EP 111

How to Work Smarter, Not Harder: Balancing Work and Life in Construction. (EP 111)



This week, Paul is joined by Parag Prasad, a Business Coach, focusing heavily on construction. Managing Director at The Business Growth Agency. Parag was awarded London Business Coach of the Year 2019, 2020 and 2021 and focuses heavily on architecture and knows our sector well.

The episode was designed as a follow-on to episode 104, which focused on whether a 4-day working week was possible in construction.

“Construction workers are putting in more than 5 hours per week than the average worker in Britain. British workers already spend considerably more time working than the rest of Europe.”

In this thought-provoking and informative episode, Parag talks about his experience coaching individuals in the construction and architecture sector on balancing work and life for the betterment of their health and also business performance. 

A truly valuable listen for all in construction.

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If there are other documents you’d like us to share/produce. Please get in touch with me at paul@c-link.com.


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Paul Heming: Hello and welcome to episode 111 of the Own the Build Podcast with me, Paul Heming. Before we start, just a reminder that we are doing a bit of a giveaway for our loyal own the builders. In the podcast description today, you’ll find links to three free resources. That’s hard to say, isn’t it? Three free resources, which I wanted to share with you. A vesting certificate template, really, really popular, an EOT template for extensions of time and my very own clause bylaw guide to the JCT design and build contract. Thrilling, thrilling stuff. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, but really useful tools. I hope you do get value from them. 

In the studio today, we have Parag Prasad, a business coach focusing heavily on our sector. Parag is the Managing Director at the Business Growth Agency and was awarded London Business Coach of the Year, not just once in 2019, not just for a second time in 2020, but he got the hat-trick, not 2019, 2020 and 2021. He’s smiling from ear to ear. I’m really looking forward to chatting with Parag today, and he really focuses heavily on architecture. He knows our sector well is coaching people in and around architecture and the construction space. I was introduced to him. I’m really excited to hear what he has to say today. So without further ado, hello Parag. How are you doing today, mate?

Parag Prasad: I’m all good, Paul. Great to be here and thank you so much. I’m loving the opportunity to talk to everyone.

Paul Heming: No, absolutely. Today is one of those days where, not that I don’t have this all the time with own the build, but I feel like it’s going to be a really relevant episode to me personally. I’m hoping that I get a lot of takeaways from this. I love these kind of episodes where it allows me to gain perspective on my own working life. So today, we’re going to talk about how to develop a healthier relationship with work specific to our sector, of course. And it’s a nice follow on Parag from, we did an episode, I think you’ve listened to it. Episode 104, which was a four day working week, which was kind of a bit of an introduction to the topic really. And what I took away from that episode was that there are opportunities for us as a sector, albeit maybe not as simply put as there are for other sectors to adapt and become more flexible. But there are opportunities for us to change the archaic nature of the way we work and look at new opportunities just to have a better work-life balance and without hitting productivity. So we are going to talk about creating that healthier relationship with work today. I would ask you to be mindful, I guess, that not everybody listening is a business owner. I know often the people that you coach are business owners, directors in companies, but I would like you to consider just, or if we’d strip it back to anyone who is working construction or working full stop, because I know myself, when I was a commercial manager, when I was a QS, my work-life balance was pretty, was almost as bad as it is today as a business owner. So I think this would be really relevant to everyone listening. There’ll be people there thinking, yeah, I probably do work too hard. So that would be the context to look at it. But before we get into that, I’m blathering far too much from man with a bit of a tickly coffee. Tell us about your journey, your experience, and how you ended up being a three time coach of the year.

Parag Prasad: Wow. Okay. Thank you, Paul. Well, I actually started my career back in the nineties. I was a chartered accountant and 12 years in the city, price Waterhouse Coopers and British Telecom and places like that. But I was rather bored and unfulfilled and I knew I wanted to do something different and have a bit more of an impact on people and people’s lives. And then, I didn’t know what the answer to that was. And in 2007, I just got a random little email from a company called Action Coach, and they said, Hey Parag, we’ve seen your CV online. We think you’d be a great business coach. Would you like to find out more? And I said, I have no idea what that was. This was 16 years ago. No one had really heard of coaching much but I did my due diligence for about six months. Found out a bit more about what it was all about. And I realized actually, this absolutely works for me in terms of the impact, the fulfillment. And six months later, much of the dismay of my parents, I quit my hard earned career.

