The Pillars to Successful Business Growth Strategy Series. Pillar 3 – Delivery

pillar-of-autumn-1541725-639x979If you’ve been following my 6 Pillars to Business Success Series, you’ll know that the first two pillars require you to have a product that matches a need in the market and is unique enough to carve a niche in that market and you need think about and plan for a business model that will enable you to scale and grow beyond the early days of dependency on you.

The third pillar is about ‘delivery’ – the systems and processes you have in place to ensure you can consistently deliver on the promise of your product again and again.

Delivery of expectation

Delivery is really about expectation. When you market your product and service well (we’ll get to the sales and marketing in the next blog), you create an expectation in the minds of your customer. This expectation carries across a number of areas:

Quality and consistency of product

Customers have an idea of what it is they are going to receive and an expectation of the quality they will experience – not just the first time they buy from you, but every time they buy from you. So your company’s ability to deliver a quality experience every single time is critical. As you grow, you have to be able to keep up the quality, regardless of size and quantity.

liber8-pillars-chart-450x289Quality and consistency of service

Your customers will also have an expectation of the level of service they receive – which will be bench marked against your previous service levels (you are expected to keep these up as you grow) and also against their experience with other providers. Each industry will have a standards benchmark that the market expects all players to deliver on. In an ideal world, you’ll know what this is and ensure your company delivers better service than your competitors – each and every time.

Efficiency and timeliness

How well and how timely you are on the delivery of their expectation is also a critical factor. You can have the best solution in the world but if it doesn’t arrive in time to meet your customer’s need, they won’t be happy with it.

A quick example – I ordered a mermaid blanket (yes really) online for my daughter as a Christmas santa present. It was a US based site, and international delivery was within 3 weeks. This was early November. There was plenty of time for it to arrive by Christmas. By early December it still hadn’t arrived. When I emailed, I was sent a link to a parcel tracking site. This was all in Chinese so I couldn’t make any sense of it. Further emails got no reply. A week out from Christmas it still hadn’t arrived, so I found another mermaid blanket on a NZ gift site, with guaranteed delivery before Christmas. This one arrived within 2 days of ordering. Then the original one arrived too – a few days before Christmas.

My daughter was thrilled to get two mermaid blankets from Santa. I was not so delighted. The original company continues to market to me, as I’m clearly now on their database. But I will never buy from them again. They had the superior blanket quality wise, but they let me down on the timeliness of delivery, and also their lack of reply to my emails and their lack of concern about their tracking information being in Chinese. They hadn’t set their distribution systems up well enough to match their delivery promise, they oversold and under delivered to me and many others I’m sure.

Delivery efficiencies

A key thing to consider about delivery is how efficiently your company can continually meet the expectations of your customers. As you grow it gets harder and harder to keep up the quality and control the costs involved to do this. You have to hire more people and invest in more infrastructure. Your costs go up and before you know it, your income is growing but your profits are shrinking.

So how do you grow and continue to deliver on customer expectations?

The answer to that question lies with these 3 things: systems, team, training.

1. Systems

You must have systems for everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. From how a customer is greeted when they first contact you or how the floor of the warehouse is cleaned to how your product is packaged, to how it is disbributed, how you present, how you communicate, how you deal with a complaint, how you do anything at all.

According to the online Business Dictionary, a system is defined as:

A set of detailed methods, procedures and routines created to carry out a specific activity, perform a duty, or solve a problem.

Systems will set you free. And simply cannot be avoided.

To create a system, first prove that a process works (by trialling it for a while), then document it thoroughly step by step, and then ensure everyone in your company knows how to follow the process. One of my fellow mentors and author Mike Brunel, tells the story of how he started what became a $300 million company by following his business partner around with a dictaphone and then wrote up everything he did – this created a system they were able to sell to others all over the world. In their case, the system became the product because they found a way to do something better than anyone in their industry.

Put all of your systems into one ‘manual’ – which can be all stored online or delivered as a lovely glossy ‘welcome’ piece when new team members join. Let this become your manifesto … the ‘how we do things here’ guide to consistent delivery for your company.

