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How do you react to change?

Change happens all the time. But right now, it’s especially visible the pandemic is causing big social and economic disruptions. 

As business owners, we need to lead our teams through this change. How do we take care of employees and customers? What changes are required for us to survive?

There are patterns in how individuals and organisations react to those changes. Good leaders understand these patterns so they can help people navigate change.

Most of us don’t choose change. We get comfortable in our routines, and any detour can be a source of frustration, fear and stress—we prefer the security of what we know.

But change is unavoidable, and how we react to it determines the outcome, good or bad.

There are usually three ways that people react to change:

Be non-active. 

They don’t move forward and stay stuck. They are choosing to see how it plays out, and don’t do anything to respond. Later, when they finally acknowledge that they need to respond, it may be too late.

Be reactive.

They don’t have all the necessary facts but make a decision anyway to eliminate their immediate stress and worry. It’s a knee-jerk reaction.

Be proactive and positive.

They start researching information to make more informed decisions. They ask questions. They analyse the environment and develop a plan to follow.  They put their focus on what they could do, focused on the positive outcomes and took action.

Obviously, the ideal way to deal with change is to be is proactive because you feel more in control. And the more we feel we have control over the situation, the less stress and frustration we feel.

change jjwatt proactive
Are you being proactive and doing whatever it takes, every single day?

How can you be open to change with a result-focused mindset, and encourage your team to do the same?

While we all deal with change on an individual level, the culture of your organisation is vitally important  – it permeates everything you do.

You need to cultivate a culture of adaptability across your business. Everyone must feel empowered and positive – “I will do this, I can do this, I will follow through’.

You, your team, and your business must be agile and flexible. Especially in our current climate.

Easy to say, but how do you choose to be proactive when there is so much riding on making the right decision?

Change is inevitable – accept it and embrace it. 

Change is a part of life. Nothing would exist without change, so you have two options: live in denial, or accept and move on.

Accept your emotions.

Acknowledge your feelings and be patient and  take time to sort through all your emotions and adjust to change. 

See the positives in the situation.

What you focus on is what you get. So focus on the positives, and make the most of every opportunity. 

Take action.

Don’t sit idly by, hesitant to make a decision. Do your due diligence, then decide to move forward and trust the process.  By taking positive action, you will minimise your fear and feel confident that you’re working towards a goal.

When you take action, don’t just do “busy work”. Set goals and systematically work towards achieving them.

Be sure to review and reflect often, but always be focused on the result you need to achieve, and be brutally honest with your progress towards achieving that result.

That is key – it must always be about the results. You must also know that your adaptations are driving results. You can’t just put strategies and processes in place if you don’t know if they work or not.

Ensure your plan is using everybody’s strengths most effectively and productively. If things aren’t going to plan and you could be doing better, identify what changes need to be made.

A part of adapting to change is that things are NEW, therefore you need to be reflecting on how things are going. You need to adopt a culture of continuous improvement. 

We are very much in unchartered waters right now, so reviewing your progress is key.  

Ensure that everybody gets an opportunity to contribute to changes and work in collaboration to achieve your goals.

The more collaborative you are, the better decisions you can make about change and the more buy-in you will have from your team. You cannot achieve it all on your own, so bring everyone in your team on the journey with you.

Finally, I just want to remind you that you have done a tremendous job in a difficult time.  This is something most business owners have never had to go through, so you’ve done a brilliant job so far. 

You’ve adapted, you’ve changed and you’ve worked extremely hard. So, remember to celebrate that! It’s not over yet, but if you can make it this far, you can deal with anything.

Keep working every day like it’s “day one” and remember to celebrate your wins along the way!

Power to you!  

Stefan Kazakis 
CEO, Business Benchmark Group

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Here’s 5 things to focus on right now to remain in control and keep a positive mindset,

With the extended COVID lockdowns in many parts of Australia, it’s vital that we pay attention to our mindset and cultivate positive thinking. 