Paul Heming: They wanted you to be an accountant, did they?

Parag Prasad: They wanted me to have that nice attractive job with a nice salary, a nice pension. But it wasn’t really who I am. And so as I said, I was unfulfilled. So yeah, I took the leap.

Paul Heming: How did you know, how did you know it wasn’t who you are?

Parag Prasad: How did I know? Oh, that’s a good question. I think, I was getting through the day, but I was spending most of my day looking forward to lunch.

Paul Heming: Well, come on. I mean, I bet today you still look forward to lunch, didn’t you?

Parag Prasad: Yeah, I love lunch. I still do, but yeah, it’s a pretty sad existence when that’s the highlight of your day. And I just knew that deep down, I knew people working in smaller businesses and in also in construction, I did a lot of work with telecoms companies and construction companies. And I could see, and even in my own profession at the time, accountancy, I could see that people were working incredibly hard. And I would sit there looking at them and going, what’s it all for? And why are they doing that?

Paul Heming: So when you were doing something that wasn’t fulfilling, was that exacerbated even more? Were you thinking, why am I doing this when I’m driving myself to tire? 

Parag Prasad: I mean, I didn’t want that. I just knew that it wasn’t necessary. And actually, if I was going to work like that, if I was, then I wanted to do it in a way that was actually going to make a real impact and be meaningful. So I was approached by this organization, action coach, and they’re a global firm of business coach. And I said, hey, would you like to be trained? And I thought, yeah, eventually I thought, great. And it was the best decision in terms of my career that I’ve ever made. So, yeah that’s kind of how I was approached and fell into it in a time when the industry didn’t really exist.

Paul Heming: Yeah, mate. And 16 years on, over 400 people coached I saw, and you told me off air before we started recording, you told me that your first ever coaching experience was one that stuck with you ever since really. You’ll obviously tell the story much better, but is it right that the first person that you were coaching after 90 days, they suffered a heart attack?

Parag Prasad: Yes, Paul.

Paul Heming: Sorry to take you back there.

Parag Prasad: No, not at all. Not at all. I made a transition and started as a coach and got my first ever client. He was a guy called Philip, an accountant, and this was 15 years ago, but I still remember it really clearly now. And he said to me, Parag, I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve worked really hard. I’ve got a decent practice, but I don’t have enough money set aside for my retirement, and I’ve also got three daughters and I want to be able to send them to university, so I need to get more money into my business and my life to do that. And so, he wanted to retire in four years, and he said, I need your help. I said, great, let’s go, let’s do this. And then three months later, I got a call out the blue from one of his team saying that, yeah, Philip had suffered a heart attack and had actually passed away that morning.

Paul Heming: Wow. 

Parag Prasad: Yeah, obviously, it was a complete shock, but I think the thing for me that really resonated was once I got over the shock of what had happened, the real tragedy for me was what happened to his business? What happened to his family, and what happened to the people in that business? Because the business really didn’t, even though he’d worked all these hours over the years and sacrificed and slogged, it wasn’t very well systemized. It wasn’t really well managed. So unfortunately, the business just died with him. And it dissolved. The clients went elsewhere, and those people lost their jobs and there was nothing left for them. And there was nothing left for his family in terms of a residual income. And for me, that was a bigger tragedy in terms of what happened to Philip.

Paul Heming: A hundred percent. And I’m guessing, so you’ve gone from the corporate world, employment, you’ve jumped into coaching, the first person that you coach, that sad story happens to them. How did that then shape your views of the workplace and of work?

