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Episode 59: Busy is a state of mind, not a state of being

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All Xero Gravity episodes

Hosted by Elizabeth Ü

“There’s a constant feeling there’s not enough time to get the things done you
‘think’ you need to do, not necessarily the things that are actually mission critical.”

Meet Tim Kitching, of The KONA Group. He believes balancing time effectively is
a process that can be taught and learned. As a father to a rambunctious eight and
11 year old, Tim gets lots of practice.

On Xero Gravity #59, he shares the story of his unorthodox journey to become an
organizational and executive coach, facilitator and advisor to some of the world’s
biggest brands.

Tune in if you want his powerful, on-point advice on ways to get the most out of
your 1,440 minutes every day, without turning frantic. Like putting a dollar amount
on your time, being clear about tradeoffs, starting a default diary, and making
yourself redundant. Boom!

Small Business Resources:

Episode transcript

Host: Elizabeth Ü [EÜ]

Guest: Tim Kitching [TK]

Promo: You’re listening to Xero Gravity, a podcast for small business leaders and entrepreneurs around the world. Now to your host, Elizabeth Ü.

EÜ: Hi everyone, I’m Elizabeth Ü and this is Xero Gravity.

TK soundbite: “In anything that I want to do I've just got to set my mind to doing it and pursue it with everything I have, and it will actually happen. Now, when you've never done it you look at that and it's like standing at the bottom of a mountain. But once you've done it, once there’s a turning point, you realize you can do it again.”

EÜ: Meet Tim Kitching. He’s an Organizational and Executive Coach, Facilitator and Advisor with the KONA Group, a professional training and coaching company that works with some of the biggest brands in the world.

Tim is a doer, with more than three decades of experience across a wide variety of industries including the police force, banking and hospitality. And he joins us today to talk about time management and maximizing your capacity as a small business leader.

TK soundbite: “The reality is many small business people are engaged in activities which don't actually fit that mission critical definition around taking their business forward, and I’ll give you a really, really good example: doing the accounts. It's critically important, but actually you don't need to be the small business owner to do them. I have 1,440 minutes a day. How do you utilize the balance of that time effectively?”

EÜ: So we have all of that and more coming up on Xero Gravity right after this.

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EÜ: Tim, thanks for joining us on Xero Gravity.

TK: You are welcome. It's great to be here, Elizabeth.

EÜ: When you are not busy being a coach and advisor what do you get up to?

TK: Well, I've got two kids, 11 and 8, so I have to tell you — that almost consumes the balance of my available time. For fun from a purely personal point of view I do two things. The first one is I love red wine. I like to have a couple of glasses of red wine in an evening if I can. And I play ice hockey which coming from Sydney in Australia is a little bit of an anomaly but it was my version of a mid-life crisis. And it's proven a lot cheaper and safer than buying a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, so I ran with it.

EÜ: Wow! Are you slid with it, I guess, as the more appropriate term might be?

TK: Yeah. I just slid with it, absolutely. Well done.

EÜ: And do you find it hard to stop coaching when you get home from work? I imagine with kids that age they might find dad being their coach a bit annoying.

TK: You know, I used to. So I used to think, no, I can't. You know, I need to get home and turn off and then I realized that the principles behind coaching in my professional life are actually not principles I should turn off. They’re actually principles around how you communicate and how you live your life.

I have to be careful not to say, “Well hey, you know, my son’s eight and his name’s Bryce,” and I have to be careful not to say, "Well, Bryce, actually there’s a really cool model you might want to apply to your teacher here.”

EÜ: As far as the model you just mentioned, how did you find yourself working as a coach, and what training did you have?

TK: I’ve been in leadership roles since my early 20s in one way or another. And I actually found the bit that I really enjoyed around being a leader was achieving fantastic things through other people. Because, you know, after a couple of years I was a leader of leaders. And then you are actually not achieving very much yourself at all, you’re doing almost all of it through other people. That led me to a real interest in, “How do I get the best out of people?” And in reality that's the essence of coaching, is, how to get other people to get the best out of themselves.

EÜ: Well can you tell me a bit more about your first job? What was your first day at work like? Where was it? When was this?

TK: [Laughs] Yeah, so my first paid job was with a company... well, I mean you guys know it, it’s ubiquitous around the world, it was KFC. So I was in a small country town in New South Wales at the time and I desperately needed a job mainly because my parents' idea of adequate pocket money and my idea of adequate expenditure, there was a gap.

And my first day was spent with my arms up to the elbows in greasy water washing up and I got paid $4.62 an hour for it and I was terribly proud of that.

And from there I spent the next couple of years actually working as a manager firstly in KFC and then as a training manager in PepsiCo.