Important note: Two of the areas you need systems for – to ensure you can afford to grow – are your sales and marketing, and your financial reporting. We talk more of these in future blogs in the series, but for now, be sure to build systems that enable you to plan your team and infrastructure growth alongside your sales growth – plan to have enough income/capital to be build your delivery systems and have regular financial reporting built into your rituals.

2. Team

You cannot grow without a team. You need people to deliver on the expectations of your promise to market. And you need them to know what to do, how to do it, when to do it and how important it is to do it this way every time. When you start hiring people, you will have to let go of doing everything yourself. You will have to trust others to do the work for you, but of course you’ll feel a lot happier about this if you know they are doing it the way you (and your customers) expect it done. So give them great systems to follow, and minimise the chances of them getting it wrong. Your systems will enable consistency, and will also enable your culture to survive as you grow. Your systems manual can include information on your rituals, meetings you have (and why you have them), values and vision for the company. The how and why of everything … this makes up your culture, and you should only hire people you think will enjoy being in a place that does things this way.

Another quick example: I go to a gym class at 6am three days a week. I get there at 5.30am and there is always a smiling face to greet me, which I appreciate even though I’m still half asleep. As soon as I scan my card to get in, they look at the screen and know two things – my name and the class I’m here for. They greet me by name and hand me my wrist band for my class without me having to say a thing (I do tend to grunt at that time of the morning). Then when I leave an hour later, no matter who is on reception, they always say ‘goodbye’ or ‘see you later’ as I scan my way out again. Always. This is systemised delivery of experience that every single team member knows about, and it makes me feel good about my gym.

3. Training

A business system is only as good as the people who follow it. So make sure to devote enough resources to training your team to deliver on expectations. If they don’t know how you want things done, they’ll do things the way they think they should be done. Train your team to know the company values and the expectations it has around delivery across all aspects of the business. Let them know why these things are important and then … and this is important… give them the freedom to follow the systems without micromanagement from you!

Exercise:

Conduct a ‘delivery audit’ of your business. Firstly consider all of the critical customer touch-points and the expectations they have of what and how you are going to delivery on your promise to them. Make a list of the key areas where you need systems in place to ensure you can meet those expectations.  Then start creating systems to ensure consistent delivery across each area.  You can get your team to help with this… the best person to create a system is the person who is currently doing that job well already.

Happy Growing!

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PS.  For more thoughts on how to make your business more valuable, feel free to download this free booklet, based on my interviews with successful entrepreneurs

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The Pillars to Successful Business Growth Series. Pillar 2 – Your Business Model.

pillar-of-autumn-1541725-639x979So you have a great product or service. You know there’s a need for it out there, you’ve defined your customers and your market (if not refer to Article 1 in the Pillars To Business Success Series).  You may well have proven just how great your offer is, with consistent sales under the belt. But how much thought have you given to the growth plan for your business?

The true value in your business will ultimately come not just from what you sell, but also how well you grow.

To grow well, you need to think about your business model, sooner rather than later.

There are two key questions to ask yourself when thinking about your business model:

  1. What is the potential for this business in the future (what is your vision for where you are taking it)?
  2. How will it scale?

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Let’s look at each in turn.

What is the potential for your business?

When I’m working with new clients, we spend a fair bit of time considering this question. We look at what you personally might want out of the business financially, the size of the market you are in, the competition you are up against, your future portfolio of customers – in terms of both size and value.  We consider what you are offering now and who you are offering this to, and how this might need to change over time to enable the true potential of the business.  We build a picture of what’s possible for the future, check in with your appetite for growth and your commitment to make this happen.

How will it scale?

When we have a clear picture of what’s possible, we look at the business growth plan that will enable this.  How and what is your business currently set up to deliver? How will it need to be set up in the future to enable the size and scale of business you are hoping to build? What changes do you need to make to ensure this growth can happen?  Will you be expanding into new markets? Do you need to make changes to the product or service itself? What team infrastructure is required to support the growth? What needs to happen to the way you make and deliver your product service? How can you reduce dependency on you and other key people, with systems, technology, team and training? We also look at the time frame over which these changes need to take place.  If your vision for future success is five years out, you don’t need to make all the changes necessary right now.  You can map them out over time and determine what you need to be working on right now to ensure you are preparing for growth in the future.

