6 Ways to Reduce Business Stress.

Any business person aiming high is going to be stressed at times.

But surprisingly few have learnt smart ways to reduce their stress.

Below are 6 highly effective ways to keep your stress under control, no matter what is happening in your business and personal life.


Usually people are stressed about just one or two areas of their life. If they only took a moment to look at the big picture, they would see that the vast majority of their life is going well. Grab a pen and some paper and write a list of all the stuff that’s going well in your life. (You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how long the list becomes.). Now stick that list next to your computer, so that you see it all day long. Watch how quickly your perspective changes and your mood lifts.


Clarity enhances serenity. If you’re stressed by how much you have to do, get precise about exactly what tasks must be done (You’ll often realize it’s less than you thought). Once you’ve created your list put a circle around the truly crucial tasks. Most of the time stressed executives have exaggerated just how much they have to do. Getting it down on paper helps you see that mountain of work may be smaller than you thought.


The renowned personal development guru, Wayne Dwyer, says you can tell the state of a person’s mind by the state of their car. I agree. if you’re feeling overwhelmed one of the most effective strategies is to create order in your immediate environment – car, office, home. As you take charge of your surroundings your feelings of control will increase. And as the esteemed behavioural psychologist Martin Seligman has shown, there’s a strong correlation between feelings of control and well being.


I mentor executives and entrepreneurs from all over the world. Whenever they come to me complaining about stress I get them to do this simple exercise:

Take a deep breath. Then as you exhale imagine all your problems and stress leaving you. Do this just 3 times and I bet your feeling of stressed has dissipated significantly.


One of the most effective techniques for reducing your stress is to take the focus off yourself. When you start devoting time to helping others around you inevitably spend less time thinking about your own problems. There are several studies from the University of Pennsylvania linking happiness with service to others. It may seem strange to connect the two, but the truth is many people who are stressed in the corporate world are so partly because they are incessantly thinking about their own issues and situation, rather than others. We need to balance the two.


There is a concept in psychology known as Learned Helplessness – failing to respond or act to improve our circumstances. Originally discovered in rats, learned helplessness is also evident in some humans who feel overwhelmed by their roles and responsibilities. They feel that things are so bad there is little that they can do to change things. We have all felt this at some point in our business lives and it is a depressing feeling to say the least.

The cure though is simple. Take action to fix things. By proactively acting to improve our circumstances we regain a feeling of control and possibility. If we continue acting we soon get a change in our situation. Soon our situation improves, which encourages us to act further. A virtuous cycle develops which usually quickly improves our predicament.

The key is to act greatly, taking multiple steps to change things, even if we’re not sure if they’ll work. If we act enough, we will usually see vast improvements in almost any area we focus on.

So next time you’re feeling stressed at work, try one or two of these techniques. You’ll find every one of them is highly effective in both reducing your stress and improving your performance.

Checklist for a Great Brand.

Any smart entrepreneur understands a strong brand is vital. (It separates you from your competitors. It enables you to charge more. It allows you to add new products easily. It makes people feel proud to buy from you. It increases loyalty).

But many people are not sure how to create an outstanding brand.

I’ve spent over 30 years creating and enhancing company brands, for some of the largest and most successful companies in the world, from Apple to Coca Cola. So today I’d like to give you a quick brand building checklist, to help you make the most of your brand.

Have a read and see how your brand measures up.

Great brands have the following characteristics:


That could be a logical space – your product is cheaper or better made for instance. Or it could be an emotional space; your offering may make your customer feel safe, sexy, or smart, for example. Whichever way you go, you must make sure your space is clearly defined in the customer’s mind. When they think of your product, service or company, they should never have a muddled vision.


If you can think of numerous brands that make the same promise as you, in a similar way, then you will find it hard to build a potent brand. (It can be done, usually through brilliant advertising, major PR, or just by being the first in a category, but it’s difficult to pull off).

Enduring brands are distinct from their competitors. Club Med is vastly distinct from Thomas Cook Holidays. Red Bull is far away from Coke. Ferrari differs greatly from Mercedes. Each of these brands are strong because they don’t try to be all things to all people. Stake your position and make sure it’s always differentiated from the pack.


