Tag Archives: business coaching

How Small Businesses Can Compete & Beat The “Big Dogs”

As a small business services consultant, one of the questions I get asked most often is: How can my business compete with big companies to win top-tier candidates?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to pay more or offer ridiculous benefits. And you won’t have to give away all of your profits in bonuses either…

Sure, it’s true that money is what motivates the VAST majority of us to come to work everyday. It’s also true that what we’re each willing to do and even not do increases with the size of a job offer.

Read more…

Why a Small Business Management Consultant Can Send Your Profits Soaring!

For most people, owning your own business sounds like a dream come true. You get to be your own boss, choose your hours, and make all the important decisions about how you’ll allocate your resources. That’s how it sounds…

Any real business owner knows the truth. That running a small business is much more complicated, time-consuming, and challenging that most people make it out to be. Even worse, running a small business is often less profitable than those on the outside believe.

That vast majority of small business owners earn a salary of exactly how much is left in their bank account after paying all of the expenses. At the end of some months, that may amount to a nice living. On others, well, it’s not a pretty picture.

With out proper planning and management, those margins can easily go negative. Quite honesty, that’s exactly how most small businesses go under.

Opportunity Favors the Prepared Mind

Now it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s no reason why your business has to live month-to-month with no real guiding philosophy or mission. Here’s the secret: Running a successful business is not rocket science. Nearly anyone can do it.

Surly you’ve met some at least one successful business owner that you were certain that you were smarter than. You probably wondered, “How can this mental midget run a successful company, while I can barely stay employed?”

Frankly, I don’t know how your acquaintance does it — maybe he or she inherited the business.

What I do know is how I manage to do it. And trust me, I’m no brain surgeon. So what’s my secret? It’s simple: I rely on management consultants. Most business owners do. That’s why they’re still in business.

The way I see it, who needs a prepared mind, when I can rent one at a very reasonable cost? It’s the opportunity that I’m seeking, after all, I’m not trying to earn an MBA. Right?

Building a relationship with a good management is often the difference between a flourishing business and a dream that went splat.

Making you into a Manager

Most entrepreneurs jump into a business with big ideas and lots of optimism. Typically, it’s not enthusiasm that we lack, it’s discipline… and probably foresight too. I mean, why else would we have been so enthusiastic about starting a business? Just kidding.

That’s why it’s so important to seek wise council. A good small business management consultant can help you craft a plan that set realistic goals and benchmarks. A management consultant will plan for setbacks, refunds, and unexpected costs that an inexperienced business owner wouldn’t foresee or know to plan for.

More often than not, it’s not the product that drops a business dead in its tracks. It’s unexpected costs and unexpected revenue hiccups during the growth process. These are exactly the reasons most small business owners need a management consultant.

You can’t do it all yourself, so stop pretending that you can be all things to all people all the time. Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but you don’t score 100% in every aspect of management.

Believing that you somehow aced the management test is a sure sign that you’re in over your head. If you want your organization to grow, you can’t approach ever challenge alone. It’s a trap that you don’t want to find yourself in, trust me. If at no other times at all, every successful business needs management consulting during two phases.

Start-up and No Man’s Land

These are two of the most often written about stages of business development, but for very different reasons.

Most entrepreneurs love to fantasize about the start-up phase, mainly because it seems like the sky’s the limit and there are few if any limitations on where your business might be able to go. It’s an exciting time in the life of a business because it’s’ where you put your concept into action, finally getting real world feedback.

Obviously, start-up is also the time in which planning is absolutely essential. This includes staffing, strategic partnerships, and financial forecasts.

For any right-brained idea-man, or idea-woman, who’s launched a start-up, it becomes immediately apparent that you’re in over your head. If you’re overly meticulous, you may find yourself completely bogged down in routine tasks, never having enough time to develop new strategies and processes.

In either case, the clock is ticking and you’ll soon find out if you can hack it all by yourself…

Or you can do the smart thing and hire someone to teach you to become a better manager. Business management consulting is a great way to elevate your game quickly, by outsourcing the learning curve to someone who’s already been there and done that.

No Man’s Land is an entirely different story. Just as the name implies, this stage in the growth of a business is not so fun or exciting. It’s the point at which you business has grown large enough to no long be considered “small,” but is far from being “big” either.

No Man’s Land is the point at which you have to scale up and go big, or else begin to atrophy. In many ways, it’s a lot like the start-up phase, without all the illusions that made it so thrilling.

Because it involves even more fundraising, organizational efficiency, and staffing, No Man’s Land is where a business management consultant becomes no longer necessary, but mandatory.

