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How to help your staff in becoming effective

Hi, it’s Scott from Scott Partners and today we have Emma Lyons from Business Blueprint. In this interview, we discover how giving priorities, knowing how each other works and understanding each other’s need would help your staff to effectively perform their tasks.

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SCOTT: Hi, and welcome to the Small Business Heroes show, where we talk about everything to help your small business grow and prosper. I’m your host, Scott Trevethan, and today I’m talking to Emma Lyons.

Emma is the General Manager of Business Blueprint, a business education company that provides up-to-date training and guidance to entrepreneurs and business owners around the world. She is passionate about leading her world-class team and empowering clients to achieve their best. She has been involved with Blueprint since it began, and previous to that she’s worked with Dale Beaumont, publishing his 15 Secrets Exposed book series, which sold over 250,000 copies worldwide.

She’s also heavily invested in helping orphans in Thailand through the Hands Across the Water charity, and each year organizes a bike ride in Thailand for entrepreneurs to help raise much-needed funds. To date, they’ve raised over $546,000. Welcome to the Small Business Heroes show, Emma.

EMMA: Hi, Scott. Thanks for having me.

SCOTT: I’ve just told people a little bit about what you do, but maybe you can just fill us in a bit more.

EMMA: Sure. Today actually marks the 10-year anniversary to when I first moved to Sydney, Australia, which Facebook told me this morning.

SCOTT: Congratulations.

EMMA: I was a journalist back in a former life, and I moved here when I was 21 to come and work with Dale and produce his Secrets Exposed books, which was an adventure, of course, and a full-on two years for me. After that, I took off and did a bit of travel and spread my wings around the world, and then I came back and we started to do Business Blueprint. Worked my way up from being our event coordinator, basically, to the general manager today. I’ll obviously talk about Business Blueprint soon, but it’s been a crazy ride working for the same company basically for 10 years. But we certainly have had a good time, and it’s been really great.

SCOTT: I imagine it’s been rather a static company, that nothing much has changed in the last 10 years?

EMMA: Sometimes I wish that was the case, and then maybe I’d get more sleep. But no, it certainly has been changing. That often is what happens when you work for an entrepreneur, as far as I’m concerned; that’s what they do. They’re always innovating and changing things. So it’s definitely been a bumpy but amazing ride.

SCOTT: Would you consider yourself the rock that keeps Dale focused or keeps him on track and helps him achieve the things that he needs to achieve?

EMMA: Yeah, I think it’s a great balance that we’ve struck, and probably why it’s worked for so long, because he is very big picture and he comes up with the ideas, which I think is great. From a logistics point of view, then, of going how do we actually roll that out, or what team do we need, and all those types of things, it’s not his strongpoint; he would admit that himself. So from an organizational point of view, yes, I think I’ve definitely helped to bring that all together and keep everybody focused and grounded. Because often, entrepreneurs have one idea one day and a contradicting idea the next, so it’s about knowing what our path is and what our focus is and then staying on that, but also harnessing his amazing ability to think of new things and working out how we’re going to do that.

SCOTT: For the entrepreneurs out there listening, going, “Yeah, that’s me. I’m all over the place. I come up with lots of different ideas,” is there any way that they can work to help their general managers or their team in general achieve their vision and their ideas?

EMMA: I think there’s certainly a few things that entrepreneurs can be aware of. One of them I would say is not everybody works like you work. Dale is switched on 24 hours a day. He’s thinking about work, he’s thinking about ideas, he wants to implement things now, or yesterday. I think it’s important for people like that to keep in mind that not everybody has the same stamina; not everybody has the same focus. It doesn’t mean they don’t love it, doesn’t mean that they don’t want to do everything they can for a business, but I think it just comes down to matching everybody’s needs. Definitely finding people around you that appreciate who you are and how you do things, but understanding that they may not do it the same way that you do.

The other thing that I’ve always worked on with Dale is giving me priorities. He will have 10 things for me to do, and all of them are extremely important in his eyes, which I get, but I will often say to him, “Hey, tell me which one is more important so I can work on that for you and get it done, and the rest I’ll have and control later on.” So having a priority list I think helps the staff, because then they know what they’re meant to do.