Parag Prasad: Well, certainly in terms of my own identity and impact, Paul, I’ll be honest with you, up till that point, I thought, great, I’ve got my own little business, nice lifestyle. It’s better than doing what I was doing in the corporate world. At that point, I realized, look, I’m getting all this training, all this knowledge, all this education, I’m very privileged with all of that. And I realized that actually this had to become who I am and had to become the reason I do what I do, my purpose in life and my ability to make a real contribution and really, it felt like a responsibility for me to be able to share what I know with people and help them manage their lives in a way that stress and excessive hours doesn’t take over. And actually educate them on a better way to run their jobs, whether they’re in the leadership position or a junior position. It doesn’t matter. It’s all a function of how much you know about how to manage these things.

Paul Heming: So a question that stands out to me speaking to you is, so now, and again, framing this conversation in now, my understanding of your belief system is work life balance, wellbeing, lifestyle, should be at the absolute forefront of everyone’s mind when it comes to work. Is that correct in headline?

Parag Prasad: Yes, it is, Paul. It’s I suppose a mission and a purpose I’ve had for all these years. And I know you’ve seen some of my LinkedIn posts, so yeah, absolutely. It’s something I talk about a lot that the person.

Paul Heming: Can I ask though, when you were attracted to coaching, were you attracted to coaching in the context of I’ve had this career, I think I know how to do loads of things, know how I’m good at business, I want to help people with business. Was that the first thing you were attracted to, then this thing happened with your first mentee and that then flipped your mentality to, wow, none of this really matters, it’s all about work life balance. Or did you come into it and think, I’m going to change the way that people approach work?

Parag Prasad: Yeah, I think the way you described it initially, Paul is absolutely right that I came into it thinking, great, I’m a coach, I’m a business coach. I can help people with all aspects of their business, and that’s what me and my team do. That is what we do. I think these experiences such as the first client, have helped me realize that actually without that control over time and all the impacts that lack of balance has, without that, it’s very hard or impossible to do anything else meaningful with your time. You know, however you define that, your life just gets consumed in all ways in work.

Paul Heming: Yeah, a hundred percent. And focusing now, I guess a little bit on construction hour sector, the people listening, architects, PMs, directors, etcetera. So in that four day working week campaign, obviously the four day working week campaign did a lot of research into construction. Couple of the standout points, which were slap across the chops to me, but I kind of knew this anyway, was one, construction workers are currently putting in more than five hours more per week than the average worker in Britain. So big tick of the box there we’re already working harder. And then British workers already spending considerably more time working than the rest of Europe. So if you work in Britain, you are already doing long hours comparatively. If you work in construction, you are already doing longer hours than everyone else in Britain. So we probably are one of those sectors, and it’s stressful enough as it is where we’re doing long hours, we’re stressed out, we’re tired, etcetera. One of your recent posts, red, my vision for a profession is one where balance and wellbeing are prioritized. The individual is looked after as well as the client, and one where everyone is happy. Close speech mark. Right? Fantastic vision. Is that in any way possible, given what I’ve just explained regarding the stats around the amount of hours that we’re already working?

Parag Prasad: First of all, Paul, the stats don’t surprise me at all.

Paul Heming: Yeah. Me neither, sadly.

Parag Prasad: So regrettably, so regrettably, so those stats, absolutely, I think in my experience, re reflect reality for the sector. But what I’ve seen and believe and also believe is necessary is that, it is completely possible to have balance. You see, what I’ve seen is a conflict that goes on for a lot of those companies where they feel they’re actually really committed to doing a great job for their clients, deliver great work and to the highest possible standards. The commitment is phenomenal. But the usual belief is, well, in order to do that, we have to go the extra mile, which usually means with ours. And what I’ve seen is that that is not necessary. The personal cost, the sacrifice is avoidable. Once you know how, it’s not necessary to sacrifice one to achieve the other. And in fact, my view is, and what really drives me and makes me passionate is that actually the personal cost and sacrifice is too big a price to pay. It’s too big a price to pay. And that really needs to be challenged. And yeah, I’m all about challenging it. 

