As Director of FIREUP Coaching for 20 years I see so many Small Business Owners get caught with getting too busy to take the time out to step away from business operations and assess their business position, do a SWOT and set a strategy from that.
This results in stress and often working really hard on the wrong things. These are my responses to an interview about coaching business success.
1. What is the first step?
Each quarter you need to diarise a day to think about your business success.
If your business is not profitable and sustainable and “future proofed” you risk becoming irrelevant quickly and whilst a big business such as McDonald’s has the monetary resources and assets to sustain being caught out as people move towards healthier food choices a small business owner can find themselves in over their heads with debt without a path forward.
It is critical to be up to date with industry trends relating to your business. For example, I used to run courses that were non-accredited and dependent on my training skills. If anything happened to me there was no business. Becoming an RTO future proofed the business and made it an asset with a tangible value. Every business owner should think that if they suddenly were no longer there could the business be sold easily because it has systems, a clear brand and can demonstrate profits and future opportunities.
2. How do you assess your business’ key areas like finances, team strength, position among competitors, etc. (benchmarking, SWOT analyses, etc).
If you are not an expert in reading P&Ls make sure you have someone who can check in monthly with you as to what financial position you are in. One of my greatest lessons came when I had a consultant determine that the self-development courses I was running whilst looking to me like they were working were actually very unprofitable and I had to adjust the strategy accordingly. Beware of getting caught spending too much time doing what you love and ignoring areas that need attention.
Determine your team’s strengths through profiling their strengths. Strengthfinder 2.0 or HBDI are great for assessing if you have the right people in the right roles.
Research how you compare to your competitors – this will give you a competitive advantage
3. How would you address weaknesses within a business
Be selective about who gives you advice about your weaknesses and how to solve them. Engage a qualified business coach or mentor – if they don’t have business qualifications, a track record of experience and are not willing to give client testimonials think twice about engaging them. Good business coaching and mentoring can save you a fortune. I was a member of TEC for many years and now have my own think tank called In Your Corner who I call on because they have run successful businesses that are very profitable, values-driven and they are leaders I respect and would role model
4. What kind of goals should I set to improve business?
The goals have to be very clear and aligned to your business strengths and your purpose. I have learnt that just setting sales targets without close connection to your business strategy does not work – when setting goals pay close attention to what gave you greatest success and what dragged you down. Your goals to improve should address what gaps you have. I did a workshop called “Immunity to change” with Robert Kegan, to explore why I seemed to have recurring issues with sustaining profit. That was my ah ha moment in that it really highlighted my need to stick to a budget and analyse figures monthly – No excuses – no distractions!
5. How many business goals should I have?
We start the year with 3 key Strategic Imperatives. We then break those into quarterly goals that may be up to 5-6 key goals in each area.
6. How do you go about setting your goals?
We set our goals at our 2 day Strategy Planning Days which we have each year in December or January. All the team is involved and the spreadsheet ends up with each team member clearly understanding what they are accountable for in each of the key strategic areas. We then review these goals each week in our team meeting to discuss progress, any detractors, issues and to acknowledge the achievement of outcomes.
7. What do you see as challenges or blockers to taking time to set goals and how you manage them
The biggest blocker to goal setting is people being “too busy” to stop and realise how critical this time allocation is. I know myself if I don’t put my monthly half day with my mentors and think tank in the diary at the start of the year that time would not happen. We all treat that half day as non-negotiable and my staff know that training, meetings and other appointments cannot happen on the 2nd Wednesday of the month. Educating your team and your clients that you are unavailable means you can be really present in that all-important planning and reflection time. If you don’t block it out something else will always come along to distract you from that essential strategic time.
As a business coach I take that very seriously and let clients know when they engage me that we will schedule the times and unless it is a life and death emergency they need to commit to that time. Fortunately, clients quickly realise how valuable those sessions are and wouldn’t miss them.
8. How do you break down big goals into achievable actions
Spreadsheets with the broad strategic topic and then SMART goals with weekly reviews in the team meeting alongside these. Each team member has to report back on their specific achievements making everyone accountable. What gets measured gets done so make sure you write things down and then have a system for tracking