As you can see, there are a lot of questions to consider. Business is really a thinking game, and a planning game as well as a doing game. To be a good business person you need to think about strategy as well as delivery.

Here’s a definition of strategy taken from a well-known dictionary:

Strategy: A method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem.

The question is always, are you willing to do the thinking necessary to plan for a successful future? Or are you always going to be too busy delivering your product or service today?

My job as a mentor is to ensure my clients have the structure, support and guidance to do the hard thinking now that will set them up for the future.

If you think you might be ready for this … email me at laura@liber8u.com to find out more about my programmes.

Happy growing!

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PS.  For more thoughts on how to make your business more valuable, feel free to download this free booklet, based on my interviews with successful entrepreneurs

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The Pillars to Successful Business Growth Strategy Series. Pillar 1 – Your Product


pillar-of-autumn-1541725-639x979A successful business is made up of 6 pillars to success, with each needing equal amounts of attention, talent, passion and skill for a business to succeed. Most business owners put their energy into one or two pillars, usually where their comfort zone lies. But business owners who recognise the need for improvements across all pillars have a far better chance at success.

In this blog series we look at each pillar in turn and discuss strategies and ideas for you to improve in each.

 

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Pillar 1. Your Product

This is where every business owner starts. Some (most) start with an idea of something they feel passionate about and want to build a business around. This might be a product they’ve seen and want to sell, or something they want to build, or a service they want to deliver, often based around their own skill set or experience. Others (less frequently) start with a need or gap they see in the market and create a service or product specifically to address that need or gap.

The latter often have a better chance at growth. But why?

It’s called product/market fit. The better the fit, the better the chance at success – especially if the market that needs your product is big enough and has enough customers willing to pay a good price, with good margins for you.

Step 1

Step one to successful product development is to ensure there is a need for it and a market big enough to enable growth. You can do this in the early stages of business by creating simple versions of your product or service and testing it with sample groups of customers who represent your market. If you’ve been going for a while and sales are continuing to grow, then you have proven there is a need for what you sell. If sales are not going so well, you need to look at your product/market fit as well as your marketing. A simple survey out to those customers you do have could tell you a lot about what you need to do to improve your product to make it more appealing.

Step 2

Step two is to ensure you position your product to its market in such a way that it is seen as a more attractive option to all the other products out there. This positioning will form the first strategy in your marketing map (which I explain in detail in a later blog in the series), but before you even get to marketing it, you need to be confident your product is exactly what people want. Again, a survey to existing customers could give you some valuable information about how they see your product as compared to the competition out there.

Step 3

Once you are sure there is a need and you know what it needs to be to fit the need – is to make your product or service the best it can possibly be. This is called product development and of course, is an on-going process that lasts the life of your business. All great companies keep improving their products and services, and they have to keep up with the ever-changing needs in the market. You simply cannot sit still and expect that what you sold last year and the year before will remain relevant tomorrow – especially when things are moving so fast now. Technology is creating new and different solutions to old problems all the time. New, agile companies are challenging existing solutions and finding faster, cheaper ways for customers to get the same outcomes. So you have to keep moving, evolving and challenging your product development.

Step 4

Step four is to know when good enough is good enough. By this I mean that although your product or service is at the very epicentre of your business, and you have no business at all without it, you have to remember that it is only one of the six pillars you need to focus on. If you spend all your time delivering the best service, or crafting the perfect product, and none of it on the rest of the business pillars … your business won’t grow. So make it great, but know when it’s good enough to allow you to put your energy into the other pillars.

In my experience, small business owners spend the majority of their time and energy on perfecting their product or service… but often at the expense of increasing their knowledge and skills in other areas such as marketing or finance.