Paul Heming: Yeah. Well, I think if you think about your, I hate to keep on drawing it back to that first experience of coaching, but if you do think about that first experience of coaching and which sounds like the drive that that chap had and then how it ended it is, it is a really sad tell, isn’t it? And you do hear lots of stories about, I remember at the first company I worked for contracts manager who had been there for 35 years, retired, and a year or so later had passed away and he’d spent his entire life working solidly for this company, doing 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM every single day, five days a week, the usual construction hours. Retired. And then you almost felt like, wow, it’s almost a waste of a life, isn’t it? So I am completely on board with what you are saying. Where I struggle with it, and again, I’ll take it back to myself, is to quote you there, you said personal cost is avoidable once you know how, I don’t know how personally, I’m sure some of the listeners don’t know how personally, kind of think in the context of I’m already working five hours extra, blah, blah, blah. Come on, get real. I can’t do that. But you are going to tell us after the break exactly how we can do that. But we’ll do it after the break.

Personal cost is avoidable once you know how, and I need to know how. Because I don’t, I didn’t know when I was a QS and I don’t know now. And I think I probably have quite a lot of personal cost, I reckon, in the way I work. So like I said at the top of the show, I want to learn more. Tell us how do we recognize personal costs and then how is it avoidable?

Parag Prasad: Okay, Paul, well, yeah. It’s a very fair question and I could probably spend the next few hours going through the how, but I’ll aim to condense that down, Paul. But yeah, I mean, personal cost, it’s, unfortunately being in the position, I’ve been in for 16 years, I’ve seen every conceivable impact on health, relationships, the works, some really sad things. So, I’m not going to go in into specifics because unfortunately, there’ll be people who can relate. But what are some of the ways out of that? I’ll mention a few things quickly. Number one, I’m old enough now to remember that when I started in the working world as an accountant back in the nineties, we didn’t even have smartphones. And so we didn’t have this always on, constantly distracted behavior pattern. And unfortunately now, that’s how most people run their day, that there’s constant distraction through the various social media channels and whatever it is on your phone, WhatsApp. And I remember a time when it wasn’t like that and we still got stuff done, and we still seem to get it, you get it done in a less stressful way. And so one of the first things I’d advocate to anyone is how well are you managing those distractions? Electronic distractions, email. WhatsApp. You need to have a strategy to take control back of those. Because if you don’t control –

Paul Heming: For example –

Parag Prasad: What’s that, Paul?

Paul Heming: For example, so actually one of the things that I do, it is going to make me sound like a bit of a crazy bloke maybe, but one of the things that I do, and I don’t do it every weekend, but I try to do it every few weekends, is I’ve bought an old Nokia 3310 and I’ve bought that 3310 so that I could still call people or receive calls, but I didn’t receive anything else unless it was uber critical, right? And that I find works well, but I find it very hard, honestly, to turn that on and say, that’s the weekend I’m going to have. But when you do, you do feel better for it.

Parag Prasad: Yeah. You are not the first person to tell me about that strategy actually. But yeah, honestly. 

Paul Heming: Everyone says I’m a maniac for doing that.

Parag Prasad: No, no, I’ve heard it before. 

Paul Heming: You still get to play snake though. Snake too brilliant.

Parag Prasad: But yeah, whatever it is. I mean, for me, I don’t have any notifications on ever, nothing. I don’t want anything flashing, beeping and just distracting me constantly. It’s a great way to get yourself into a stressful state very, very quickly because you’re constantly jumping. 

Paul Heming: Zero notification. 

Parag Prasad: Yeah. 

Paul Heming: No text message, no WhatsApp, no email.

Parag Prasad: Oh, I’ll get the message, but I won’t getting notifications as in I will look at those things when I choose to look at it, not when my phone tells me to look at it.

Paul Heming: Demands that I do. 

Parag Prasad: Yeah. 

Paul Heming: You know what? It was funny, I was listening to well, I can’t remember what the podcast was. It’s going back a year or so now. They were talking about the original developers of Gmail and they were talking about, there were this workshop that they were doing, how do we get people to use Gmail more often? How do we get them back onto Gmail? That’s where we want them to be as much as possible. And they said, oh, let’s do vibrate for every message. Let’s do notification for every message, which to us now sounds like the most standard. Obviously they were doing that, but it wasn’t that to start with before you’d get an email on your laptop and you’d go and have a look at it, right? Then they transformed it so that it was in the phone. And one of the developers, I can’t remember what the podcast was, they were saying something along the lines of, came up with this. They were in Starbucks or wherever, two or three weeks later, and they just kind of noticed that everyone’s phones were vibrating, or going off. And they thought, what kind of a world have we actually built where people are so distracted?