And it’s also vitally important during this time to know that it’s okay to not be okay.

There are many things within your control that you can do to remain positive during these tough times.  The important thing is to remain pro-active and take action every single day.

What are you doing every single day to stay committed to a plan, and to remain focused on your goals?

If life gives you lemons, are you making lemonade?  Many of us have more time than ever to focus on “big picture” items in our business…. you may never get this opportunity or time to work on your business again like we are now – make the most of it!

What is in your plan that you can execute right now?

How can you take your employees skills to the next level? What can you do to work on your business so when it comes time to reopen, its ready to come back stronger than ever?

Focus on training, education and improving your team’s capabilities, and focus on tasks that will move your business forward.

Here’s 5 things to focus on right now to remain in control and keep a positive mindset,

1. Keep a cool head

The moment you begin to panic, is the moment more trouble will arise, because the moment you begin to panic you will think with emotion instead of logic and will likely make poor decisions. Remain in control and focused, and make logical decisions.

2. WIP Analysis

Understand exactly how much work you have in progress, and how you plan to deliver that. What did you have planned in terms of scheduling, and what changes do you need to make right now to adjust your schedule?

Once you have a clear plan with regards to your Work in Progress, you know exactly what you need to do.

3. Communicate with every customer

In these uncertain times, make sure your customers know you’re available and will work with them to meet the challenges they’re facing in their business right now. Be proactive and get in touch with your customers and have compassionate, honest, upfront conversations with them, and show them that you care.

4. Work out what is invoiceable for September, October, November, December.

This comes back to your 26-week rolling cashflow. What is invoiceable for this month? Next month?

What can you do to be on top of your cashflow? You must predict this and know exactly when and where your money is coming from, and where your outgoings are.

5. Have upfront conversations with your team

Finally, and most importantly, have honest, truthful, and forthright conversations with your team. The more you can be open and honest with them about what’s happening in your business, the more secure they will feel, and they will be more motivated to drive your business forward through these tough circumstances.

On a final note – if you need help, please reach out. We know it’s a tough time for business owners, we hear you, we see you and we are here for you.  A simply reply to this email and I will help you.

Power to you!

Stefan Kazakis 

CEO, Business Benchmark Group

Looking for a business coach? Find out more about the Board of Directors 12 Business Coaching Program.

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“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”

The past 18 months has been a really tough period for business owners. Mentally, we’ve had to be strong and resilient throughout in order to lead our business through the turmoil.

I think all of us have had our doubts at some stage. Some of us have probably even thought of throwing in the towel. There’s no shame in that, these times are tough. 

But as business owners, there is one thing we all have, and we must continue to have: self-belief.

It’s being tested, for sure, but we’ve proven to ourselves again and again that we can meet any challenge thrown at us..

We need to keep that positive mindset and self belief. Keep the promise to yourself that you will do whatever it takes. You must expect and demand it of yourself.

You’ve heard me say it often; if it were easy to run a business, then everybody would be doing it. 

Everyone would be running million-dollar businesses, driving fancy cars and going on holidays every other month. But it’s not easy. We know this. So, you need to be brutally honest with yourself and have a true inner belief.

Discipline and determination is the glue that holds everything together, and everyone in your business, from the top down, needs to have this in their DNA.

As business owners, we likely already “naturally” have high levels of self-confidence and self-belief. This is often affected by our habitual way of thinking from a young age.

But that is not to say that we will always have high levels of self belief, nor that you can’t actively build upon it – it just means our thought patterns are often formed at a young age, so changing these takes a lot of personal development and work.

Improving your self-confidence and self-belief requires tapping into your inner strength and knowing that you can get the results you want and deserve. You have a responsibility to tap into that every day. This will be your key to success.

Most of our conscious behaviour is determined by our unconscious mind. So, work every day to make your unconscious mind and your thought patterns have a positive effect on your life.

As I’ve shared many times before, this concept can be represented like an iceberg.