Most brands are merely skin deep. Once you get involved with the company you see that they don’t really live the brand positioning, it’s little more than a slogan.

Stellar brands make sure that every touch point is in keeping with their brand positioning. For example, at FedEx they pick up the phone in one ring. When I bought a Porsche I was soon invited to an advanced driving school. At The Como Hotel in Melbourne they don’t just say they treat you well, they offer you a menu of different bath experiences you can have in your room (and your own rubber duck).

These brands are alive. They are congruent. They are real. They can be experienced daily, not just in their marketing.


Most companies are not really sure what their customers really want. Oh sure, they know the basics – for example if they run a car company they know their customers want it well made, to look nice and to be good value. But rarely have their interrogated their customers to the point where they really, really understand what they seek from their product, practically and emotionally.

How do you find that out? You ask them – via surveys and regular in depth interviews. And observe what they do, not just what they say.

Look behind the obvious for the real motive. For example, people who buy drills don’t want drills. They want holes.

So these are the crucial four elements for creating a mighty brand. How many do you score highly on?

Get all these elements right and you won’t just have a strong brand.

You’ll have a highly profitable enterprise.

An Incredibly Effective Productivity Technique.

As you probably know, I am constantly studying time saving, organisation and productivity.

The reason is simple.

If we can find just one technique that can make us more productive in business, over 5 or 10 years the impact can be extraordinary.

Today I’d like to talk about a ridiculously simple technique that can make a phenomenal improvement to how much you achieve.

I learnt it from David Allen, a celebrated productivity expert, and it’s called The 2 Minute Rule.

Here’s how it works.

Whenever a new task comes up (an email, a phone call, or a new To Do) you ask yourself one simple question.

Can I handle this in 2 minutes or less?

If you can, you do it immediately. If you can’t you write it on your list of things to do later.

Is that all there is to it? Yep, that’s all there is.

But you’ll be amazed at how following this one rule improves your business performance and your life.

For a start, you will no longer have huge lists of things you need to get done. By doing tasks as they come up your To Do list will be halved.

You also will rarely forget to do tasks, as you’ll either have done them immediately (if you can do them in under 2 minutes) or you’ll have them written down on a list.

You’ll accomplish much more, much faster.

You’re reputation at work will improve as you’ll become known for getting things handled quickly.

And your feelings of control will increase – a well known cause of life satisfaction (see control/happiness research by either Martin Seligman or William Glasser).

The 2 Minute Rule is potentially life changing. And certainly business changing.

So try this exercise. Rank your current productivity with a mark out of 10. Then try The 2 Minute Rule for 5 business days, then re-rank your productivity.

If you usually give yourself a 6 out of 10 for efficiency I’ll wager you will lift that to an 8 out of 10.

The 2 Minute Rule is that powerful.

Why the Super Bowl is Like the Business World.

Throwing a football around wearing tight pants and eye black may seem the opposite of the world of business, but I think the two share important similarities.

In fact I believe if we don’t develop 3 of the same character traits of the top NFL players we will never reach the top of the corporate world.

The best players and the best business execs each have these personality aspects to an extreme degree:

1. Ultra focus.

You don’t see linemen trying to be quarterbacks, or the team kicker trying his hand at playing wide receiver.

The NFL world understands that you can only be superb if you specialize. The same is true in business. Great entrepreneurs understand that they must focus on an industry or niche – really get to know it and delve down into its intricacies if they ever hope to master it. In the same manner superb corporate executives appreciate that they need to be brilliant at just a small number of skills, the critical few that they are both suited to and are the most valuable to their company.

Whether in football or business, generalists are less likely to reach the top.

2.Devotion to practice.

The Superbowl wasn’t won by the Ravens on February 3. It was won far earlier, during the thousands of hours the players and coaching staff practiced and refined their craft. Business is no different. Skills practice is vital – whether it’s sales skills, marketing expertise, financial acumen or strategy prowess.

Both footballers and business people are made not born; through endless finessing of their key skill sets.

3. Deep passion.

The wild, chest beating machismo of many of the 49ers and Ravens players is certainly not evident in the corporate world, but make no mistake, deep down in every great business person is similar passion- though it will express itself in more sedate ways.