EÜ: I actually have a history of frying chicken as well. I didn't do much dishwashing but I spent a lot of time over that fryer. [Laughs] So…

TK: [Laughs] Exactly. And it’s is greasy and it's oily, but you know what it is, when you actually spend time in those sorts of businesses — certainly once you get into a supervision or a management role — you actually learn the true essence of running a business. Because they are just well – excuse the pun – well-oiled machines and they absolutely have the numbers of running a small business down pat. They really do.

EÜ: I think one of the great tenets of management as well is don't ever ask somebody to do something that you haven't done yourself.

TK: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean certainly at the time in KFC in Australia, any job you took on, even if you came in as a senior leader, you did have to go and spend a couple of weeks in one of the stores. You had to learn how everything was done.

EÜ: Maybe you can explain what made you decide to move into the police force after ten years in business?

TK: That's the great unanswered question. It really is. Part of it I think was that I’d actually been told my entire life that I couldn't be a policeman. So there’s undoubtedly an element of that. There’s some other things there though as well. I like helping people and I like being part of a solution, not part of the problem. And at the time, in my early 20s, the police force was actually – in my mind it was – about joining an organization that likes to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

So I don't know if I made the right decision quite frankly, but then again you can't look in the rear vision mirror all the time and say, " Well, did I do that right? Did I do this right?" Because the reality is progress and life has to move forward.

EÜ: And clearly, no matter what career move you've made at the different points in your life, you have been part of the solution. And obviously you couldn't get to where you are now without having been in all those places you were, up until this point. But what was it like to re-enter the business world after ten years in the police force?

TK: In some ways it was like coming home, but in other ways it was incredibly difficult. And everybody told me, "Look, there’s a path that you have to follow.”

And the path in reality is you move to a different government department as some sort of government investigator, you spend a couple of years doing that, and then you move into a different “non-police-related,” in inverted commas, role, in a government. And then you can apply to go into the corporate world. And I didn't buy that because that was going to be, for all intents and purposes, doing work very similar to what I was doing in the police force for another three or four years and that seemed pointless to me.

So I did it the other way. I actually started to make phone calls directly into organizations asking to have meetings in banking and finance, and eventually ended up with the role I wanted, going that way rather than actually applying for a job and going a traditional route.

EÜ: And I'm curious, what were some other major turning points in your life that got you to where you are today?

TK: When you make a decision that you’re going to do something different, when you make a decision like, "I'm going to join the police force." And you commit yourself to that goal completely, and it happens to generate a sense of self confidence about, you know what? In anything that I want to do I've just got to set my mind to doing it and pursue it with everything I have and it will actually happen.

Now, when you've never done it, you look at that and it's like standing at the bottom of a mountain. It's like you’re not entirely convinced. But once you've done it, once there’s a turning point, you realize you can do it again.

The question is not how can I? The question is why can't I?

Those moments are actually the really important turning moments for me. Because then you end up feeling really empowered to go, you know what? If I want to go and start my own business, I will and I can.

EÜ: That’s a great point for us to start digging a little deeper into this episode's theme, which is time management for small business leaders.

So first up, what are some of the most common challenges you see small business leaders facing?

TK: The first one is time. A constant feeling that there’s not enough time to do the things that they think they need to do. And I stress that it's the things they think they need to do, not necessarily the things that are actually mission critical.

I think the second one is people who think it would be a great idea to do what they've always done but do it for themselves. But at the end of the day there’s a big difference between being really good at doing what you do and running a business. The third one for me that is critical, is planning and strategy. So how am I going to take my idea or my business which is at this point, whatever it might be, and move it to where I want it to be?

EÜ: And how many of these are actually challenges, versus those that are just the result of inadequate leadership or time management practices?

TK: Look, I think they’re really closely linked. There’s two elements to time management: The first one is acknowledging that you only have a certain number of minutes in every day available to you. So actually the idea that you can do everything regardless, is a fallacy. In other words, when you start to say, "Well, I have 1,440 minutes a day to use which I’ll never get back, and some of them actually have to be spent eating and sleeping,” how do you utilize the balance of that time effectively? That's a process. So that can be a process that is taught and learned. What am I going to do? When am I going to do it?

The second area is acknowledging that, you know what? My time is valuable. I'm going to put a value on my time in dollars, is usually the easiest way. To say, "You know what? If my time for argument’s sake is worth $500 an hour, I'm going to use that as a yardstick to make decisions about whether I will or won't do something.

Because the reality is, many small business people are engaged in activities which don't actually fit that mission critical definition around taking their business forward. And I’ll give you a really, really good example: doing the accounts. It's critically important, but actually you don't need to be the small business owner to do them. And yet a large percentage of small business owners run their own books one way or the other.

The reality of the matter is there’s something that you can outsource quite cheaply to someone else, to actually do the leg work and free up your own time to actually work on your business rather than in your business.

EÜ: Right. Exactly. And have someone else do the busy work or invest in software that can help automate some of that busy work for you, and then you as the business owner can look at the reports and make smart business decisions based on the result of all that work that somebody else has done.