Going from this example, your beliefs, values and your identity are all under the surface. They may go unnoticed. You cannot physically see them.  They can’t be quantified or measured.

What people see is your behaviour and actions, and your results are the product of the decisions you make and the actions that you take.

But these are all determined by your identity, values and belief.

This is why it’s vital to cultivate positive thought patterns, having strong self-belief and taking action everyday to develop and strengthen these areas. You need to work just as hard on yourself as you do on your business.

As Henry Ford once said…


Power to you!

Stefan Kazakis
Founder and CEO
Business Benchmark Group

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What’s the Difference Between Leadership and Management?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on the tough predicament business owners are in due to the global pandemic and our response to it.

I’ve been talking about the need for you to be a strong leader in your business. This is different from being a good manager (though that’s vitally important right now, too!). 

But what exactly is the difference between the two?

Some would say that leaders have people follow them while managers have people who work for them. Others might say that the biggest difference is the way in which leaders and managers motivate the people who work or follow them.

I believe leadership is an overused term. Showing leadership is certainly important but it doesn’t magically solve all your problems. Actually putting the plans into practice is about management.

It’s about actively intervening to steer your ship in the right direction. Yes, doing this yourself and showing leadership is part of the process, but there’s much more to it than that.

It’s about getting the culture right and the rules of the game right.

A successful business owner needs to be both a strong leader and manager to get their team on board to execute their vision of success.

Leadership is about getting people to understand and believe in your vision and to work with you to achieve your goals. Managing is more about administration and making sure the day-to-day things are happening as they should.


What are the traits of leaders and managers – and how do they work together?

A leader has their eye on the horizon and a manager has their eye on the bottom line! As a leader you need to have the vision to know where you are, where you want to go and how to engage your team. Without this a manager cannot work with the team to execute the plan. The leader plans general goals and the direction for the business and the manager focuses on the specifics.

A leader keeps the team inspired to push through to the next level and ensuring that everyone understands their role in the bigger picture. This allows the manager to control day-to-day work strategies, anticipate needs and review resources.

A manager asks how and when. The leader asks what and why. A manager maintains control and order and a leader develops an environment for change.

A leader has the ability to challenge the status quo and to do things differently – to think outside the box. This enables a manager to ensure that the processes and systems in place are the most effective and efficient.

The leader focuses on people, the manager focuses on the system and processes.

A leader has great communication skills, with the ability to keep the team informed of the progress, where you are, where you are heading and any speed bumps expected along the way. A great manager needs to look after the team, listen to their needs and involve them in the process.

Managers do things right, leaders do the right thing. Managers focus on rules, compliance and tasks and ensuring things are done right, on time and on budget. Leaders focus on purpose, principles and people… in other words doing the right thing.

As business owners, the challenge often lies in making sure you are both leading your team as well as managing the day-to-day operations – and this is being brought into sharp focus as we steer our businesses through these challenging times. 

Whether you’re a leader or a manager it’s about achieving maximum results in minimum time. There are significant differences between leadership and management – and both roles are critical.

In small business, the two roles overlap and success comes to those business owners who are able to do both.

Power to you!  

Stefan Kazakis 

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Making tough decisions for your business

The COVID pandemic continues to provide a tough challenge for us all to navigate as business owners.  As I mentioned in last week’s article, we must continue to be proactive in our planning and decision-making, and focus only on what is within our control.

There are tough decisions having to be made – and we need to ensure we are making logical decisions for our businesses right now. 

First and foremost, we need to make sure our businesses make it through this period – your team, your customers and your own loved ones are relying on your business, so as the leader of the business, this is your biggest responsibility. 

As much as you can, you need to eliminate emotional decision-making. You need to  make sure everyone in your business is helping you and your business move forward through this period.

Everyone in your business must be making a positive contribution and continue to rise to the challenge. And you need to be brutally honest about the contribution they’re making.

What they do each day, each hour and each minute adds productivity and value to your business and drives it forward – or it doesn’t. You must operate from a position of truth, not fear.