What about you? How much time do you spend working on, delivering or improving your product versus the other pillars?

Does your product meet the ever-changing needs of your market?

Exercise:

If you haven’t done a survey out to your customer base for a while, now could be a good time to do it. Find out what their current needs are, who else they are using to meet those needs, and what they’d like to see more of (or less of) from you to ensure you continue to remain relevant and necessary in their world.

Happy Growing!

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PS.  More more thoughts on how to make your business more valuable, feel free to download this free booklet, based on my interviews with successful entrepreneurs

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8 keys to a bigger, better business. Key number 2 …

K91LZQUBJI (4)Here it is … key 2 of my 8 keys to a bigger, better business. These keys are aimed at ambitious business owners, those looking to create something of significant value both in terms of what you offer and in terms of what your business is ultimately worth financially. Getting bigger and better isn’t necessarily easy, but if you’re up for it, read this key and think about the exercise at the end before the next blog.

Key Number 2.  Create an asset not a job

If your business is dependent on you for its survival, if it can’t survive for more than a few months without you being there to keep it going… and you haven’t got a plan to change this over time… you haven’t created a business, you’ve created a job.

The difference between an owner operator and a wealthy entrepreneur is that an owner creates a job whereas an entrepreneur sets out to create an asset.

An asset is something that will feed you income even when you are not working… which means it has to have value. A business that is a true asset has to generate profits without dependency on you, and it has to grow value over time so that someone else would want to pay you significantly more than you’ve invested (including your time, sweat equity, opportunity costs and money) in it.

So if you are serious about building a bigger, better business… you have to ask yourself now, have you created a job or an asset? Where is the real value in your business? Is it you and your talent and your skills? Or have you created value through systems, product and team?

And you have to ask yourself if you are willing to make the necessary changes. Because doing what it takes to move from a small business to bigger business, one that has true financial value, takes a shift in mindset. Are you willing to do what it takes to make this shift or would you rather stay inside your comfort zone?

The answers to these questions will determine whether its worth you reading my next 6 keys on creating a bigger, better business.

Exercise

Answer the question honesty: Have you created an asset or a job?

If its the former… you are on the right track, so what needs to happen to increase the value of your asset? Write down the 5 key strategies you have in place to ensure growth.  (Keep reading my keys… we’ll cover this).

If it’s the latter… do you really want to change this? Think about your comfort zone … how willing are you to get uncomfortable in order to grow? In my experience, only those willing to make changes in mindset will do what it takes to create a valuable business. It isn’t for everyone but it is worth it.

As always feel free to email me at laura@liber8u.com with questions or ideas on this topic, or leave a comment below.

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The 2016 Elev8or Group is coming soon!

For ambitious business owners who want to create an asset not a job.  Only 10 business owners will be selected to join … are you ready for it?  Click here for more information.

 

 

 

3 steps to turning your business into a valuable asset

11156283_10153303242804365_8882445748495223375_nThe Liber8 team held a powerful workshop a few weeks ago.  Twelve people in a room had the courage to look at their mindset around money, wealth and business.  On their feedback sheet after the workshop, 80% of them mentioned the realisation that a business should be an asset not a job, and the keys to getting there were key out-takes for them.  This is what we teach at Liber8.  We are passionate about it and we strongly believe that if every business owner in New Zealand set out to create an asset rather than a job, we would see a very different economy and a very different Country.

In a moment I’ll share three of the keys to building a valuable business… but first let me explain this flip chart from the workshop.

If you business requires you to go to work every day in order for it to continue to exist… and you don’t have a plan to change this in the future – you don’t have a business, you have a job.  And it may even be a job that pays you less than someone else would pay you to do the same job, makes you work twice the hours, puts too much stress on you and doesn’t let you take enough holidays.  Sound familiar?  A job is something that pays you some income, but doesn’t allow you to build wealth on the way.

If your business is able to generate income without you having to be there – it has become an asset.  If your business has value to someone else, who would like to pay you a significant sum of money to buy it – it has become asset.  An asset will feed you long after you stop working.