Nobody ever got to the top in business by being nonchalant. No matter how talented, those who are ambivalent about their careers tend to get steam rolled by those that are passionate. The complexities and shifting sands of business life demand total immersion and commitment- anything less leads to mediocre performance.

So as you can see, Superbowl players actually have quite a lot in common with people in business. Which begs the question, how do you score on the three key attributes of both professions – ultra focus, devotion to practice and deep passion? Are you too a world champion?

Marketing Lessons From Obama’s Victory.

Most of us enjoyed watching the spectacle of the Romney/Obama war from a human and political point of view.

But there are also some important marketing lessons that can be learned by analysing their battle.


When Obama turned up at the first debate as a seemingly unenthusiastic, quiet, taciturn leader he endangered his chances of staying President.
The next day the polls showed a substantial shift in public sentiment against him.

Why? It wasn’t the brilliance of Romney’s suggestions for the country’s future that damaged Obama, It was that nobody likes a leader without passion, energy and verve. Many were shocked by Obama’s unspirited performance and began to wonder if he was the right man to lead in these dire economic times. His lack of emotional energy cost him plenty.

The same is true when you’re trying to sell your product or service.

People buy enthusiasm, as much as they buy the product itself. If customers don’t feel that you’re totally committed to and excited by what you sell, why should they be?

Are you showing total enthusiasm in your presentations? Or only going through the motions? The difference can be worth a fortune.


I assert that the average voter found the endless statistics and facts of both partys’ leaders totally befuddling. They not only didn’t understand the ramifications of much of the data proffered by Romney and Obama, but had very little memory of it anyway soon afterward.

It’s the same with your brand. Unless you keep your message really, really simple (then endlessly repeat it) then it’s unlikely you’ll make a memorable dent in your audience’s consciousness.

Most of us do the opposite. We say too many things about our company, so few are remembered. We list endless features of our products rather than talk in depth about the one or two that really matter .

As a result our brand doesn’t stand out amongst the countless other competitors who are all doing the same.

There’s money in simplicity.


Anyone who was on Obama’s email list couldn’t help but marvel at the deep sense of community his team created with it.

Several times a day for months, emails were sent asking for donations, keeping supporters in touch with the latest news and taking every opportunity to make those on the list feel like they were playing a major role in the re-election of the President.

I remember that even on the election day itself, an email went out asking for 750 volunteers in my state (California) to leave what they were doing and lend a hand down at the polling booths. (I assume every state got their own email with this extraordinary request.) Because millions of people were brought into Obama’s ‘inner circle’ by these emails, they not only helped him raise over a billion dollars, they felt a deepening sense of comradeship and loyalty to his cause.

Which inevitably led to increased votes.

What about you? Have you developed a community of customers that believe in what you’re doing, what you’re selling and what you stand for?

Do they feel that you are about more than making the sale? The more powerfully you make a stand for something the more customers will get behind you.

To his audience, Richard Branson isn’t about selling airline seats.

He’s about making flying fun.

Steve Jobs didn’t strive to be number one in computer or music sales, he stood for an intense drive for product excellence.

Ralph Lauren doesn’t get up in the morning purely to make more money, he’s inspired to create a more beautiful life for his customers.

As a result, in all three cases these people created a community of millions of people who believed in them – and therefore the products they sold.

In your own way, you can do the same.


One of the key differences between Obama and Romney was their consistency of message.

One month out from election day Romney fundamentally changed many of his positions on important issues.

So much so, that Obama mocked him by saying there was a new disease of forgetfulness, known as ‘Romnesia’.

In contrast, Obama stuck with his core campaign tenets right throughout the election campaign. Yes, he adapted what he said about them, in response to Romney’s attacks, but he did not change his stance in any significant way.

It was tough to do, but was a crucial component of his ultimate victory.

How consistent are you? With your company’s message and brand positioning? Your standards of service? Your follow through? Your operational systems?

It’s not what you do or say occasionally, it’s what you deliver and how you come across day after day, year after year, that creates your reputation and engenders deep loyalty amongst your customers.

Consistency builds trust. Trust creates long term customers. Long term customers are the crucial element in building business wealth.

In summary, while politics may seem a long way from business, it’s easy to see that many of the same elements generate success:
Enthusiastic delivery of message. Not getting too complex with the details. Building a community of followers. Maintaining consistency.