Parag Prasad: Yeah, it’s completely true, you see. And I believe myself fortunate to have grown up in an era where we didn’t have this. So I can see the difference, and it’s crazy for productivity in terms of getting stuff done. It’s a complete destroyer of productivity. And it’s just unnecessary. It’s these conditioned responses that every time it beeps or vibrates or whatever it is, you can’t help yourself. See, the pattern has to be broken somehow, which is why I don’t have anything doing that on my phone.

Paul Heming: All day, every day.

Parag Prasad: A hundred percent. And I’m still standing, Paul, I’m still alive.

Paul Heming: If possible. I can’t believe, right? That’s it. I’m out of here. I can’t believe it. 

Parag Prasad: Can you believe it? 

Paul Heming: There you go. Okay, number one.

Parag Prasad: So yeah, managing the phone is a big one. The second thing, and I have three businesses actually, and I have a wife and two young kids and all this other stuff going in my life. So we’re all busy. I’m busy, everyone else is. And I couldn’t run my life without a clearly planned diary. So my weekly diary, I plan everything. What am I doing at 10 o’clock on a Thursday? What am I doing at one o’clock? When am I doing two o’clock? When am I with the kids? When am I doing this? And everything is diligently planned, pre-planned in my diary. So it’s not reactive. Every week is planned. And of course, everything doesn’t go to plan, but I’m planning out the whole week. In fact, for example, all my coaching sessions are planned a year in advance. All my workshops, speaking gigs, all that stuff are usually planned at least six months in advance. So I’m planning as much as possible because if I don’t, my life designs into chaos. And so it’s all very well having a to-do list, but actually having those tasks then transposed into diary to say, when are you doing X? When are you doing Y, when are you doing Z, is really powerful to be able to block that time out. And the other one, in fact, as I said to you earlier on, actually, Paul, I was just coaching some guys this morning and a lot of those were from construction and architecture and engineering. And one of the common things that was coming out in that session was about boundaries and actually setting boundaries between you and the client in terms of when are you responsive? When are you available, when are you contactable and when are you not? And one of the best things I can advocate, cause I’ve had a few clients do this over the years, is to have a discussion internally as a team on how you define these boundaries between yourselves and your clients so that there’s a clear rules of the game in terms of how you work, what’s okay and what’s not okay. And that needs to be backed up by the leadership. So the clients that overstep the boundaries, the leaders and managers need to step in and protect team members with those. But you need boundaries to be able to have a healthier relationship. For me, one of the non-negotiables for me was, especially once I had kids, was that I don’t ever coach anyone after six o’clock and I’ve never coached anyone before 9:30. Why don’t I coach before 9:30 because that’s school run time and kids and I want to protect those? So I don’t book any client time before 9:30 and it works.

Paul Heming: Yeah, which I understand. I guess if I’m listening to this and I’m not a business owner and I’m an employee right now, I would say that is something that I can’t do. I’m told 8:30 to five or whatever. How does that make you feel?

Parag Prasad: Oh, well, no, totally. I mean, I get that 8:30 to five great. If that’s really is the reality. What I’m seeing is WhatsApp messages flying with clients at nine o’clock at night and emails, that person sat there getting an email in the evening going, am I meant to respond to this? Do I wait, what do I do with this? You know, and that stress they’re carrying into each day.

Paul Heming: Into their sleep and everything else.

Parag Prasad: Right. Into their sleep. And it’s affecting everything because the boundaries were never defined. 

Paul Heming: If your notifications were turned off, you wouldn’t even know about it, would you? Until 8:30 the following –

Parag Prasad: Why are people looking their emails at eight at night anyway? 