Which is your business?  A job or an asset?

If it’s still a job, don’t panic.  Every business starts out that way.  But its the business owners who make a conscious decision to transform it into an asset over time that really win.  This is what we teach at Liber8.  Financial freedom by turning your business into an asset.

Here are just three of the steps we encourage our members and clients to take:

1. Decide that you want to create a valuable business not just a job for yourself.  Think about your own mindset and paradigm, what are you telling yourself on a regular basis that would prevent you from striving for this.  Question your own belief systems around growth, wealth and what is possible for you and your business.

2. Address your business model.  What is holding back the growth right now?  Have you created something that is very dependent on you?  If so, what changes could you implement that would reduce this dependence?  Do you need to find a way to duplicate what you do and train others to deliver?  Do you need systems and products that can deliver without you?

3.  Create recurring revenue streams.  The most valuable businesses are those where cash flow can be predicted into the future.  Clients who are locked in to regular income – income not dependent on the owner – this is where value is created.  There are many examples of business models with this value well and truly in place.  I will share some of these in my next blog.

In the meantime, think about the three steps above.  And feel free to email me with your questions at laura@liber8u.com

Yours in freedom

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The all new Acceler8or Programme

We are looking for business owners ready to get serious about transforming their business into a valuable asset.  Our next Acceler8or Programme kicks of end of July.  Do you think you have the right mindset to join us?  Email me laura@liber8u.com for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have what it takes to grow? The 2 qualities every serious entrepreneur needs

growthThere are only two things I look for when it comes to choosing a business owner I want to work with, or who I invite to join my mentoring programmes.  If I see these two things I know this business owner has a chance at building something amazing – with a little guidance, a lot of determination and a commitment to thinking strategically.

So what are they?  These two things… let’s take a look:

1.  A willingness to grow.  This might seem obvious but when I work with people I often have to battle the mind before I can help uncover the potential.  Too many small business owners are exactly that … small business owners.  They live inside a comfort zone of their own creation. It’s warm and snuggly and safe. But it’s also restricting, limiting and stifling.  When someone really wants to grow, I know I can help them.  When they don’t, I can’t.  It’s that simple.  If I ever invite you to work with me, I will interrogate your willingness to have your comfort zone expanded, along with your dreams.

2. A business model capable of growth.  Even with the strongest desire in the world to grow, you have to have a business model that is capable of expansion.  There has to be a market for what you offer, a need for what you sell and a business structure that can scale up.  If a business owner has the willingness to grow, we can work with a business model and if necessary change it to allow for growth.  But there has to be a willingness to change if this is necessary.

So how do you think you shape up against these two criteria?  Are you willing to grow?  Are you willing to challenge your business model and explore re-engineering to enable growth if necessary?

If the answer is yes to these questions, I’d love to hear from you.

I’m about to launch my annual Acceler8me Programme for business owners seriously looking to grow.  I have two more spots to fill.  Could you be one of them?

If you are willing to move outside of your comfort zone and explore the true potential of your business, email me here today  and I’ll tell you more about the programme.

Growth isn’t always easy.  But you don’t have to do it alone. I’m here to help.

Talk soon

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From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of multi-award winning book Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free

6 reasons why business is like golf

golfTalking to a client today about how tiring her month had been with a roller coaster of ups and downs and good and bad, I found myself talking to her about my golf recently and how I was enjoying the ups and downs of it all.  It occurred to me that business and golf are similar in many ways. Here are just six reasons why owning your own business is like playing golf:

1.  You have to be passionate about it and it takes up a lot of your time.

2.  You can just get started anytime you like with no professional help, but you quickly discover that a bit of guidance is a really good idea

3. You won’t get any better at it if you don’t keep playing the game – practice, practice, practice!

4. One day everything will be brilliant and you’ll know exactly why you love it

5.  The next day it will all turn to s**t and you’ll want to give it up forever

6.  You can aim for the hole in one, but small consistent steps can win the game

And here’s one major difference:

With golf you need little balls. With business you need….

Enjoy the game!