It pays to focus on them. Whether you want to become President. Or President of your company.

The Quickest Way to Business Wealth: Learn From Experts.

I am constantly amazed at how little self education business owners do.

And it shows in their results.

Ninety percent of entrepreneurs have not gone to a single business seminar since they started their business.

For some reason they would rather struggle with their business day after day, year after year, than take 2 or 3 days out of their life to learn how to do things better.

There’s really no excuse, but here are some of them I hear:

“I don’t have time to go to a business seminar”.

I usually answer as follows: “Have you ever thought why you don’t have time? It’s because your haven’t learnt to get more leads in, close more sales, keep your customers for longer and create marketing that sells. If you had learnt these things you’d be rich, and would have plenty of time to attend business seminars to get richer. Instead you’re working long and exhausting hours struggling to get your business more profitable, yet doing nothing to learn how to do it. If you don’t have time to go to a business seminar that’s precisely why you should.”

Here’s another common excuse I hear all the time: ” I can’t afford to go to those seminars.”

My answer is always the same; “How can you afford not to? Do you realize that a single idea that you hear at a seminar, just one, could literally make you over a million dollars? It could be a new way to get customers, a new way to advertise on the web, a smart method for raising money for your business, a clever technique for buying a business on the cheap. Just one idea like this has often completely and utterly transformed a business – and made the owner exceedingly rich in the process.

The final excuse I hear is ” My business is going fine, I really don’t need to attend a business seminar.”

This, in my view, is the most illogical of them all.

My reply is along the following lines: ” You think you’re running your business well, but I’ll bet you a thousand bucks that you could run it a whole lot better. I have personally consulted to some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world and I have never seen a business that is running as profitably as it could be. The slightest change to a sales process or a marketing system can immediately lift a company’s profits 20% or more. In some case it can double their profitability.

To not seek to learn these techniques by attending a high level business seminar borders on insane.”

All the great billionaires of our time learnt from experts.

Investment guru Warren Buffett says he owes his success to being taught by Benjamin Graham.

Finance king Leon Black learnt how to buy and sell companies from Michael Milken.

Steve Jobs was taught computing by Steve Wozniak and software by Andy Hertzfeld.

Mark Zuckerberg continues to seek instruction from Intel’s Andy Grove.

Who are you learning from?

Either you’ve found genuine wizards of business or you need to.

But there’s a problem with finding such sages – they are highly elusive.

That’s why business seminars are so vital – in just 2 or 3 days you get to see 10 or 20 of them – you are literally inundated with their ideas and strategies to increase your business wealth. It’s by far the most time efficient way to increase your learning.

And as the billionaires I mentioned above will all tell you, it’s your learning that lifts your earning.

So please, resist the urge to continue running your business the same old way.

Find a good business seminar and book yourself into it.

In 3 days you can improve your next 30 years.

3 Reasons People Don’t Succeed in Business.

Are you struggling to reach your goals in business?

Most people are. The fact is the vast majority of business owners fall well short of their own goals.

Try as they may, they just can’t seem to get the sales they need to grow their business.

The question is why.

Of course, there are a myriad of little reasons that entrepreneurs don’t succeed, but I believe there are 3 fundamental, overarching reasons for business failure.

As you read them please take a moment to rank yourself a score out of ten in each of the 3 critical areas.


Most people aren’t crystal clear about what they want from their business. Oh sure, they know they want to make more money, but very few are completely clear about precisely where they want to take their business, in how long, and in what ways.

For example they are not clear on:
What they want their revenues to be in per month, in 12 months and in 3 years.
What skills they need to develop to get those results.
What lead generation systems work best for them.
What the best competitors are doing in their industry.
What the 3 best uses of their time are. And so on.

Without this clarity they are performing at half their potential – doing only a small proportion of what needs to be done, operating in a mental fog.

So, how do you rank in the area of Clarity?

Now what’s one thing you could do today to improve that?


In 1960 a plastic surgeon by the name of Dr Maxwell Maltz discovered an amazing thing.

Even after Dr Maltz had performed plastic surgery on patients who believed they had a physical flaw, many of his patients still thought they were ugly.

