habits, Q2Q IT - tech support - SME advice

At the turn of 2020, no business owner could have imagined the challenges facing them in the months ahead.

But, as the UK looks to drag itself headlong into ‘the new normal’, owner of Q2Q IT, Lorna Stellakis, believes it’s important not to get too caught up in ‘the end goal’ – instead focus on the driving force behind your SME’s corporate ambition.

Here, she explains why the key to success in business – and at home – is a willingness to learn.

I try to read a book every couple of weeks, and one that had a huge impact on me earlier this year was, ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear.

Dubbed ‘a comprehensive guide on how to change your behavioural patterns and get one per cent better every day’, the novel has got me thinking about how business owners the world over are making hard-and-fast plans for the next six months.

It resonates on a personal level too, and it felt as if James was talking to me directly with every turn of the page. So much so, that I’ve already implemented some of the publication’s key principles at Q2Q HQ in recent months.

How do I know what business targets to set?

Like every company, we gave ourselves some pretty ambitious goals at the start of our financial year – and you might be forgiven for thinking that most of those had gone completely out of the window as a result of COVID-19. But you would be wrong.

The majority of targets were focused on customer satisfaction and improving how we operate as a team, in terms of all-things IT support.

To ensure we have a constant reminder of what we’re trying to achieve whenever we’re in the office, our objectives have been translated into wall graphics for the entire workforce to see – as well as taking pride of place as my desktop background.

Although, those aspirations aren’t solely what drive our 9-5.

Where ‘Atomic Habits’ resonated with me, was by highlighting that although the end-goal will always be important, once you’ve identified a focus, the most important thing is to create the right daily, weekly or monthly lifestyles that offer the opportunity to translate ‘the dream’ into a reality.

An easily relatable scenario is when you have a fitness goal. Let’s imagine you’re new to jogging and want to complete a 5km Parkrun. However, at present, you can only sprint for a minute before needing to revert to a steady walk.

Completing the entire 3.1 miles at full power might seem like a stretch on week one. Plus, if you were to think about it every single day, you’d probably end up feeling overwhelmed or disheartened with what might seem like an unattainable result.

Therefore, a simple but effective strategy is to establish what behaviours would help you become your own answer to Usain Bolt – and focus solely on those. For example:

  1. Train for 30 minutes, three days a week – even if this is simply a fast walk for most of it
  2. Gradually increase your sprints by 30 seconds each time – so run for 60 seconds on day one, 90s on day two and 120s day three.

In reality, all you’re doing is adding half a minute of running each day, but by breaking down the components of your goal – while bolstering your own resilience – it makes your initial aim much more achievable, and realistic.

But how can I deliver on my SME’s plans?

From a business perspective, one of my own intentions for 2019 was to become a trustee for a local charitable organisation. It was important for me to do something positive for the community in Lancaster.

Prior to lockdown, it was clear the best way to accomplish this was by networking as much as possible locally and within the wider North West – which also proved to help Q2Q. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I set myself a minimum number of networking events to attend, researched all the options out there, and booked on to those most suitable, trusting this would help me realise the overall goal.

When it came to each gathering, I didn’t focus on the overarching driver behind my attendance, instead it was about turning up with an open mind and a desire to meet new friends, make connections and enjoy a spot of socialising.

Nine months in and the face-to-face meet-ups came to an abrupt halt as a result of lockdown. Yet, thanks to all the amazing people I have met, I’ve not only been invited to many more events – during and post-lockdown – but I am proud to confirm that I am now officially a trustee for the Lancashire Association of Boys and Girls Clubs, which is an absolute honour.

Although it was never part of the original ‘plan’, a presence at events led to us landing two new customers and a couple more in the pipeline – with three further prospects currently undergoing an initial IT audit. All of which are a great by-product of the original goal!

A solution which works

We applied this ‘habits strategy’ to all our aspirations this year – before, during and hopefully following the pandemic – and I believe it’s made a huge difference. It took the pressure off the end-objective and allowed us to implement some really simple, easy-to-maintain approaches that have benefitted us in more ways than one – and haven’t felt like a chore!

So, if you’re an SME owner wondering how best to tackle the coming months, perhaps this could be a great approach? As we enter this phase of relative uncertainty, many of us will be thinking about how we can do things differently, and maybe several habitual routines will ensure you stay on track beyond the first few weeks!

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