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From the desk of Liber8me. Business mentors and author of Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free

 

 

What’s the best weapon for world domination in business? A brilliantly simple tip…

DictaphoneCylinderGuest story with Mike Brunel

How did we take a small Wellington based radio sales consultancy business and turn it into a global success story servicing 400 worldwide markets and selling to 320,000 people?  It all started with a Dictaphone. In the early days we worked out that we could show radio media companies how to move advertisers from a small two week campaign into a 52 week commitment.  I watched my business partner in action and realised that he always did the same thing.  He said the same words, made the same offers and got the same results.  I spent a week watching him, recording him and taking notes.  I created a sales system around what we did, with manuals clearly outlining every single word and action taken.  We then packaged up the system and began selling it to other media companies… all around the world.  In effect we turned a commodity into a system.  Now my business partners and I live in Wellington, our CEO is in Atlanta and we have offices in four different countries… all doing things exactly the way we would.

And so my tip for business owners who want to decrease reliance on you and create a leveraged business is to take time to document exactly what you do.  Use the microphone app on your iphone/android and record yourself as you go about your day… every single little thing that you do and say. Then get it transcribed and turn it into a manual… paper or computer based, whatever works for you.  It may seem laborious – and it is – but this is ultimately what will set you free.  Turn what you do well into a system.  Then train others to use it.

Mike Brunel is co-owner of NRS Media, currently working with over 400 major television, radio, and newspaper companies in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Europe, the United States, South America, Canada, South Africa, the African continent, Australia, and Asia, NRS Media has offices in London, Atlanta, Toronto, and Sydney and employs over 175 staff. Mike is available for sales training and consultations, email mike.brunel@talkingmediasales.com

 

From the desk of Liber8me.  Small business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free

 

My 5 biggest business blunders and what you can learn from them

oopsI’ve noticed when I’m working with clients that my greatest wisdom and biggest ‘aha’ moments come when I’m sharing a story about something really dumb that I did.  I think it was Winston Churchill who said ‘life is too short to learn from all your own mistakes’.  In business, I’ve made plenty and one of my jobs as a mentor is to help my clients to avoid making the same mistakes as me (they will have enough of their own to learn from, I can at least save them a little pain!).

So here are five of my doozies.  Read, weep and learn!

1.    I wrote my own employment contract

My first business was an advertising agency.  I’d prepared a business plan whilst at a business school in Hawaii.  I’d started my career as a secretary and then became an advertising copywriter.  I was a creative person with zero business skills.   When it came to employing my first staff member it never occurred to me that I needed a proper legal document written in accordance with the employment laws.  No, I just thought I should write down what I expected and get us both to sign it.  This actually worked fine with my first employee who was a young student fresh out of university and even more naïve than I was.  He just wanted a job in advertising and was willing to work his butt off to make it.  He was also very talented and happy to do whatever it took to make the place successful.  Lucky me!

My second employee proved not so lucky.  A young designer on his second job -not quite so talented, not willing to work so hard and with a huge drama hook waiting to explode.  I worked him very hard, demanded a lot of him, was fairly intolerant of his mood swings and plunked my high expectations fairly on his resentful shoulders.  One day (after using the f word many times in a shrieking voice) he walked out and didn’t come back.  Instead a personal grievance claim arrived from his lawyer.  In the letter his lawyer called my employment contract ‘a joke’.  He was right.  It was… but I wasn’t laughing!

Lesson:  Do not do your own HR.  Get your employment contracts approved by an employment lawyer.  Get help recruiting people and be sure to be clear on your expectations from the outset.  Make sure you hire people for their cultural fit as well as their technical skills.

2.    I got creative with my book keeping

A copywriter with no business experience… yup… that was me!  I realized I needed to keep track of the money stuff so I bought an MYOB accounting package.  I then merrily set about inputting all the data myself.  And when I was too busy I got my young copywriter apprentice to do it.  Two creative copywriters doing the books – brilliant!  Before long we realized we didn’t know what we were doing (really?) so I put an ad on Student Job Search and got an accounting student to do it for me.  Turns out he didn’t know what he was doing either.  By the end of two years in I had no way of knowing how we were going financially, no way of reporting.  It was more like BFM (Big Fat Mess) than MYOB.  Thankfully at this point I hired the most amazing person who not only tidied up my books, she became my right hand person and taught me how to run a business the right way – with an annual budget and monthly reporting.