Maltz realised that plastic surgery was useless unless the patient also worked on their self identity and developed their feelings of self worth. He concluded that what was really needed was plastic surgery for the mind.

In other words, unless we believe in ourselves, our performance in any field (and our self respect) will be low.

Since then countless studies have been done that corroborate Dr Maltz’s findings.

Running a business is tough. The obstacles are never ending and escalating, the pressures immense, and the challenges to our self esteem virtually continuous.

In this environment it is crucial that we continually boost our self belief so that we feel confident enough to tackle this onslaught.

Yet I know of almost no executives or entrepreneurs who do this.

It only takes a few minutes a day too. If we can create a daily morning ritual of coming up with reasons why we’ll succeed, seeing ourselves succeed in our mind’s eye, and talking to ourselves in a supportive, positive manner, then our self belief will indeed strengthen.

But I believe we must do this daily. Without consistency in our mental conditioning we will drift between believing in ourselves one day and doubting ourselves the next – the mental state of most executives today.

How do you rank yourself out of ten with Self Belief?

What’s one thing you could do right now to improve that score?


Never before in history has the business world had such time shortages and job complexity. Endless meetings, tsunami’s of emails, To Do Lists as high as Kilimanjaro – it literally never stops. But that’s only half the problem. The other half is that we were never trained at school or university for this kind of world – we simply haven’t learnt enough productivity tools to excel in this environment.

So we are both overwhelmed by the enormity of our work tasks, and feel ill equipped with viable strategies to tackle them.

There’s only one solution of course: start devoting more time to learning how to be productive. I’m suggesting serious study in this area, not just lightly reading a tip or two on the internet. Only a total dedication to productivity mastery will defend us from the ever increasing deluge of data and tasks, that rises even as you read this.

Set yourself a goal of not only reading about productivity, but developing a collection of 10 time management techniques that you use every day-a quiver of productivity weapons that become central to your working life.

Put them on a piece of paper and laminate it, keeping it clearly in view on your desk all day long. Soon it will become a part of you.

Unless we elevate personal productivity in our lives, we risk becoming mentally and physically exhausted by the sheer quantum of what our work life throws at us. Productivity skills are a must have, not a should have.

So thinking about this, what score would you give yourself in this area?
What’s one thing you could do today to lift that score up?

OK, now take a moment to evaluate all of your scores.

If you scored 7 or higher, congratulations, it’s likely you’re on top of the game of work.

If you’re below 7 in any area, I urge you to start designing a system today to rectify it. Pronto.

Your success in business will directly stem from your excellence in these three arenas.

Focus on them. Monitor them. Act on them.

And victory will be yours.

Why Building a Great Business Takes Time.

With the lightning fast rise of companies like Facebook and Instagram, it’s easy to feel disheartened about the growth of your own business.

Many entrepreneurs feel that compared to the sky rocketing internet companies featured on the covers of business magazines that they are failures.

But the statistics show otherwise.

The reality is that most successful companies are built over time. A long time.

Take Walmart for example.

Today Walmart is of course the world’s biggest retailer, with 8500 stores. It is the third most valuable company in the world. It employs over 2.1 million people.

But things weren’t always so rosy.

When Sam Walton started Walmart in 1945 business was slow. In fact it was 7 years before he even built his second store. His period of hyper-growth didn’t even begin until 1970, 25 years later!

It’s important to remember that in business slow growth at first is the norm, not the exception.

It takes time to work out what customers want. What your brand positioning should be. How to train staff to maximise sales.

How to market effectively.

And it’s only when you get each of these elements fine-tuned that you can ever hope to build a fast growth company. You hardly ever get them right first, second or even third time.

The problem is that the media loves to herald the comparatively rare super growth companies, thereby giving the impression that this is normal and even expected for businesses.

But the best way to describe the process by which a business usually grows is ‘Failing forward’. A ton of mistakes, then a little progress.

It’s not pretty, it’s often not even enjoyable, but you get there in the end.

Now when I emphasise the need for a re-set of expectations, I’m not suggesting you work in a slow, leisurely manner. Not at all.

Harvard professor John Kotter has shown the absolute importance of a business leader working with urgency and I wholeheartedly agree with him.