I actually heard him the other day say to one of our new staff – they said, “Which of these should I do first?”, and he said, “Just do them all.” I said to him, “No, no, just tell him which ones, and then he will be able to prioritize that for you and you won’t be let down.”

SCOTT: That is absolutely great advice. For those people out there that are listening today that are in that position of working with an entrepreneur, is there anything special that they should navigate their path around to make sure that they can meet their boss’s expectations?

EMMA: Yeah, I think they should learn to deep breathe and be patient. It did take Dale and I a long time to be able to know how each other works, so it does take time; it’s not as easy as just jumping in. When I first started working for Dale when I was 21, I was pretty scared of him, actually, because he was really full-on and that’s just how he is. And now, of course, I’ve come to appreciate that that’s who he is.

So I would say it’s about having patience, asking questions. I’ve always been an advocate of saying if I didn’t understand something instead of pretending that I did, because there’s nothing more frustrating to an entrepreneur when it comes back wrong. So I would rather ask 20 questions and get it right. And I think it’s just about trying to build that relationship, and also maybe understanding that they’re not going to be so focused on the smaller details because they are focused on the big picture.

So certainly it’s about, from a general manager point of view, stepping up and taking over those things and making sure that they’re sorted, because that is your job. His job is to come up with the ideas; my job is to sort out how it’s going to work.

SCOTT: Fantastic. Beautiful advice. How do you think that Business Blueprint has grown team-wise over the past 10 years?

EMMA: I definitely think the biggest challenge I’ve ever had in this business is team, and I mean that in an amazing way, but it certainly was just Dale and I for about four years on our own when we did the books and when we started Business Blueprint. And because we know so well how each other works, we kind of just managed to get along. But when you then introduce other personalities and other team that has their own values and their own things going on, it can really rock the boat, sometimes in an amazing way and sometimes not.

The team has definitely grown from the two of us. We now have – of course, we have so many staff in the Philippines, it’s hard to count them straightaway. I think personally we’ve got seven staff in the Philippines currently, in the Business Blueprint side of the business – because there’s now two sides to Business Blueprint – but on our side, there’s about seven, and there’s probably about seven in Australia as well.

So we’ve had a lot of change in our staff over the years. I think that happens naturally, and it’s something I definitely learnt because I wanted everybody to stay for 10 years just like I have, but it’s not necessarily what happens in the real world. I definitely put myself through a lot of training to be able to manage the team, because it is something that is a skill, and you have to have patience and you have to be empathetic to other staff and what they’re doing. It’s brought a lot home for Dale in terms of what I was saying earlier, that not everybody works the way that he works, and so to appreciate everybody for who they are and just try and guide them in the direction that we’re going.

SCOTT: You mentioned that you’ve got a large team in the Philippines. Has that brought a change in dynamic, and is that hard to manage from a general manager’s perspective?

EMMA: Obviously we’re big advocates for having some staff in the Philippines. It’s certainly not to say that we’re trying to replace our Australian jobs with people in the Philippines, but I think a great way of thinking about it is that having staff in the Philippines is a massive support to the staff that we have here in Australia. Each of my staff in Australia have an assistant in the Philippines, because it helps them to do their job, it helps them to have somebody to do maybe the more mundane type things or the data type entry and admin things for their role, so they can concentrate on what they’re really good at.

From a management point of view, there’s so many similarities to having someone in Australia as opposed to someone in the Philippines. You still have to do training, you still have to have meetings, you still have to contact them and care about them and foster that relationship. One of the best things we ever did was actually go over there. I’ve been over there twice, but we went over and we had meetings with them, we met them, we talked about their families and really got invested. And we’ve seen a massive difference in the output of work, but also the relationship that we see between them and us. So I see no difference in having them over there as opposed to here, and we just include them in everything that we do.

SCOTT: Fantastic advice. Emma, we talked a little bit about Dale Beaumont and Business Blueprint, and I’m sure everyone knows who Dale Beaumont is, but just in case they don’t, tell us just a little bit about Dale and Business Blueprint, the organization you work in.