That means recognising what’s in front of you and making your decisions accordingly.

There’s no sugar-coating it. Don’t give it another few weeks to see what happens. Act now and act smart. 

It is not just about your team – you must be truthful about every aspect of your business and it’s up to you to get your team to buy in to your plan. 

You need to remain calm and focused and set an example for your team. 

If you’re not leading by example, nobody is following. You don’t have to do everything yourself, but you do need to set the example for everybody in your business to follow.

You need to be proactive in your problem-solving. You need to see issues before they happen, not the day before but weeks or months before. It’s your responsibility to solve the problems, to do the things you are good at and let others do the things they are good at.

People won’t follow you just because you’re the boss. They will follow you because they respect you, they can see your determination and desire, and they want the business to do well and more importantly, survive this crisis.

It’s about achieving a common goal. It’s about accountability. It’s about focusing on doing the little things well. And a focus on the things you can control rather than what you can’t.

Make sure you are achieving results every single day in accordance with your plan.

Keep your finger on the pulse so you can react quickly to new challenges and opportunities.

Being a leader right now means getting involved and setting a good example. Good leadership and resilience are what will get your business through this!

Power to you!  
Stefan Kazakis 

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Podcast episodes to get you through lockdown

🎙 WATCH: Leadership and crisis management – with Frank Ponissi, Melbourne Storm Director of Football
🎙 Listen only: Leadership and crisis management – with Frank Ponissi, Melbourne Storm Director of Football

🎙 Building Resilience – with David Buttifant

🎙 Coronavirus – Fear of the unknown and what you can control

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Staying in control during unpredictable times

As thousands more Australian businesses entered lockdown again this week, and with the majority of the Australian population in lockdown as I write this, there is understandable frustration, exhaustion and confusion among business owners and the wider community.

The short time between lockdowns in Victoria has made it even more challenging for small business owners. 

Not being able to predict what effect the virus, health authorities or government policy will have on your business on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, is tough for any business to handle. 

However, as always, we must only focus on the things that are within our control.

It’s very easy to be consumed with everything we are seeing and hearing across social media, our tv screens and in our daily conversations, but we must keep our feet firmly on the ground and focus only on that which matters. 

10 things to do right now to shift your focus

Here are 10 things you can do to shift your focus right now that I personally use, shared with me by my own business mentor in challenging times:

Shift your focus from yourself to others

Shift your focus from your service to your relationships

Shift your focus from the sale to creating value

Shift your focus from what you can’t control to what you can

Shift your focus from your threats to your opportunities

Shift your focus from the future to your present

Shift your focus from what you were to what you will become

Shift your focus from what’s happening to how you can respond

Shift your focus from your losses to what’s currently available

Shift your focus from complaining to being grateful

These are principles that apply in every area of life, including business.

You need to be totally focused on what’s important and what you can control.

Take leadership of what you can control – I hope at this point you already have contingency plans ready for situations like these – but if not, start now. Focus on the essentials your business needs right now to ensure that trading continues throughout this period.

Don’t listen to your head trash that fills you with unnecessary thoughts and emotions. Hold yourself accountable, take control and focus on what you need to do.


Be flexible and proactive

Take the opportunity right now to be proactive and communicate with your customers.

Show them that you care, and build upon your relationship with them – as mutual support with your best clients will ensure we all get through this together.

As you make plans for the remainder of 2021 and into 2022, ensure you have contingency plans for all the “what if” scenarios.

Do the required thinking and planning now, so that if a similar scenario occurs, you’re not caught on the backfoot. You’ve already thought about how to react, the repercussions that would occur and the most important things to pay attention to. 

Right now – more than ever – we are going to need to be as flexible as we can as to how we operate.  Be brave, dig deep and take control. Reach out to support – and be supported by – others around you.  Think logically, plan strategically and decide what needs to be done. Then do it – and hold yourself accountable. 