Here’s the paradox; you have to work intensely, trying to make things happen fast, yet simultaneously remember that true business success usually takes a long time.

You must be in a rush in the short term, but only expect to achieve greatness in the long term.

As the first Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar put it, “Hasten slowly.”

The Link Between Being Tidy and Success.

This is something most executives and entrepreneurs rarely think about.

But in my opinion there’s a strong correlation between a tidy environment and business wealth.

In fact I’d go far as to say, if we perform in a consistently untidy environment we condemn ourselves to achieving at a much lower level than we are capable of.

Why? Because a tidy environment improves how you think.

1. It makes your mind calmer and clearer.

We’ve all had times when we are flustered and disorganised in our thinking. In this mental state problems seem hard to solve, and obstacles appear large and difficult.

But I’ve found a very strange thing. If instead of trying to overcome the problem we take a break and spend half an hour tidying our desk and getting our immediate surroundings clear and organised, soon after our thinking becomes much more clearer.
We feel less frazzled and overcome by the enormity of our workload, and things get solved and completed faster. Haven’t you also found that to be true?

2. It increases your sense of being in control.

There’s loads of research that shows that humans feel much happier the more in control the believe they are. (Read ‘Control Theory’ by William Glasser for more on this area). When your immediate environment is clean and in order, we feel that we are more in charge and on top of things. Confidence increases and mood lifts. Then once we feel better we tend to tackle our work with force and optimism and soon we gain real momentum.

3. It strengthens our self esteem.

The work of Dr Nathaniel Branden (and many others) shows there is a powerful connection between the level of our self esteem and our ability to perform at a high level. But it’s hard to feel like a champion when you work in a disorganised pig sty of an office.

But take the time each day to get your papers in order and keep your desk neat and pretty soon you feel more like a winner.

After all, there are very few leaders in business with messy desks (check the pages of Forbes for photos of top CEO’s offices and you’ll see what I mean).

4. It improves our image.

Not only does a tidy environment make us feel good, it makes us look good. If clients or staff see your office they will think less of you if it’s constantly messy. (I know of one highly successful advertising agency owner who decided not to hire an architect once he saw how disorganised his office was).

When you work in a neat environment it sends the message to all around you that you are competent, organised, focused and in charge. And that’s exactly what clients want you to be.

So before you dive into another mountain of work, stop and get your environment in order. It may feel like you’re not working, but (for the reasons above) you are probably doing some of your most important work of all.

The World’s Easiest Way to Build a Business.

The world is full of millions of books and courses on how to make money in business.

Examining them, you could be forgiven for concluding that it’s hard to do.

After all, if succeeding in business was simple, how could there be so many thousands of complex and often contradictory methodologies on how to do it?

But what if there was one single strategy you could use to be almost certain of making a million?

Well I think there is.

Do this one thing well and in time it is almost certain you will be highly successful in almost any industry.

What is that strategy?

Just find the best in your industry and copy them. That’s right, just do the same things they do.

Copy their brand positioning.

Copy their pricing.

Copy their website design, newsletters and Google ad strategy.

Emulate how they dress, how they talk to the press, what they think, their beliefs about where the industry is heading.

Do this for two years, and I assure you will have a successful business.


Because the market leaders in your industry have already made the mistakes, tested what works and what doesn’t.

By simply doing the same things they do you quickly short circuit your learning process, going straight to a successful model.

Now of course when I say copy them, I don’t mean precisely. Ripping off their exact wording, logo colours and brand names will of course be an express ticket to the law courts.

But if you take what they do and do it slightly differently, you will generally end up with some great profit streams.

But here’s the problem.

Most business owners don’t even know their competitors. They simply haven’t bothered to do the research to find out who the most successful players in their industry are.

They are not experts in their own fields. And so they are condemned to make endless mistakes, as they attempt to invent what works by themselves.

Studying your industry doesn’t have to take a lifetime either, probably just an hour or two a week actually.

Looking at competitors websites, worldwide.

Reading your industry’s trade journals religiously.

Buying the latest books written by industry titans.

Attending the most important industry conferences.

It’s not hard.

But follow this one strategy and your entire financial future will change for the better.

You’ll not only know the best players. Pretty soon you’ll be one yourself.