Being a successful business owner relies on the management being adaptable and open to making changes when things are not going as well as expected. By looking at what other people are doing we can open ourselves up to new possibilities. This blog looks at three mini case studies that can help business owners to address their challenges from a different perspective.
Growth is not just financial
Being a successful business owner is not simply about being great at your core business and having a good understanding of the finances. You also need to be excellent at people management – to get the best out of them and tackle any concerns and issues early on before they have a material impact on the business and on other staff.
One of my clients had a situation with a manager that he wanted to deal with but he parked during the first lockdown as there were many other more pressing tasks to focus on. When the first lockdown began to ease, the client decided that he needed to address the problem. The manager does a good enough job, but many things could be much better which would have a significant impact on the business. The manager is set in his ways and my client feels uncomfortable talking to him about it because it has been an ongoing situation for a very long time.
However, if any business is to make progress, then it is vital to move out of the comfort zone. When you challenge yourself and others to do better it might feel uncomfortable at the start, but humans are adaptable, and it will quickly become the new comfort zone.
My client did not want to have the difficult conversation with the manager. He was fearful, thinking, ‘It is working OK, not ideal, but I don’t want to confront this.’ I encouraged him to move from his comfort zone into the courage zone and to tackle the conversation as soon as possible so that everyone can begin to move past it. He knows that not dealing with it and letting it continue is not the right thing to do.
My client did have a conversation with the manager and was pleasantly surprised. The manager acknowledged that things could improve but did not know where to start. So together we identified the gaps and put a plan in place for the manager to implement. The department is now a lot more efficient.
Scaling up and exceeding targets
Many businesses have huge potential for growth, for increasing their customer base, revenues and profits, but they find it hard to achieve the success they deserve because there is a lack of organisation. A business grows when it is laser focused on making every part work optimally, whether that is sourcing product more cost effectively, creating standard process documentation to improve quality and reduce defects or putting effort into marketing in the right way to drive sales higher.
This case study involves one of my clients who has over 30 employees. When we started, a lot of time was spent on identifying key performance indicators for each department, like the sales, the marketing, the operations and finance. Significant work went into writing processes for the warehouse because it is an online business and there was a lot of work done on vision and mission. We also focused on getting the teams to work together as opposed to in their individual departments.
Many businesses struggled during the first lockdown; they were not agile enough to adapt to the new environment or they simply could not operate their business effectively with social distancing in place. I think we have come a long way from that place in April/May 2020. However, there are success stories from that time and this client is one of them.
The client had set in place all their operational processes and were monitoring them closely. At the beginning of 2020 they were focusing on sales and marketing. They had set six-figure sums for the sales target, and they outperformed that target in lockdown during May and June. All the things that they put in place and implemented started working, such as really having a clear focus on tracking, testing and measuring everything they are doing.
So, for example, on the marketing side:
- Monitoring the quality of the leads;
- Monitoring the percentage of conversions;
- What people spend on average;
- How often people are spending;
- Their margins.
Another important change that had a huge impact was their customer experience. By keeping in constant contact with their existing customers just to make sure that they are happy, they have created a very loyal customer base. Their customer service is excellent because everyone understands that it is easier to sell to an existing client than it is to get a new client. Focus is therefore on retaining clients and ensuring that orders are processed on time, returns are dealt with quickly and queries are handled to a very high standard – it all adds up to happy customers that will buy again and again.
Really exploring what is working and what is not working is so important for every single business. There is always more you can do to fine tune the way things are working. In a more established business, the tweaks that you make might not give you the stratospheric growth that you might see in a start-up but when you are larger and you make a 5% improvement in sales, that can add up to a very large number.
The client is now working on longer-term planning and setting ambitious targets which they feel much more confident to reach. This is motivating for the employees because they can now see all their efforts together have resulted in the success of this business. Every week the key performance indicators for each department are shared company wide. The future is looking very bright.
Selling your business
Not all business owners have an exit strategy; they plan to run their business for as long as possible and do not intent to sell it. Many business owners set up a business purely because they have a love for the thing they do. They do not have a clear idea of what will work in business so there is a lot of trial and error.
My client, Susan ran a beauty salon business in Belgravia, London which had a turnover of £500,000 and employed six therapists. There was a drop in profits and the video explains how we worked together to turn things around and ensured a successful sale of the business.
I knew Susan because I was a client at the salon for several years and I had changed careers and was now a business growth coach. We would talk about business from time to time, so naturally I felt able to help her look at certain areas and turn things around. The salon’s unexpected downturn was concerning Susan and she felt she needed another set of eyes on the business. She was not enjoying the business and had put it up for sale.
When we started to work together, we focused on three main areas:
- Generating more revenue;
- Engaging the team;
- And time management
When things are difficult in business, it can be very isolating. You may not have anyone to talk to about your ideas and feelings. It can feel overwhelming. Having a business coach can make a big difference to your perspective and energy and give you a new lease of life to make things better.
Susan found that by having the support and structure to make improvements she began to get her momentum back. The business improved over a relatively short space of time, around six to nine months. She was able to sell her company on a high, rather than her being desperate to sell, which was enormously important for her self-esteem and confidence. She is now looking to buy another business in the same industry. Having a much better understanding of how to recognise good opportunities and how to implement different facets of the business to bring greater success means Susan can make a more objective decision about purchasing a new business. Most business exist to make a profit and earn the owner a decent living, so you must be on top of your numbers, knowing what is profitable and what is not working and always looking to make changes and improvements along the way.
Achieving your potential in business usually means getting help at some point in the journey. If you would like a sounding board in your business or more focused planning support, I would love to chat to you about it. You can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org