Client Only Event – This Wednesday

If you’re one of our clients, make sure you check your inbox for details of the “Vaccinations and the Workplace” special event on Wednesday 11 August.

Power to you!  

Stefan Kazakis 

CEO, Business Benchmark Group

🎙 Here’s some appropriate episodes of our podcast that will help you through lockdown: 

🎙 Leadership and crisis management – with Frank Ponissi, Melbourne Storm Director of Football

🎙 Building Resilience – with David Buttifant

🎙 Coronavirus – Fear of the unknown and what you can control

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My top 14 non-negotiables for productivity and long-term success.

This week I’m going to share with you what I call the 14 non-negotiables of productivity and long-term success.

These are the biggest keys to growing your business – and all fourteen are necessary if you want to achieve sustainable, long-term success that rewards you with the life you deserve.

There’s a lot of work that goes into each of these non-negotiables – but for today, I’ll keep it simple with a brief overview.

1. Clarity about strategy

Are you clear and committed? Do you have the follow-through mind set?

What are the relevant and non-negotiable actions every day that you will be adhering to and accountable to? You must also constantly be asking these two strategic questions: What are your competitors doing in the same situation? How can you beat them?

2. Knowing the numbers

How will you know that you are on the right track? What are the metrics that will be embraced with brutal truth? Are you still committed to the original outcomes you set out to achieve? How often are you looking at your scoreboard?

3. Know your position

If your business is going to be strategic about growing for the long term, what is it ultimately that it needs to be known for? How will the external world view the business? Who ultimately are you positioning for? Who do you want to be attracting to the business? How much clarity do you have about the target market? Who are your customers?

4. People

In everything you do you are managing people – nothing more, nothing less. You need everybody to bring something to the table and contribute. Not every idea is a game-changer but they all add up. You need the right people in the right roles doing the right things right.

5. Your Default Calendar

You must get tougher and tighter as far as your ‘achieve’ list is concerned and understand the long-term consequences if you don’t continually invest in higher hourly rate tasks. You must manage interruptions. You need time in your calendar just for coming up with ideas. This is what keeps your business a benchmark business.

6. Constant Improvement

Everybody must be getting better every day, not by growing team numbers but by improving productivity and effectiveness. If you are constantly going to the edge of the cliff, you will fly or die.

7. Plan Bs

You need to have ‘plan B’ thinking. Be prepared for problems before they arise. Anticipate the choke points in your business. Know the worst-case scenarios and have a plan for them. You can have focus and discipline because all the strategic thinking has been done.

8. Surviving vs Thriving 

It is non-negotiable to be clear about survive vs thrive tasks. It is non-negotiable to be productive rather than just busy. Working on thriving tasks is where the greatest level of future value is created. As a ratio, there’s not enough time spent on thriving tasks in most businesses.

9. Making the tough decisions

You are a leader in your business and that comes with the responsibility to make tough decisions. You need to embrace this mindset. If you don’t accept this role, your hesitation and inconsistency when making decisions will cause confusion and this will cause you to fail. If you can’t manage this, you shouldn’t be in business. (Brutal truth, remember?)

10. Where are we?

If you want to be a Productivity Diamond you must be brutally honest about where are we versus where we need to be. And where you are vs where you could be. You must ask this question regularly and answer it honestly.

11. Belief systems and persistence

Your belief systems and ability to create value must be at personal best. Persistence and pushing through is critical. You must be aligned to your outcomes and your contribution to them. You must be able to handle criticism and feedback. If you cannot handle brutal truth this will place a ceiling on your success.

12. Future-proofing

Future-proofing the business by hiring for the long term is critical. The people in your team must be growing before you add more. Your ability to go to new places has to be continuous and constant. This is your dare factor. Thinking outside the square and honestly analysing what you could be doing better is critical to your success.

13. Saying No. 

Are you learning to professionally say no?

This is a critical factor. You must say no to things that are not really for you rather than just saying no because you are busy. It’s about knowing how you should be spending your time for producing maximum value to the business, and then only doing that. It’s also about managing and minimising interruptions (you can never eliminate them completely).

