Tag Archives: small business management consulting

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.

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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.

Small Business Advisors: Your Shortcut To Financial Freedom

It’s often said that small business is the engine that drives the American economy. That may be true, but every engine needs routine inspection and maintenance from a competent mechanic from time to time.

That’s the only way to ensure the your entrepreneurial machinery is well-oiled and ready for the road ahead, free from any of the subtle warning signs that it takes a specially trained eye to diagnose. By analyzing market conditions, developing strong fundamentals, and anticipating future needs before they develop into serious problems, small business marketing consultants help growing businesses gain a sure footing, sidestepping all the pitfalls.

And in our current economic climate, there is no shortage of pitfalls for small business owners. Sluggish demand, high unemployment, and a very tight lending environment make it hard for start-ups to plan for growth.

That’s why the need for small business marketing consultants is growing at its fastest rate in history. Tough decisions about debt and hiring can paralyze small business owners and bring a thriving start-up company with a bright future to a grinding halt.

More than ever, business owners need a trusted third-party they can turn to for advice, perspective, and analysis. Small business marketing consultants offer exactly that.

The Five Most Common Pitfalls for Start-ups

The more experience a consultant has, the easier it is for them to spot a problem in the developing stages. Much like cars, to return to our auto-mechanic theme, most small businesses encounter very similar problems at similar times. There’s a different set of necessary check-ups that are needed at each interval in the life of a business.

In addition, businesses of the same type often encounter the same pitfalls, just the way cars of the same make or model often possess the same design weaknesses.

One of the most valuable services that a small business coach brings to the table is the experience and wisdom to diagnose these pitfalls before they do serious harm. Here are the 6 most common pitfalls:

Failure to Create a Detailed Plan

This one’s easy. Most entrepreneurs are used to storing complex and fluid plans in their head, only writing things down when it’s absolutely necessary. That often translates to a weak business plan, never taken seriously, “Because it’s going to change tomorrow anyway, right?”

When it come to a business plan, this type of thinking is never good enough. A good plan should to include information about the size of the market, pricing factors, financial goals, and clear parameters about how much the company is willing to invest. Optimism is a good motivator — it’s true — but a small business consultant can bring a much-needed dose of reality to the planning meeting.

Not Contacting Industry Experts

This one really hits the nail on the head, doesn’t it. By failing to consult with the current leaders in an industry, small business owners are doing themselves a major disservice. Many entrepreneurs are standoffish toward industry experts, considering them the competition.

Not only are these business owners missing out on the valuable advice an industry veteran may share, they’re also missing the opportunity to develop a network of support. Industry news travels at light speed through business networks, keeping all those “in the loop” up to date on the current challenges their peers are facing.

Small business marketing consultants can remedy this in a variety of ways. First off, an experienced business advisor IS an expert, particularly if they’ve spent their career specializing in a certain field. Second, business advisors know other business owners; it’s their job. So a small business advisor is a great resource in the quest to get linked in.

Failing to Conduct Market Research - It’s simply not enough to be passionate about something — there must be a healthy market for you product or service in order to sustain a business. Two of the quickest ways to get your business in trouble are to overestimate the size of a market, or underestimate the importance of targeting.

Markets typically seem larger and more vibrant right before you enter them with the stress and tension of a new business to run. First time entrepreneurs commonly get fixated on a particular pet product, losing sight of the fundamentals and overall health of their business. A small business advisor can offer an objective, bird’s eye view of your businesses profit potential while suggesting ways to target relevant customers and increase lifetime value.

It’s often said that 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers. That’s a statement to how important it is to find those customers instead of focusing on the other 80%.

Underestimating Costs

If you think about it, this is roughly the same thing as overestimating your control on prices. New business owners often make optimistic forecasts about the prices of the goods and services their companies depend on, as well as the prices that their own goods and services may fetch in the marketplace.

By failing to factor in all the volatility of the modern marketplace, small business owners can be setting themselves up for failure. Understanding how much it truly costs to start a business, what the average sale and the average refund rates are in an industry — that’s where expert advice from a marketing consultant can mean the difference between success and failure. Cost and pricing factors are much too important to be left up to guesswork.

Failing to Seek Small Business Advisors

Yep, we saved the best for last! For every major entrepreneurial success story, there’s a business owner who got help form the right advisor at the right time. It doesn’t matter if it’s about selecting real estate, construction, or financial planning; the go-it-alone, maverick mindset is the opposite of what a small business owner needs.

Surrounding yourself with the right team of professionals is the ultimate insurance policy. Small business advisors are only one part of this team, alongside investors, visionaries, and coaches.

These advisors can help entrepreneurs gauge what’s around the corner for their businesses and how to position themselves to take advantage of it. Otherwise, a small business will be caught in the herd of entrepreneurs who are simply struggling to react to the changes.

Merging the Plan with the Execution

Contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs that approach their businesses methodically — going down the proper checklists as they grow their companies — are far more likely to succeed than those who simply “go with their gut.”

Likewise, entrepreneurs that go with their gut often get heartburn, if not heartbreak — especially when operating within today’s razor thin margin of error.

Few entrepreneurs fantasize about accounting, marketing, and metrics. After all, many small businesses are formed with the express purpose of escaping the tedious realities of working for someone else. Yet these tedious things are the building blocks that support a successful enterprise in the long-term.

If routine maintenance and inspections are necessary for you car, you can imagine how important they are for something as complex as a business! Small business consultants offer the attention to detail, pragmatism, and accountability that gives businesses an edge in today’s exciting, yet challenging business climate.