Why are you still charging by the hour?

When I worked for Ernst & Young back in the early 90s, we had to account for every 10 minutes of our time. Each hour equated to 6 units, and we had a weekly target of billing a minimum of 75% of chargeable time.

In reality, most of us were billing over 100% of our time – working 70-80 hours, that was how you got on in the firm back then. Time was our currency.

The legal profession worked on similar principals, charging clients for the amount of time spent. It was a model that worked really well for the Professions – you could plan with certainty and huge profits were made.

Little has changed over the past 20 years.

So why do I have a problem with charging for time? Quite simply, it rewards inefficiency. The longer you spend on something, the more it costs me as the client. Where’s the incentive for you to innovate, to think out of the box? No, it’s easier just to load time onto the client.

But the world has changed. That kind of behaviour is no longer acceptable.

However the majority are still doing it and that’s where the opportunity lies. Modern firms think like businesses. They’re designed around the needs of the clients, not the needs of the firm.

Pricing is fixed. As the client, you know exactly how much you’re paying and what you’re getting for that. It’s much fairer. If you can innovate and find more cost-effective ways of delivering your service, then that’s absolutely fine. As long as both parties recognise the value that’s being delivered, at a fair price, then no-one will have a problem.

The days of the accountant & lawyer dictating terms are over. For those that don’t adapt, it’ll be a bleak future. Put the client front and centre. Focus on delivering value.

It’s what every other kind of business has to do, now it’s time for you to think like a business too…..

Working 9-5 what a way to make a living!

*** this post was originally published back in 2011, however the message is as relevant today as it was back then. I’ll be interested in your thoughts ***

Working 9-5, what a way to make a living!

So sang Dolly Parton back in 1980. And in those days, before the Information Age, she had a point.

31 years on and a revolution has taken place in the world of work. We’re constantly connected in a 24×7 world where customers expect instant responses via Facebook, Twitter, or plain “old” email.

But here’s the thing. Unless you’re in retail, or you’re a tech startup, then the world of work is still organised around those “core” hours that the Queen of Country sang about way back then.

Why?

Well, we’ve moved forward in leaps & bounds in those 31 years. Those were the days of Command & Control structures, where staff were there to be bossed around & shouted at and in many ways abused. Nowadays that behaviour would see you in court! The computer has transformed our working lives and we’re all way more productive. Some jobs have been consigned to history, and being networked and connected is where it’s at.

But actually, many employers would quite like it if everyone could still work those core hours. 9-5 please, ‘cos that’s what we’ve always done and it works. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I had coffee earlier this week with a good friend of mine and we were discussing this very point. We both work flexible hours, we start early, maybe take some time out during the day to swim or ride the bike, and then we’re back online later in the day. Working, socialising, connecting & engaging. We get the balance that suits our own lifestyle & habits.

In both of our companies we still ask people to shoe-horn into our “Business Hours”. However we’ve realised that if we want to get the best out of our people, then we need to give them that same lattitude. We’re not asking them to work 24×7, far from it. But we’re both going to look at how we can make the working day better for them.

If you live out of town, hate the traffic, and aren’t a morning person, why not start at 10 and work through to 6. In fact, why not start at noon and work until 8? Likewise, if you’re like Mark & I – a morning person – then come in at 6 and finish up at 2. As long as we’ve got cover to support our customers throughout the day, then why not? We pay the rent for 24 hours, so why are we only using a third of what we pay for? That doesn’t make sense.

What about you? If you’re running a business what do you think? If you’re an employee, what would you like?

It’s time to re-invent the way we work.

Back to basics

Back in June, I attended and spoke at TCMA 2016, the Content Marketing Academy conference. Indeed, the video that’s now on the Home page is my talk from there. I was struck by a thought, a feeling, that grew bigger and bigger over the two days, as we heard from speakers of the calibre of Amy Schmittauer, Ann Handley and Mark Schaefer.

And that thought was this – my website, and the content I’d been producing was bland. Technically correct and competent, but it had no soul. It was lifeless.

Ann talked about being Bigger, Braver, Bolder. Mark urged us to Be More Human. I looked at my site and saw neither. And so unlike the majority that attended the conference, I stopped producing content. I took a couple of weeks to really think about things, and then took action.

The first thing I did was contact Business Storytelling Coach, Kev Anderson, and ask for his help. I also realised that it was time to get our website onto WordPress (it was originally built on Wix back in 2012).

Working with Kevin was great. Cathartic even. I’ve always enjoyed writing. It’s been a passion of mine for many years, so rather than being afraid of this process, I was hugely excited about it. I now had a coach who could help me tell my stories.

And so over the course of a couple of months we re-wrote the website content and moved it to the new platform. I love the way our site works and looks now. As a design business, it’s important that we have a beautiful, easy to use site.

However, there was still a nagging ‘thing’ at the back of my mind. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. And then it hit me. I was listening to my friend Lauren Currie on a recent podcast interview. Lauren has been an inspiration of mine for several years now, since I was introduced to her by my daughter Rebecca back in 2010. I was in the car, driving I can’t recall where, and listening to the interview. Lauren’s mind fascinates me. The way she sees things, and what she then does about it. I’m in awe – I want to be like her when I grow up.

I realised that I’d created a website about this business Ashton McGill. Looking at it, you couldn’t tell if it was 10 people, 100 people, or just me. Yes, the work with Kev had helped to build soul back into it. We now stood for something. But who was ‘we’?