 Lesson:  Do not do your own books.  Even if you do know what you are doing, as the business owner you should be spending your time on income generating activities… not on book keeping!  Learn how to manage your business using an annual budget, sit down every month with someone (ideally outside your business) and explain your results to them.

3.    I hired someone to do my selling

In year 3 things were gunning along famously.  We’d trebled in size and moved offices three times to keep up with growth.  We’d won our first major contracts with blue chip clients and put our name on the map.  I thought it would be good not to be the one to go out there doing all the selling.  So I hired a business development manager.  He was very expensive and impressed me hugely in his interview with his sales stories.  Within six months it was obvious he couldn’t sell advertising, even if he could sell other stuff.  Rumors came back that potential clients were not impressed with him… he didn’t know the industry well enough to think on his feet or wax lyrical about why our agency was better than any of the others.  He was damaging our reputation and I had to get rid of him.  It wasn’t his fault.  It was mine.  It was too soon to hire someone to do my job for me…. I was still the best person to sell our agency.  I had the experience and the passion.  I went back to hiring other internal roles to free up more of my time elsewhere and threw myself 100% into business growth.

Lesson:  In the early years of business, the owner is the best person to do the selling. No one else will have quite your domain knowledge, experience or passion.  Even if you don’t think you are very good at sales – find a way to make it enjoyable, get some training and focus on being passionate about what you do. 

4.    I burnt myself to a frazzle

In about year 4 I was the queen of burning the candle at both ends.  The business was getting bigger and bigger and with every stage of growth my worry seem to grow to meet it.  I was working long hours and not sleeping well.  I developed what a dear friend called ‘my purple people eaters’ – the imaginary monsters that were going to bring my business down – the employees who were not performing, the clients who were not happy and about to leave, the bills we wouldn’t be able to pay, the suppliers who were bound to let us down – I was living in the world of imaginary enemies and it began to play havoc with my health.  I began to have panic attacks to the point where I feared giving presentations (not good for the head of a leading advertising agency).  I would burst into tears for no real reason.  I was picking fights with my husband and neglecting my friends.  My life was seriously out of balance.  I felt so bad I wanted out.  I wanted to leave my business and go get a job where someone else would take all the stress.  But even that didn’t seem a viable option with a new overdraft and a growing team of people depending on me for their livelihoods.  Something had to change.  Some regular visits to a hypnotist showed that I was suffering from severe stress and I needed a break.  I had no choice but to take a month off and go to Europe.  With a clear head I realized it was time to trust my team and hand over some of the worry.  My life was more important than my business.

Lesson:  You cannot do it alone.  As soon as you start growing your team you need to find a way to share the load.  Focus your energy early on the processes and systems that will enable others to take over big chunks of the work. Share your problems with your team, encourage them to step up and find solutions to these problems.  Reward those who shine for you.  Introduce bonus schemes for clearly met objectives and teach your team to enjoy the game of business alongside you.

5.    I tried to control the big guns

When my business had grown big enough to afford the really senior people, I came face to face with my own ego.  And she wasn’t pretty, I can tell you!  Instead of trusting them to get on with their jobs, I tried to control them the same way I had more junior folk.  I stamped my foot when they wouldn’t do it my way, I threw my toys out and then apologized many times before I finally got the lesson.

Lesson:  When you are ready to hire senior people, make sure your culture and processes are firmly in place.  Have a very clear induction programme that shows how things are to be done in your company.  Get their agreement to your values and vision.  Hire for their cultural fit as much as their talent. And then… let go.  Once you have given them the context, let them do things their way.

