I generate a lead, have I got a documented sales process that ensures I maximize my conversion rate which of course reduces my acquisition costs because I’m converting more of my leads into customers?
  • Am I dealing with the right customers? Am I taking on any work because I’m desperate and I’m doing stuff that I’m not making money from? Or am I really honed in on the right type of people to work with? So I’m working with customers that not only do I enjoy working with but you know are profitable and give me lots of referrals and they pay their bills quickly.

There’s all of these things. If you can take a step out of your business just for a day or two every quarter and work on thinking about okay what are the things I can find because its lots of little things. It’s not one big thing to be successful in business. It’s lots of little things that make a great business. But you’ve got to take the time to work on them.


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Joanna: Yeah. I think that’s such a good point that you’re making. I think it also depends on why someone has gone into business in the first place. Some people really don’t enjoy that process and some people do.

But I guess it’s about recognizing what you are and what you enjoy doing because it’s very hard to grow a business if you’re not devoting time to answering those questions. So if you don’t enjoy doing it, then perhaps that’s when you absolutely need to bring someone else into work with you personally through it to ensure that you are actually are answering some of these questions.

Ben: I think the other thing that comes into play Joanna is psychology. I think you are trained as a human being from the minute that you start going to school that you have a start and stop time. You speak to most business leaders if they were to take every Friday off and sit on the beach just thinking about how to grow their business they actually feel guilty about doing that.

Joanna: Yeah.

Ben: And it’s the psychology right? Because when you have it when you have a job, if you don’t turn up at 8:30 when you’re told to.

I know some employers if you took a lunch break and you took three minutes longer than you’re supposed to, you’d be questioned about it. I’ve seen employers question employees that go to the toilet too often when you can’t if you’ve got a weak bladder. This stuff exist. It’s crazy. It exist!

Psychologically as human beings if we’re not “working” when we’re supposed to be “working.” I’m doing air quotes right there because that’s something that’s been embedded into our head. People feel guilty and I was the same. I’m no different. I had to work my way through that myself.

I work with a lot of clients over the years on helping them understand that it’s okay just to take a day out or a half a day out and just turn your phone off, turn the laptop off. Even if you’re just sitting on the beach or your favourite park or playing a game of golf, whatever it is you love to do. You could be crocheting something. You could be painting a picture. You could be out doing photography.

Your brain is always going to think about your business. You shouldn’t feel guilty about taking that quiet time to think about how can I make my business better because that’s the most important time.

I think, who was it that said, I think it might have been. I got a lot of training and talks and things. I remember it was John McGrath. I think it was him. He said, “It’s what you say to yourself about yourself when you’re by yourself that matters the most.” I just love that saying.

Joanna: It is a great saying. I think you’re absolutely right. It’s so hard for business owners who of the most part are actually quite high achievers as well and focused on this concept that the more hours they put in, the more they’ll get out. But it’s not really about that at the end of the day.

I’ve discovered something about myself personally. The time when I am most creative and come up with the best ideas for the business is actually when I’m at the gym listening to a podcast on double speed. It does something to my head, and that’s when you know I come up with all of my best ideas.

It’s interesting because we’ve got a legal practice. Lawyers are renowned for spending many hours sitting and just plugging away at a computer. But it was a fascinating discovery for me personally to realise that I am my most creative when I’m out of the office environment and I think that’s probably true of many many business owners as well.

Ben: Yeah. I can relate to that. Not when I exercise. I don’t go to the gym anywhere near where I should. Anyone can see it in my figure.

More so when I go to these workshops. It’s funny. I can go to a whole one day workshop and hardly actually. I get to the end of the day and go I hardly listened to that speaker, especially if they’re not really engaging. But the time that I’m not listening to them is probably because they said something amazing and it’s triggered my brain into thinking and then a great idea comes out. So I go into those days if I come out with just one great idea, I’m happy.

Joanna: Yeah, I agree.

So maybe part of the message that we’re portraying here at the moment today as well is to be a bit softer on yourself as a business owner and allow yourself that time away from the business without feeling you have to cane yourself to get outcomes. I think that’s an important message.

Okay. Good. All right. Well look, thank you so much for all of your input, Ben. Do you have any sort of last nuggets that you would like to leave our listening audience about suggestions that you have for them with their business?