Paul Heming: I hear what you’re saying. I think touching on architects there, they’re kind of an interesting case study actually. And even all consultants actually, if you throw QS’s engineers, everyone in there into the same category, because a lot of the times those businesses are often charging or calculating their revenues based on an hourly rate. Whether it’s architect, QS engineer or whoever. I know that isn’t always the case before everyone starts saying that I’m wrong, but the way that those practices can generally generate more profit is probably the way I put it. This is the way they can generate bigger revenues is by saying, this architect or this QS doesn’t do 40 hours a week, I’m going to charge out 60 hours per week and they’re going to run kind of two projects. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual works those 60 hours. Don’t get me wrong, but I know this, my partner works for a large company and she’s on three projects when she’s effectively doing six days per week charged out, which doesn’t mean she’s doing six days per week, but she’s incredibly stressed out because she’s doing all these different tasks and probably doing too much for what is viable for her time. But because those companies are motivated by how many days per week or hours per week can I charge, it naturally brings that human resource problem, that stress problem. You have worked with, as I understand it, we were introduced by an architect. How can you taught to business owners who are driven by profitability a lot of the time for obvious reasons and convince them that they shouldn’t be putting in my example, six days per week onto one person charge out. Because yes, it’s more profitable, but it’s not great for wellbeing. It’s a hard argument to have for the cynic.

Parag Prasad: You’re right, Paul. Because those sectors, like many are challenged commercially. Of course they are. But there’s a couple of points I’ll make back in response. I mean, first of all, yeah, if you want to keep your teams happy, motivated, engaged, don’t do that to them. It’s the simplest way I can describe it because it’s a great way to disengage people.

Paul Heming: I can’t grow my business otherwise.

Parag Prasad: Okay, so then I come to my second point, which is the way that these industries set their fees and their pricing, the reason they’re doing that is because they’re not making money on their fees and their prices. And that’s where I look at and it’s endemic in these industries. And that’s where I have to get them looking at things like their value proposition. And the challenge that these sectors face is they believe that they have to compete on price and, oh, but Parag, yes, of course we do. You know, there’s someone coming in cheaper than us. Of course, there is. Well, welcome to the world of business but that doesn’t mean you have to compete on price. If you have a differentiator, a value proposition or you’ve understood the real reason that the client wants your services, of course there’s always going to be somebody who just wants the cheapest. It doesn’t mean you have to work with them. And so a lot of the time, I’m looking at what is the value proposition? Why does somebody really want to use your firm or your practice? Is it really cause you are the cheapest or is there something else going on? And there’s another driver for purchase, so that’s another area. But the other area I see where a lot of these firms are struggling financially in terms of profit is also because there’s just generally a culture over servicing, this desire to be great, which equates to doing more hours and over servicing. And then that often goes into things like scope creep and doing more for the client that was originally agreed not billing for extra work. And they’re actually big contributors to why those businesses maybe are not making the profit that they should be. And if they actually addressed those challenges, then there wouldn’t be such a desperate need to flog their teams and try and build ridiculous number of hours per person.

Paul Heming: Yeah. And almost KPI those hours or that, even if you’re not physically doing it, actually the mindset is still there. But could you talk to me about any case studies, any companies that you’ve worked with in the space where you have really shaken up their relationship that you’ve created a healthy relationship with work and improved the bottom line?

Parag Prasad: Yeah, of course, Paul. I mean, I’ll give you one example. It’s just a small practice. We’ve been coaching few years, Amos Goldreich Architecture, and they’re just a four person architect practice. All the common challenges that they were facing. And we really looked at marketing and value proposition and how they differentiate themselves. I still remember a WhatsApp message I got like without the notification, but I read –

Paul Heming: I was going to say, hang on a minute, you got it on your own terms. I read between the hours of 9:30 and six.

Parag Prasad: That’s right, Paul, because I’m in control of my phone, not the other way round so the phone doesn’t control me. So I read Amos’s WhatsApp on my terms and he said, Hey, Parag, just wanted to let you know we want a new project. And the interesting thing is we were 10 grand more expensive than the other pitches. And he said it’s all down to how they position themselves with that client and why they were 10 grand more expensive. And obviously, they had to spend, they’ve had to really think about how they position themselves and their value didn’t just happen by accident, but they got that work at the higher fee. And they also, like myself, Amos has been campaigning for greater balance and avoiding the personal cost. And so he’s just moved his business to a four and a half day working week as well, as well as substantially increasing profitability. 