I’ve spent the majority of my career, running or working in large organisations, so my default way has always been to speak about ‘we’. But the thing is, Ashton McGill is just me and Andy most of the time. And having setup Ashton McGill Video recently, which Andy runs, then actually it’s really just me. So wasn’t it time to go back to basics and stop pretending to be something I’m not?

Back to Kev again, my storytelling mentor. We had a great couple of hours last Friday, figuring this out. Over the past week I’ve been tweaking the website. It’s not the finished article yet (will it ever be?), but it feels more like me now.

Ashton McGill is my vehicle to do good work. Work that makes a difference to organisations, people, and society, using the skills and experience I’ve developed over 25 years. Often it’s just me, occasionally I’ll bring in other people, and from time to time I’ll collaborate with others as part of their team. And that’s all absolutely fine.

I’ve realised that I don’t need to conform to anyone else’s ideas, and I’m learning to be comfortable being me again. I don’t need to hide behind an organisation any more.

It’s time to get back to basics.

New Beginnings

For almost two years now I’ve been working on a variety of interesting projects through my own company.  During that time I’ve helped launch two innovative startup businesses and have led a large Service Design project, helping to completely redesign the way that a service was delivered, leading to a much better customer experience that built stronger relationships, improved retention and profitability.

I’ve also been working on my own startup business – LowerYourScores.com – in partnership with my golf professional brother Niall. LYS was launched into the Golf Coach market in October 2013 and will launch for Players in Spring 2014. We’re really excited about the potential for LYS.

In the summer of 2013 we relocated from Aberdeenshire to Perthshire, a long-term family plan that we were delighted to finally realise. After finishing off a couple of projects, and getting LYS launched, I took a bit of time out at the end of the year to explore other opportunities and to decide what to do next.

I’d long considered publicly launching our business, which trades as Ashton McGill and offering our services to a wider market. So, during December we’ve built a basic website so that we could formally ‘launch’ in the New Year. There’s a wealth of experience here that we’d love to share with businesses that want to improve. I am passionate about creating great customer experiences and have a desire to simplify & make things easier and better. I love to challenge the status quo and look for new & better ways to do things, constantly asking the question that’s become my mantra – Why does it have to be that way?

January 2014 marks a new beginning for us as we go ‘live’ with Ashton McGill. Already we have a number of projects and speaking engagements in the pipeline and 2014 looks like being a very exciting year for us. We hope that it will be for you too!

Working 9-5 what a way to make a living!

So sang Dolly Parton back in 1980. And in those days, before the Information Age, she had a point.

31 years on and a revolution has taken place in the world of work. We’re constantly connected in a 24×7 world where customers expect instant responses via Facebook, Twitter, or plain “old” email.

But here’s the thing. Unless you’re in retail, or you’re a tech startup, then the world of work is still organised around those “core” hours that the Queen of Country sang about way back then.

Why?

Well, we’ve moved forward in leaps & bounds in those 31 years. Those were the days of Command & Control structures, where staff were there to be bossed around & shouted at and in many ways abused. Nowadays that behaviour would see you in court! The computer has transformed our working lives and we’re all way more productive. Some jobs have been consigned to history, and being networked and connected is where it’s at.

But actually, as employers, we’d quite like it if everyone could still work when it suits us. 9-5 please, ‘cos that’s what we’ve always done and it works. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Do you think we’d have an iPod or an iPad if Steve Jobs thought like that?

I had a coffee this morning with a good friend of mine, Mark Griffiths, the MD of Aberdeen-based Codify and we were discussing this very point. We both work flexible hours, we start early, maybe take some time out during the day to swim or ride the bike, and then we’re back online until we go to bed. Working, socialising, connecting & engaging. For us it’s 24×7 because we love it. But we also get the balance that suits our own style & habits.

But in both of our companies we still ask people to shoe-horn into our “Business Hours”. However we’ve both realised that if we want to get the best out of our people, then we need to give them that same lattitude. We’re not asking them to work 24×7, far from it. But we’re both going to look at how we can make the working day better for them.

If you live out of town, hate the traffic, and aren’t a morning person, why not start at 10 and work through to 6. In fact, why not start at noon and work until 8? Likewise, if you’re like Mark & I, a morning person, then come in at 6 and finish up at 2. As long as we’ve got cover to support our customers throughout the day, then why not? We pay the rent for 24 hours, so why are we only using a third of what we pay for? That doesn’t make sense.

And what about you? If you’re running a business what do you think? If you’re an employee, what would you like?

It’s time to re-invent the way we work.

Dress to Impress

How do you dress for work? Is a business suit your choice of threads for the day-time? Or maybe it’s jeans & a t-shirt? Does what you do, or the sector you work in influence that choice? Or maybe you’ve got no option and have to follow a dress-code?

It’s an interesting topic, one covered recently and eloquently by Michelle Rodger @tartancat in her Sunday column. I’m intrigued to know what people think.

As you may know, we’re business advisors to a mixture of client types, all generally self-employed – oil & gas contractors, creative freelancers, businesses, and startups. Four very different groups and each with different expectations.

If you’re an oil & gas guy meeting me to talk about your personal tax planning does it help or hinder if I’m in a suit? Or does it make no difference?

The feedback we get from our creative clients is that the way our office looks – @johannabasford described it last week as looking like Ugly Betty – and the way we look (casual dress code) makes them feel at ease. The suits are actually intimidating to these guys.

Just what is the expectation these days, or is it more about what you do, how well you do it, than how you look (within reason!)?

Let me know what you think!