You’ve talked about getting out of the business and focusing on the important not urgent. Anything else there that you feel we should leave our listeners with to keep in mind?

Ben: Yeah. It’s what I tell a lot of business owners is don’t settle. Don’t think that what you’ve got right now is what you have to have.

I see too many business owners working really hard and thinking there’s no other way out. That’s what I was trapped in all those years ago with my transport company, where I was definitely suffering from depression.

There are plenty of people out there that are willing to talk to you and help you. I think you don’t need to be embarrassed. If you’re not where you want to be, go and get some help.

No one starts their business to fail. That’s the reality. I’ve spoken to a lot of business owners and I’ve never ever had someone say to me “Ben, I started so I could fail.” Yet over 90 percent of businesses fail and the reason for that is because they don’t look for help.

Look at you for example Joanna, as a lawyer. You can’t be a lawyer without going and training. How many years did you have to train?

Joanna: Yeah. Gosh. I don’t know. Like 6 years in uni, another year getting postgrad diplomas and then we’ve got practical time and then you don’t know anything until you’ve been in a legal firm for 5 or 10 years. There you go. There’s a couple of decades gone on it.

Ben: Of learning to be a great lawyer. How much time you reckon most business owners put into learning to be a great business owner?

Joanna: Yeah. Good point Ben. That’s a really good point. That’s so true. Absolutely.

Ben: It’s just you don’t know what you don’t know. So my little parting wisdom would be to get out there. If you want to do better, you’ve got to go and learn how to do better.

You will never be born with the skills. There is no such thing as a born entrepreneur or a born leader. You are going to have to learn the skills and the skills are easy to learn. In this day and age, it’s much easier than it ever was. It’s the best time to be in business. It’s an amazing time to be in business because there is so much available to us at our fingertips. It’s just amazing these days.

So I always say to people get out there and learn as much as you can about growing your business and you will get a better business. But if you don’t make an effort to do it, no one’s going to do it for you. It doesn’t matter how much they care about you. No one else is going to make you successful.


How to contact Ben

Joanna: That’s fabulous. All right Ben, thank you so much for coming on to Talking Law today. How do our listeners find you if they want to find out more?

Ben: I think the best ways if they head across to MaxMyProfit.com.au. That’s our website. We’re all about helping you build the business you imagine.

So if you imagine having a business that was giving you a better lifestyle, a better income, working less hours and maybe was a bit more fun, then maybe we can help you. We can’t help everybody. We’re pretty picky about who we work with because we’re looking for really motivated business owners that want to make that change.

But if you think that that’s you, then head to MaxMyProfit.com.au. Heaps of free resources there as well as the templates and downloads and a blog. But also, if you want to have a quick chat with one of my team that’s probably the best place to go.

Joanna: Great. And you also have a podcast where you talk about all things business. Where should our listeners go if they want to pop along from this podcast straight over in iTunes or Stitcher or Android over to your podcast?

Ben: Yeah. Just go to any of the your favorite podcast player and just look for Business Brain Food or you can go to businessbrainfood.com.au. We have an amazing thing there called the smart podcast player that makes it really easy for you to listen. But of course, most of you like listening to it on your phone so iTunes is probably the place to go. But yeah, Business Brain Food.

Joanna: Great. Excellent. Wonderful. Thank you Ben! It’s been an absolute pleasure having you here.

Ben: Thanks so much for having me Joanna. I appreciate it.


Let’s wrap up

That wraps up our conversation with Ben Fewtrell of Max My Profit. If you like what you heard today, pop over to Podcast on iTunes or stitcher for android, and hit subscribe to be the first to know when we have a new episode out. And of course, if you know anybody who might want to hear (or in fact, needs to hear) the insights and warnings that Ben and I talked about in this episode, go ahead and share this episode to them.

On our show notes, we also provide an option for you to download a copy of the full transcript to this episode if you’ld like to read it all in more detail. Just head over to our website at www.talkinglaw.com.au, look for this episode and there you’ll find a download link.

Thanks again for listening in. This has been Joanna Oakey and Talking Law, a podcast brought to you by our commercial legal practice Aspect Legal. See you next time!