So how do you personally manage your time and how do you explain effective time management to your clients?

TK: The first one is I value it at $500 an hour.I look at everything I do every day in the time that I set aside to be working on or in my business, and I reflect around what am I doing? And what is it worth from a monetary standpoint.

Now I happen to find using dollar per hour is the way that works for me. Other people will use other things. What's important is that you have a really, really clear idea about the tradeoffs you are making when you make decisions about what to do with your time.

Now, when you start to do that, about all of the activities that you do you make a difference. So that's the first tool that I use. The second is I use what I call a default diary, and I use it all the time. And a default diary simply means I go through, there are some things that I do every day. So I’ll give you a great example: emails. The scourge of business in the 21st century.

EÜ: No doubt.

TK: I get a couple a hundred of them a day. Now, how do I manage that? It's really simple. You put into your diary that you are going to spend maybe three half-hour sessions a day; morning, lunch time, late afternoon, on emails and that's it. Very, very few things in business are so urgent they can't wait two and half hours. On a Sunday night you go through your week and you lock into your diary a range of these daily activities, but you get quite self-disciplined around them.

EÜ: I think that's what so many small business owners are doing. They’re so frantic, there are so many demands for their attention at any given moment. If it's not the phone it's somebody running up to them at their desk. So how realistic is it for small businesses to chunk out their calendars in that way and schedule everything in their diary, as you put it? How can we actually get there and what are some good first steps?

TK: So if you’re in your small business and it is a little bit of a whirlwind during business hours, I'm not saying you should necessarily change that.

But that doesn't mean for example, that you can't start your day with a little planning around what you need to do. It also means you need to start to think about how do I make myself redundant. There’s a fantastic book called The E-Myth Revisited, which most people, many, many people have heard of. The principles in that book are that you don't build a business because you want to spend the rest of your life running your business. You build a business because it enables you to do other things: pay your mortgage, live a life, see your family, retire. All of those things.

EÜ: So how do you encourage your clients to really focus back in on the things that are important, and even to take the time to understand what is important to them in the first place?

TK: So the first, the absolute first thing is that they’ve got to know what's important to them. If you don't know what's really, really important to you and why you’re doing what you are doing, I think you've set yourself up for failure from the word go.

The second thing is thinking everything through and saying, does this take me closer to where I want my business to go? Now, you have to know where you want your business to go for that.

EÜ: Along those lines, can you share a small business success story that was the result of someone identifying what’s important to them? And then working strategically toward that end goal?

TK: Absolutely. I'm currently working with a small business, 15 or so employees, and they are a wholesaler of craft type products. And their revenues are declining and the culture in the organization is one of survival.

Now what was really interesting is this business supplied items to retail outlets, traditional brick-and-mortar retail outlets. And what they were finding was the retail outlets were shrinking. And they thought this was because their end customer group was shrinking. It turns out that actually that market is growing.

The issue is that the customers are buying online.In other words, this business didn't have an online B2C strategy. They only dealt business to business. But most of their end customers were online looking to buy direct from suppliers and manufacturers.

EÜ: Great, thanks Tim. So we’re going to finish up with our question countdown, which is five quick questions and five quick answers. Are you ready?

TK: Yep.

EÜ: What business, book or idea has made the biggest impact on your life and why?

TK: Jack Canfield, The Success Principles, because those ideas in his book are gold.

EÜ: And what's the one thing you can't live without?

TK: I can't live without my iPhone 6.

EÜ: Ooh, that's a great lead into the next question: what is the most useful app on your phone right now?

TK: WhatsApp, because it enables me to keep in contact with a whole range of my clients in real time.

EÜ: In one sentence, what's the greatest lesson you've learned throughout your small business journey?

TK: Nothing is impossible and nothing is too hard. You just have to have the right mindset.

EÜ: And finally, what skill do you want to enhance this year?

TK: Oh that's easy — I need to be able to ice skate backwards more quickly than I can right now.

EÜ: [Laughs] That's great. Well, thank you for such a great conversation, Tim. We’re glad to have you on the show today.

TK: My pleasure, Elizabeth. Thank you very much.

Promo: Enjoying today's show? Then why not join the conversation! Just use the hashtag #XeroGravity.

EÜ: That was Tim Kitching. He’s an Organizational and Executive Coach, Facilitator and Advisor at the KONA Group. Thanks for listening to Xero Gravity. Make sure you join us next Wednesday, because we’ll be talking with Xero’s very own Felix Shi.

Felix will share his insights into cyber security for small business, with many hints and tips along the way. Trust me, not only is this a critical topic in today’s internet age, but Felix makes it super engaging with his humor and storytelling.

You really don’t want to miss this one. We’ll catch you then!

Promo: Are you a fan of Xero Gravity? Because we’d love to hear from you. Subscribe to the show in iTunes or SoundCloud and leave a review, sharing your favourite moment from the show so far.

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