Creating the Business You Want to Run

The best part about a good business management consultant is that they become an asset, rather than a cost. The changes they suggest should make you money, or at the very least free up time or money that can be better leveraged elsewhere.

After a basic, surface level analysis, it’s easy for any veteran consultant to spot the weaknesses in your market position. I hate to burst your bubble, but they’re there, even if you can’t see them.

A consultant should be able to analyze the marketplace your business operates in and offer up suggestions that will put your business in a better competitive position.

With better positioning, you company will become more marketable. With redundancies and other bottlenecks eliminated, your business will reduce costs, increase production, and become more profitable.

That’s why I always tell people that a good small business management consultant is a business asset. Rather than costing you money, a good consultant will make you money. Over the long run they’re advice will be worth exponentially more than it cost to acquire it.

With the right management and guidance, your company can become a mission driven machine that runs smoothly and rallies around the cause or purpose you initially envisioned. Businesses that are built to deliver on a clear purpose or goal are actually much easier to grow and maintain than a hastily cobbled together organization.

It’s really not all that surprising, when you think about it. Many of the biggest, most profitable companies in the world, the Apples, the Nordstroms, the Whole Foods, etc. are also the most inspiringly single-minded.

That’s the kind of business you originally wanted to own anyway.

Small Business Coaching Basics: 8 Key Elements of A Top Notch Business Plan

“It’s in my head.” That was Jim’s reply when I asked to see his business plan. He’d paid me $25,000 to consult with him about his fledgling company. I was shocked…

It was not that his business plan was terrible or even wildly unrealistic. He just straight up didn’t have one.

Let me bring you in on a little secret in the Business Coaching Services industry. “It’s in my head” is the adult equivalent of, “My dog ate it.” It’s just not going to cut it in today’s business world.

Here’s the thing, you’d be surprised how often situations like this come up with first time entrepreneurs. However, Jim doesn’t fit into that category at all. What if I told you that he had already started a dozen small businesses in his 20-year tenure as an entrepreneur?

Just like all the other companies Jim started, the one I was coaching him on was caught in the small business undertow, fighting just to stay afloat. None of Jim’s companies had ever produced annual revenues of over a million dollars.

Sadly, many of Jim’s companies eventually failed and he was forced to shut them down after a few unprofitable quarters.

Does this mean Jim is a terrible businessman?

Yes and no.

No, because he’s obviously a very prodigious entrepreneur with good ideas that will actually be profitable with a good business plan.

BUT, yes, because he suffers from a mentality that’s all too common in the world of start-ups…

Many entrepreneurs are borderline adrenaline junkies, who enjoy flying by the seat of their pants. That’s another way of saying they don’t understand the importance of creating a good business plan and then reviewing it regularly.

Entrepreneurs like Jim love to think of themselves as “self-made men.” That’s exactly why they’re hesitant to seek out business coaching services. Truth be told, they don’t want to share the credit if their business takes off.

It’s purely a vanity move for many entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, sharing the spotlight isn’t what they should be afraid of. It’s the downward spiraling feeling of their business crashing into the turf that should be guiding their decisions.

Those Who Don’t Plan To Grow, Won’t…

Sure, lots of successful entrepreneurs love to talk about how they just lucked their way into success…

That may work for some, but it’s absolutely NOT any kind of plan. For every one of these guys, there are tens of thousand more who crashed and burned, simply because they lacked a plan.

If you don’t develop a plan for growth, you may still grow, but your growth will inevitably be unbalanced and disproportionate — putting you organization in a very dangerous and unsustainable position.

That’s what most people don’t realize. Uncontrolled growth can actually put your company at risk. That’s why planning for growth is essential.

According to massive business coaching services firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, a full two-thirds of all fast growth companies develop some type of business plan. Of the other third, I’d hazard to guess that two-thirds of them WISH they had developed one.

Here’s what most people don’t realize: The exercise of actually drafting a business plan is often more important than the plan itself.

Developing a business plans and writing it in pen forces you to focus on the fundamentals of your business. It makes you think through your next steps and specific strategies and tactics.

Most importantly, this exercise forces you to face the cold hard facts. It may sound a little cheesy, but the most important entrepreneurial/executive skills is being able to face the facts, all the time…

Not just the pleasant, happy facts — the cold hard facts.

In my career, I’ve known so many highly intelligent business owners whose businesses failed because they refused to acknowledge the struggles their business faced. Almost all of those enterprises could have been saved with a good business plan, or a small business coach.