So there you have it.  Five of my blunders… many more where they came from!  I hope you enjoyed hearing about my downs.  As I’ve said many times, business is a roller coaster and for every great high there’s a screaming low waiting to snaffle you up.  The trick is to become resilient and build a well systemized business with a great team to help your ride out the storms.  Easier said than done huh?

If you’d like to share your journey with other like minded business owners you might love our Acceler8me Programme.  Click here to apply for more information.

 

Bought to you by liber8yourbusiness.  Small business mentors and publisher of Liber8 Your Business. The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free

Business mentor tip # 87 – Why company culture is critical to the success of your business

company cultureI’m working with a number of small businesses at the moment.  All are committed to growth and as such are bringing on new staff members to ensure this growth can happen.  All have accepted that as owners they must let go of certain aspects of their business to allow them to focus on the really important stuff – business development, new business, structure, strategy, vision and… the word so many small business owners forget about… culture.

There’s one question I’m asking all my clients at the moment: what’s the culture you are inviting people to join?

What would be your answer if I asked you the same question?  Have you given it some serious thought?  You should do – because your culture is CRITICAL to the successful growth of your business.

What do I mean by culture?

Your culture is the world you bring people into; the world that will ultimately influence how they behave.  I assume that, as the business owner, you want a highly motivated, fully committed and productive team working alongside you.   As the leader of this team, your job is to ensure they know what is expected of them and to provide an environment in which they can thrive.

Your culture is made up of 4 key components:

  • Vision
  • Values
  • Rituals
  • Attitude/personality

Vision:  What is your business doing that means more than just making money?  What are you aiming for and how will this make a difference to your industry, community, country or the world?  People want to be part of something, they want to be inspired and feel they are contributing.  Your job as leader is to paint this picture for them.  Give them a vision they can believe in.

Values:  What do you really stand for, and how is this reflected in your business?  A company’s values usually stem from those of its founder.  Just think about Apple for a moment.  Steve Job’s personal vision was to ‘put a ding in the Universe’.  His pioneering spirit impacted directly on the values of his company. Now take a look at the Apple Values as outlined in the Apple employee handbook 1993: http://www.seanet.com/~jonpugh/applevalues.html

Who wouldn’t want to work for a company like this?  So what are your values and how can share them with your team?

Rituals:  These are the glue that binds your team together.  The things your company does regularly that people can always expect.  These include the regular meetings you have, the celebrations, the rewards and prizes your team might strive for.  At my advertising agency we met at 8.30am every Monday morning for Work In Progress.  The agency always supplied muffins.  On Fridays at 5pm we stopped to celebrate a team win for the week. The agency supplied drinks and nibbles.  On a team members birthday we organised a cake for morning break. Staff members were day off – to be taken in the month of their birthday.  When someone left there was always a gift and leaving drinks.  Every year we went off site for a planning day, with accommodation and a big dinner for all the team.  These things always happened, and the team knew they could rely on them.  Our rituals defined our team experience together.  What are your rituals?

Attitude/personality: What kind of company are you? And what attitude would you like to see from your team?  Think about these questions and how they apply to your business.  Are you a creative company, do you want your team to come to you with new ideas? Are you willing to hear those ideas?  Is your business a fun place to work?  Or is it very serious?  Does your company inspire people with the vision and life up to its values?

There is a Sicilian saying: “the fish rots from the head down”.  Which means, in the context of this article, that the leader sets the tone for the rest of the team.  If you are serious, hard working, focused and driven…you’ll probably create a culture around your own personality type.  If you are young, a bit crazy and full of mischief… this will probably reflect in the type of culture you create.  If you are stressed and worried all the time, this too will probably impact on the happiness of your team and find its way unwittingly into your culture.

With leadership comes great responsibility.  Creating a culture where people learn, grow, thrive and flourish.  This is as important as developing new products, or creating a clever marketing campaign.

Look after the culture.  The results will show you the value.

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 Your Business.  Click here to be notified of launch date http://liber8yourbusiness.com/

Want to work with Laura? : http://www.liber8yourbusiness.com/one-on-one-mentoring-programme/