Taking Control Back
Karen Guile started her specialist corporate venue-finding business 24 years ago and, after several upgrades including the addition of a purpose-built booking website, tobook was at a crossroads. Karen had employed two key roles into her business who should have dramatically increased sales, but had left her struggling to draw a salary as each month progressed.
“I’d been led to believe by these two very expensive members of staff, that it was a downturn in the marketplace and everyone was struggling for business. I wasn’t a sales specialist so I trusted my employees, but the business was slipping further and further into the red. The business was in jeopardy and that’s when I got a chance call from local business coach, David Lee.
“In just 10 minutes, I connected with David and felt that with all the elements of his business background, he could really help me. The one stumbling block was I had to invest even more money to pay for his coaching services on top of all my other expenses but, I thought, if I don’t do something, I’ll end up with nothing. It was a calculated risk I had to take.”
Karen began one-to-one coaching with David in March 2016 and set to work on getting the business back on track.
“My family and friends knew the terrible situation my business was in but I hadn’t had anyone to speak to at work. My first meeting with David brought about a huge sense of relief – I was able to step out of the state of denial I had hidden away in and face the task at hand. What’s very important to understand is that David isn’t there to do all the work for you, he prompts you to think about solutions and approaches which will make you a better business owner.
“David helped me see what was going on under my nose – we quickly moved out those employees who were underperforming and I began clawing back my business. As well as looking at my team, we reviewed cashflow, my time spent in the business and my loss of control. It was a scary time because these issues were real and needed rectifying as quickly as possible.”
Setting expectations on performance and behaviour with Karen’s team gave her some power back and the team felt more comfortable having a clear set of guidelines and KPIs to work towards. Karen also identified people she could delegate some tasks to so she could concentrate on working ON the business and getting it back in the black.
“Some staff took on more responsibilities and I outsourced certain tasks including instructing a company to chase outstanding invoices. Money soon started to come in quicker than it was going out – that’s what we’re in business for after all!”
“As finances began to recover, we moved on to look at my team in more detail. I’m not a natural manager and so I completed a personality test to understand why I was prone to micro-managing my employees. David helped me see I needed to change my ways and the personality profiling results of my senior team gave me more to work on, as I found I would need to adopt a number of different management styles to create a happy team.
“This work led on to recruitment and we agreed the four most important non-negotiable attributes our team members must possess to see them through the probationary period and onto a healthy, long-term working life with tobook. As long as those four boxes could be ticked, we knew the rest could be taught.”
Karen took confident strides to rebuild tobook under David’s guidance. From being up against her overdraft limit to permanently healthy balances, the business started to make a profit for the first time in over two years.
“I’ve gone from working every hour of every day and only paying myself for three months out of 12 to regaining a work-life balance and taking a regular salary. I have a happy, productive team all working to the same joint goals, securing our growth into the next 12 months through retention of existing clients and winning new clients.
“Within the first year of working with David, he’d saved me over £60,000. His coaching style never felt like I was being pushed through a formal programme, his wealth of experience means he adapts to your varying needs. Because I’m working 30% less in the business, I’ve been able to develop a new venue database website which will launch as a separate business in 2018/19, something I could never have envisioned doing before I met David.
“Engaging a business coach like David is a no-brainer. You couldn’t ever afford to employ someone with his level of experience, so hiring him in this way gives you the best of both worlds. Sometimes he puts me back on track and other times we bounce ideas around but whatever you spend your time on, it’s invaluable having that independent point of view to back you up.”