The Eight Key Business Coaching Basics Of A Business Plan

1) Executive Summary: The executive summary is a clear and concise statement about what you want as a company. Make it a synopsis of the entire business, what you’re offering, how you’ll produce it, financials, etc. It should be no more than one page, tops!

2) Market Analysis: This is where you can get into the particulars of your market and how your company will gain a competitive advantage.

Once again, this is a great exercise. A market analysis pushes the entrepreneur to become familiar with all aspects of the market, so they can clearly define and understand their target market.

You can begin by defining the market in terms of size, structure, growth prospects, trends and sales potential.

Once you’ve accomplished this, you can work with your business coach to position your company for success.

The market analysis stage also forces you to get realistic about pricing, distribution and marketing strategies. Not the ones you scribbled down on a cocktail napkin… the real ones.

In addition, a thorough market analysis will give a glimpse of the health and growth potential within your industry, giving you the necessary ammunition to develop a reasonable forecast for your organization’s future.

3) Company Description: This section is basically the bird’s eye view of how all the different elements in your business fit together. A good company description should include information about the foundation of your company, how it will produce revenue, as well as the unique factors that you as an entrepreneur believe will help your company be a success.

4) Organization and Management: Just like it sounds, this section is where you’ll outline your company’s organizational structure, including all the details about the who owns your company, the functions of your management team, and the qualifications of your company’s leadership.

5) Marketing and Sales Strategies: Clearly, this is the real lifeblood of your company. Your marketing and promotional efforts create customers and those customers will generate the sales that bring cash in the door.

In this section, you’ll want to define your company’s primary marketing strategy. You’ll start with strategies, tactics and channels that have thus far created your greatest successes. After that, analyze other tactics that may be working for your competitors.

This section is constantly evolving as your business finds new ways to be successful.

6) Service and/or Product Line: This is the section in which you lay out your service and product. In other words, you define what is it that you are actually selling.

This one’s usually a big eye-opener, because it’s requires business owners to discern between benefits and features — a biggie. Benefits, not features, will allow you to establish your unique selling proposition.

If you’re still a little unclear on what the difference between a feature and a benefit is, consider this: A feature may be what makes your product different from the competition, but a benefit is what makes it BETTER.

7) Funding Requirements: This is where a small business coach is worth his or her weight in gold. A coach can help you determine the amount of funding you will need to start or expand your business.

They’ll help you analyze the best and worst case scenarios and keep you realistic. It’s not as difficult or painful as you might think.

8) Financials: There’s a reason that this is step #8. That’s because you can only develop your financial plan AFTER you have analyzed the market and set clear objectives. You should include three to five years of historical data.

Here’s the big takeaway: A good business plan is never meant to be written or read once. You have to revisit your plan quarterly at least, but monthly is even better.

Any good businessperson understands that plans evolve and change as your business grows and your market environment changes. It’s a lot like pruning a rosebush. You’ll cut off branches that don’t produce in your business, and those changes should be reflected in your business plan.

As a veteran in the business coaching services industry, I fully believe that if you take all of these 8 steps to heart, you literally CAN’T fail.

Top 10 Mistakes Of Corporate Coaches & How To Use Them To Explode Profits

Whenever I’m consulting with a client, I try to present all of my coaching suggestions in the most positive light possible…

I do this by highlighting the benefits my corporate clients can achieve through the prescribed changes and not dwelling on the often-stupefying mistakes that have led them to hire me.

I do it this way, not simply because it’s more pleasant (it IS), but because I think it’s the most effective way to motivate clients to make the changes and move forward.

They’ve already lived the mistakes, there’s nothing to gain from analyzing the flaws in their organization or leadership style over and over. That’s why they hired me. That’s my job.

Their job is to implement the changes, with a little help and guidance, to get their business back on the right track.

This is NOT a 10 Deadly Sins Article

Here’s the thing, because I like to approach these matters from a positive, results-based angle, I chose not to make this a piece about the “10 Stupidest Things Corporate Executives Do” or the “7 Deadly Sins of Entrepreneurs Who Think They’re God’s Gift to Business.”

Look, with the absolutely stupid, self-destructive, and borderline negligent things I’ve observed in my corporate coaching career, it’d be easy to write any of those articles. I could write books. But I won’t…

In the interest of better understanding exactly what many executives do wrong, AND what exactly corporate coaching professionals actually do, I’ve decided to flip the typical script. Here’s are the 10 major mistakes business consultants see on a recurring basis:

1. Leaders Don’t Have Clarity of Vision: If corporate leaders don’t understand why their company exists, then how can they teach that to their customers, employees, vendors, or funding partners?  It’s time to revisit your mission statement, study it and/or make the appropriate changes.