Paul Heming: So how did he position himself and his business for X percent or 10,000 pounds higher fees?

Parag Prasad: Well, again, I mean in terms of the specifics of that particular project, I mean, he can probably answer that one better than I can, but yeah, when I look at architects as an example, and I ask you, what’s your value? And the usual answer I get is design, oh, we are great designers. I say, well, actually, is that really what your clients want? Everyone’s great designer in their own heads anyway, so you can’t have a thousand optics in London who are all great designers and you are all saying the same thing. 

Paul Heming: And stand out.

Parag Prasad: Yeah, you are all just swimming in a sea of sameness. So, it was about understanding what the client actually values and asking them about what they really want from their service. And this can apply to any business, what do you really want from an architect? What do you really want from the construction? What do you really want from our engineering service? What’s going to be most value? What worries you? What concerns you about using us? And by asking those questions, you start to uncover what is really the driver for purchase for that business and therefore, whether you can really add value for them or not. But the best thing I can do is suggest asking those insightful questions. And secondly, the other thing he did was ask a lot of his existing and past clients what they valued in his services. What is it, what is the real reason they went to his business? And then doing so was able to uncover what they actually thought.

Paul Heming: What his proposition was.

Parag Prasad: Exactly, not what he thought his proposition was.

Paul Heming: Well, that’s really interesting to me right now because we’ve spent the last 10 weeks maybe doing a lot of customer interviews and actually your perception of what your customers, your clients value from you, what they wanted from you initially might be almost there, but it absolutely isn’t completely there. And just by having a greater understanding of what the perceived value proposition is has done us the world of good as a business, hearing what the customer actually believes has given us a huge amount, we think. So I can totally understand that. You said that, I think Amos was his name has moved to a four and a half day working week, just because we did a four day working week episode recently. What does a four and a half day working week look like to his business out of interest?

Parag Prasad: Okay, so I think, he and his team finish lunchtime on Friday. So they’re working the regular eight hour days and then four hours on a Friday.

Paul Heming: Has he said anything about what that’s done, even if it’s relatively new to the business? What change has it brought?

Parag Prasad: Yeah, it’s relatively new, but I think what it’s forced them to do is really look at where, first of all, where are they really spending their time? Where are the inefficiencies? So forced them to look at efficiencies, first of all. Secondly, it’s forced them to look at where are they over servicing clients, where are they doing things that are unnecessary that are actually just stressing team members out and wasting time on unnecessary emails or unnecessary meetings that aren’t actually where they’re adding value. So it is really forced them to confront the realities of how they’re running their business and servicing their clients as well as obviously giving people a bit more time off. And I know their team has really embraced that. They’re incredibly grateful for that.

Paul Heming: That’s the thing, isn’t it? You know, I’ve done a lot of talk about the four day working week in the last few weeks and months, and my team have started to perk up their ideas now about the topic, but I actually think it’s a competitive space, isn’t it? Architecture sticking with that and architecture practices, all consultant practices are competitive spaces. And actually that kind of approach should really, really help with retention. And with retention, you get better efficiency, don’t you? And then that all feeds into profitability as well. So really, really interesting. I guess, my final question for you, as someone who has coached 400 people, which means you’ve seen probably 400 companies and how they’ve worked, what is the single way you would change the world of work if you could?

Parag Prasad: Right. It’s okay. Well, I think there’s two big things I would say to that, Paul. Number one, I know you asked for one.

Paul Heming: Oh, I know you snuck in another one.

Parag Prasad: I’m thinking another. Number one. Yeah, a change of culture. And by that what I mean is that this correlation or belief that more hours equals better work. And I know that’s not true. I know that’s not true because I’ve seen it in businesses where they’re working few hours and getting better results. So it’s just a belief system that’s there to be challenged and changed and it doesn’t really serve anyone. Maybe the client gets great.

Paul Heming: So that’s my belief system. And I’m being challenged on it a lot with these conversations that I’m having. My challenge, my honest belief system when I hear that thing is, oh, I’m not sure if I buy that. But the more I hear people talk about it, the more you’ve experienced it at hundreds of companies. You know it.