EMMA: No worries. Dale started his career actually doing seminars for teenagers, and has run those around the world for – God, I wouldn’t even know the number now, thousands and thousands of teenagers. When he was doing that, he decided he wanted to do a series of books that was interviewing entrepreneurs, because these teenagers could really learn a lot from entrepreneurs, and there wasn’t really anything out there to teach them.

So he did the Secrets Exposed series of books, which was 15 books. Titles like Secrets of Small Business Owners, Secrets of Entrepreneurs under 40, things like that. Interviewed about 215 of the best entrepreneurs in Australia and New Zealand. And that really formed the basis for Business Blueprint, because whilst people loved the books and they were big sellers here in Australia, which was awesome, there was never anything next. There wasn’t something else for people to do.

He realized that there were so many business owners out there that really needed some great help and guidance and a community to belong to, and so that was what we branched into with Business Blueprint. It’s an education company for entrepreneurs in Australia and New Zealand. We’ve been running it now for just over six years, and it’s a 12-month program that we run.

Really, the point of it is to be teaching entrepreneurs the new ways of doing things – the new technology that’s available, the new ways of doing sales and marketing that might be different from the older ways. We all know that technology has changed everything, and businesses are still running the way that they did maybe 20 years ago when your customers were in the Yellow Pages, and now they’re not anymore. They’re on Facebook. So we concentrate on those types of things and we just teach business owners the way forward, and then they go away and they implement that into their business.

SCOTT: As a member, I can thoroughly attest to the value that Business Blueprint has given our business, and me personally as well. So I thoroughly endorse those comments.

Now, we can’t finish this interview without mentioning the Hands Across the Water charity, because we did mention that in your intro. Tell us a little bit about the arduous bike ride that you’re talking about.

EMMA: Yeah, you would know as well, because you yourself have done that arduous bike ride. But I think we first started getting involved with Hands because their founder, Peter Baines, was one of our speakers, and we decided that we just wanted to have – almost an extra arm to the business, of something that we did for the love of it and not for the need of it. Certainly from a personal point of view, it’s brought me a lot of joy to be involved in something bigger than myself and bigger than the worries of work every day.

So we do a 500 kilometer bike ride across Thailand with entrepreneurs like yourself. Everybody raises $5,000, and that all goes to kids in Thailand. Originally it was children from the tsunami that didn’t have any parents, and now it’s a whole range of different kids in Thailand. One of the reasons we do it is because 100% of the funds go straight to the children, which was really important to us. We actually sponsor a little boy over there ourselves now called Tiger. He is 9. We’ve sponsored him for about four years. And certainly being able to go over and visit him and see him has another impact on us, and has definitely changed who we are. So it’s definitely a little passion project that we’ve got going on there, and when I have a spare five minutes – which is rarely – we organize the bike ride.

SCOTT: That’s fantastic, and I can thoroughly encourage people to get involved in that as well, preferably through Business Blueprint. If people listening today want to find out a little bit more about Business Blueprint or about yourself, what’s the best place for them to go?

EMMA: Either you can visit That has a lot of information about our program and testimonials and things like that. Or we run a free event around the country a few times a year, and that is, and you can go on there and register for the free event. We come to all major cities. It’s just one day of Dale giving content away the entire day, and then a little bit, of course, about what Business Blueprint does. So either of those two ways is a great way to connect with us.

SCOTT: It’s a fantastic community that you’re in charge of, and you’re doing a great job, Emma. Thank you so much for your time today.

And thank you very much for listening, everybody. My name’s Scott Trevethan. You’re listening to Small Business Heroes. If you’d like to find more about us, you can go to our Facebook page, which is Small Business Heroes, or you can also go to the Scott Partners Facebook page or I’ll make sure all of those links are just listed below this video here.

Emma Lyons, thank you so much for your time today.

EMMA: Thanks so much, Scott.

SCOTT: I thoroughly encourage everyone, if you want to find out more about Emma as well, join Business Blueprint – and we can talk about next time something called Brin which might give people access to some of the content that you were talking about as well.

EMMA: Sounds good. Thanks so much for your time, Scott.

SCOTT: Thank you.

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