Because your mission says why your company does what it does, this is a great place to renew your commitment to your company’s vision. One more thing: In order to really engrain this vision into your organization at every level, your mission statement needs to be distilled into a phrase so short and simple, it can fit on a t-shirt.

2. The Company Lacks Identity and Core Values: All outcomes are not the direct result of those at the top of the corporate ladder… but it does reflect on them.

Identifying core values are one of the most powerful ways that corporate executives can influence and guide the behaviors of their team. Although leaders can’t DO everything, they can and should create the values the guide employees on HOW to carry out these responsibilities.

3. The CEO Isn’t Big On Org Charts: Lots of executives pay lots of lip service to running a tight ship, but never seem to get around to creating or updating the company’s organizational chart.

An organizational chart clarifies who occupies what role and who reports to whom, and for what. A good organizational chart increases your company’s efficiency and, perhaps more importantly, defines responsibilities.

If a business leader fails to make an org chart, they typically start to absorb more and more responsibilities, until the company’s structural hierarchy looks like the chart below.

business_coaching_services

Increase Your Companies Efficiency

4. Employees Don’t Have Job Descriptions: I meet with executives all the time that tell me that they need to hire help. When I ask them what the person would do, however, they look at me like a deer in the headlights.

You can’t possibly hire the right person if you haven’t decided what you want them to do once they’re on board. So before even think about hold a single interview, you need to write a thorough job description.  If you don’t, you’ll simply be wasting mountains of time.

If you’ve never written a job description before — you’d be shocked by how many corporate leaders haven’t — start by writing down everything you think you want your new employee to do. List the duties you want them to be responsible for. Next to each responsibility, write down the skill necessary to fulfill it. Be as specific as humanly possible.

Once you’ve taken inventory and created a skill set that defines your ideal employee… only then do you start scheduling interviews.

5. Leaders Confuse a Feature with a Benefit: Knowing the difference between a feature and a benefit is only useful for those in the marketing department. It’s absolutely critical that a company’s decision makers understand this concept as well.

Many of the mistakes we see in the corporate coaching world have to do with an executive’s love affair with an idea or product with a new feature. If that feature doesn’t provide an attractive benefit, or the company fails to position the products in a way that’s relevant to the benefits, massive resources can be quickly wasted.

6. Compensation: This one’s a big, sticky ball of wax. The main thing to remember here is that variable, performance-based compensation plans are no magic bullet — at all. In fact, more and more research shows that artificial pressures like bonuses and commissions don’t improve performance, the introduce stress that hinders it.

7. Leaders Don’t Communicate With Accounting Enough: Many executives have no idea what the “real” cost to run their business is. They don’t keep a close relationship with their accounting department and leave it up to “accounting” to make sure the numbers are good.

This is a lot like relying on the TV weatherman to deliver nice, partly cloudy skies. It works… until it doesn’t.

8. The Company Has Shinny Penny Syndrome: When leaders have a tendency to bounce like a pinball from one pet project to another, their businesses follow suit.

This will destroy profitability faster than just about anything else, because it draws resources away from the company’s core revenue sources. When you have several projects 50% done, that yields you zero revenue. However, one project 100% done brings money in the door.

9. Leaders Resist ALL Strategic Mergers or Partnerships: Look, not every merger, acquisition, or partnership that comes your way will be beneficial. However, the right partnership can send your company light-years ahead.

The thing we observe all too often in corporate coaching is a hostile attitude towards making beneficial alliances with likeminded companies. Even more damaging, this always seems to happen with companies that are struggling to take the next step.

If or when that company is able to make the progress its leaders desired, it’s out all the time and money it took them to do it all themselves. In a business landscape demanding “better, faster, more,” there’s no excuse for squandering resources.

10. The Company’s Leaders Avoid Confrontation: Too many executives are concerned about being well liked and have a terrible time making the tough decisions that are right for the business. If there is a problem, deal with it.

Even better yet, don’t allow potential problems to go unnoticed. If something unhealthy for your business seems likely to happen, jump on it before it becomes a serious issue.  There is a potential problem, jump on it before it becomes a real problem.

Letting problems fester tends to lead to:

-Bad Deals
-Bad Employees
-Bad Company Morale

Takeaway: If you see yourself in even one of these items, it’s time to bring in someone to help you work through it. Corporate coaching exists for a reason. Running a business made up employees and  rapidly changing markets is incredibly complicated — seek the advice of someone who’s seen it all before.