Parag Prasad: I mean, and not just those, my own business, 10 years ago, I was working a 60, 70 hour week. Now I work I work a 30 hour week actually, and my business is four times larger than it was 10 years ago. I work till 2:30 four days a week. So I work a 30 hour week, and yet running a business that’s way bigger than before, so I was in that boat 10 years ago. So, I’m also living, breathing evidence of that, that I changed my culture, my attitude towards hours. And in doing so, I therefore had to confront efficiency in my own business and productivity. And that links to my second point. And I suppose the real answer to your question, Paul, the second answer, which is, nobody’s taught this stuff. We go to school, maybe you go to school, maybe you go to university, wherever you are educated, nobody is taught how to use their time effectively. It’s just not taught in terms of planning your time. But some key things, how to overcome perfectionism, be a big industry in creative and design industries. Big issue. How to push back and be more assertive with difficult clients. How to run meetings more effectively, how to prioritize your diary and your work, how to manage emails just none of this stuff. How to stop saying yes and stop being such a people pleaser.

Paul Heming: Yeah. Yeah, a hundred percent. I mean one of the things I just wrote down there, just like as a snippet almost –

Parag Prasad: Sorry, I just bombarded you with some stuff there.

Paul Heming: No, it makes perfect sense. And I think perhaps the hesitation or the reservation that many people have when the gut feel that people have, like I just had, is that to make those changes to work that 30 hour week, not 38 or 40 or whatever, you have to confront the inefficiencies of something you just said. And all of us, absolutely, every single one of you just listed quite a few, whether there’s so many things that we know in our working day or our businesses are inefficient, and it’s confronting that inefficiency, which is a mammoth task, but if done right, it frees up everything else. And that’s how you can get that work life balance. And I think that’s a really fascinating way of putting it. That gives me a great perspective on it. And right after this show, I’m going to go and turn all of my notifications off and see what that brings to my life. So I’ve definitely taken something from this.

Parag Prasad: Can I leave you one parting thought on that, confronting the inefficiencies? Because I’m glad that’s resonated with you because I have seen them. I’ve seen them so often, and I think a lot of businesses are delusional. They see people being busy and running around and they think they’re busy, but are they efficient? And I’ll just give an example. When I was a kid, when I was a teenager, I used to watch Formula one racing and you, you’d see a pit stop. They timed the pit stop because the pit stop was a crucial part of the race.

Paul Heming: Seven, eight seconds back then. Right?

Parag Prasad: Right. Well, I’m a bit older, but maybe, so in my day, back in whenever it was. In the eighties, Paul, pit stops were like 15 seconds or something like that.

Paul Heming: Okay. I was nineties, seven-eight seconds is what I remember.

Parag Prasad: Seven, eight seconds in the nineties. Now go on YouTube today. And I remember looking at this last year, Ferrari pit stop, one second.

Paul Heming: It’s smart, isn’t it? Yeah.

Parag Prasad: One second. Now, when you think about that and you think about the efficient, the scaling of efficiencies that have to happen to get a pit stop to one second.

Paul Heming: They confronted the efficiency.

Parag Prasad: And you think about how much better it was. Yeah. It’s all driven by efficiency, training systems, practice. I mean, its mind numbing how they’ve done that. And you watch it on YouTube, please do it. It’s one second of your life and you’re just like, what? People don’t know what’s possible until they see what’s possible.

Paul Heming: Yeah. And that’s the thing, right? And I can recognize that myself. It’s confronting that inefficiency in your own business, so you can then take that step back. So it’s probably more work at the outset for that benefit. But that makes perfect sense to me. It’s a really nice analogy with the formula one pits. But we are at the end of today’s show, Parag, and it has been great. Like I said, I’ve taken away so much already from it. I’m sure the listeners have as well. I’ll be leaving your details in the podcast description. Thank you for coming on the show and for sharing all of your views.

Parag Prasad: Thank you, Paul. Real pleasure.

Paul Heming: Lovely, and everybody listening, as always, I will be back in your ears next week. Have a great week ahead. See you.

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