14. Strategy Up

This is the most non-negotiable of them all.

Regardless of what happens, you must be working from your strategy up. With everything you do, first ask what is the plan? What is the strategy up vs marketing down? This is key to everything you do. From this, everything follows.

So to repeat what I’ve said already, I promise you, if you are not doing these – all of these – your progress is suffering.

I urge you to print off this list and tick off what you are nailing right now and get to work on the rest!

Power to you!


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Is Work-Life Balance Possible for Business Owners?

With half of Australia in lockdown at the moment, it’s a challenging time for all of us, not least those of us who own a business.

I’d wager that most business owners are as busy as ever right now doing all we can to keep our businesses running – I don’t think many of us are sitting at home watching hour after hour of the Olympics on TV.

Because right now, our businesses need us to be doing whatever it takes to ensure we get through these challenging times and are set up for sustained, long term success.

That means our work/life balance is likely suffering, and it’s a price we’re willing to pay as business owners (as long as these sort of hours don’t become the norm – 65+ hour weeks should be an exception, not the rule!)

You know I prefer brutal truth to just telling you what you want to hear, so let me state it plainly:

Work/life balance is a myth as a business owner, especially when you’re looking to grow, and sometimes you need to navigate your business through treacherous conditions.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about your business being productive so you can enjoy the other things in life. There is nothing – absolutely nothing – more important to me than spending time with my wife and kids. I work hard in my business so that I can do that.

Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management

The thought that you can tailor your career or business around your personal life and have them fit together just so has got many into trouble.

It’s about personal alignment. Your personal life must be aligned with your goals and your dreams. That includes your family, friends, pets, social commitments – whatever is going on in your life. It’s your job to make it all fit together.

Without this personal alignment, professional alignment won’t happen. No one reaches success without sacrifice. The more you have alignment and harmony the more you will be able to achieve. Ultimately, less is more.

Business is demanding. It always has been and it always will be. There are no magic tricks and no shortcuts to success, so you have to be prepared to do whatever it takes.

Hard work and effort need to be part of your routine, especially during these uncertain times.

If you’re knocking off early every day to watch the Olympics, how on earth are you going to motivate your team who are also doing it tough, but don’t have their business (or homes!) on the line.

Do you think they are going to power on until 5 pm, or be on Facebook at 3.01 pm? If you’re close to signing a major client and they want to meet at 8 am, are you going to say no because you want to binge-watch Netflix?


So, if work/life balance is a myth, what is possible? I prefer to aim for work/life harmony.

That means you recognise that sometimes the business must be the priority. Sometimes there will be late nights (or even all-nighters), and weekends and early starts.

That’s just part of the process when you are building a business. The reason you do this is to make your business more productive and more successful, and the reason you want the business to be successful is so that down the road you will have more time and more freedom to do the things you really want to do.

You have to do whatever it takes to make the business strong, and then you can back off a little.

Whenever your business needs you, you must be there. But when your plan allows for time off, because you have great systems and great people in place and everybody is being productive, that’s when you get to relax.

It’s not about 50% work, 50% family, or whatever other percentage you come up with.

Sometimes it will be 100% work and at other times 100% family. The key to managing this is that the people around you understand this and support you in what you do.

You need to manage their expectations and explain to them what you are doing and why, and that if you are working hard now it’s so that you can have the rewards later.


Nothing can undo a business quicker than an unsupportive spouse, family or loved ones; believe me, I’ve seen it happen too many times.

If your personal life isn’t aligned with your dreams and your goals for the business you’re going to have a problem. You need to talk to your loved ones. If they are not a support structure but a problem you are doomed.

Flexitime is successful for mature organisations but many organisations are not yet mature enough to manage this. The moment you introduce this but you’re not mature enough, the cat is out of the bag. For this to work you must have ownership of tasks and accountability built into the culture of your organisation. 

Power to you this week (and go Aussies!)