Put an End to the Feast and Famine of Owning Your Own Business

indexI’ve seen it time and time again, business owners, whether they own an accounting, engineering firm, marketing agency or IT company, are left feeling vulnerable due to the feast and famine of income streams.

When I meet with business owners they share with me their concerns about their struggle for consistent revenues; one month the financials look great, but next month, they are not on target and they begin to stress about making enough income to cover their expenses. Sometimes this cycle is endless and it can take a toll on the many business owners striving for income predictability and growth.

When a business experiences the feast or famine scenario, things like hiring staff for a project today in hopes that there is work for them tomorrow can result in more stress and pressure on the owner to bring in more business.

Owning a business can be one of the most rewarding experiences, but so often business owners are conflicted with decisions about hiring the right staff, committing to paying rent for the appropriate space, investing in office equipment and technology, not to mention marketing. Without consistent and predictable revenue it is hard to make long term plans that will allow owners of professional services businesses to accomplish their goals.

If you are interested in learning about a professional business that will put an end to this feast or famine scenario but still give you the freedom to own a business, check out this website or simply contact me to discuss your situation.


How to Become an Agile Business

In today’s competitive landscape, it’s important for a business to be able to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes. “Agile” is the buzzword associated with this ability to adapt quickly to changing situations; but what is “agile” and how can a business become an “agile business”?

Agile is a philosophy, not a process. Although originally used for software development, it’s now used by companies large and small in any industry. According to the Agile Manifesto, agile refers to:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Becoming an agile business is a process that constantly needs work. Is it worth it? According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, agile firms grow revenue 37% faster and generate 30% higher profits.

Here are some guidelines for becoming an agile business:

Create focus. Don’t be distracted. Get rid of a long list of priorities and instead replace it with a short, manageable list of three or four items that are “must dos”. As you complete one item, add another to your list. This will keep you focused.

Communicate your vision. Communication is the key to change and change-worthy behaviour. Communicate with employees often, be transparent and give them clear and compelling reasons to embrace agility and become agile champions.

Hire the right people. The success of your business rests on hiring the right people – employees who are aligned with your vision and your values. In order to be agile, the employees you hire must be results-oriented, not task-oriented. They must be able to work within an organization that gives them the freedom and the responsibility to accomplish their jobs without a step-by-step instruction manual on how to do it.

Create autonomy. You can’t maintain a stranglehold on your employees and micromanage every decision in an agile environment. Senior managers need to lessen their direct control over day-to-day activities and give their employees control over how they do their work. Give your employees the environment and support they need and have confidence that they’ll get the job done.

Be prepared for the unexpected. Although you can’t plan for the unexpected, you can be prepared for it. Agile businesses are flexible, adaptable and expect change. They are ready for all eventualities and can quickly pivot. Changing requirements are the name of the game.

Agile is motivating. An agile environment by nature is motivating. Instead of working on the same project month after month with little change, an agile environment empowers employees to respond to changes, giving them freedom to become more than their job descriptions.

How agile is your company? Want more advice on becoming an agile business, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!


The Business of Letting Go

8095592977_85b9c8e0bcOne of the biggest challenges I have seen many small business owners struggle with is that of delegation. Most owners started their businesses on their own being the person who does everything and so letting go or delegating can be difficult from many angles. Let’s face it, if you continue to do everything, then why do you have staff and how can you ever hope to grow your business?

Delegation means letting go of the day-to-day tasks associated with that responsibility, but by no means does it mean completely letting go of that responsibility. In other words, if you have hired a sales person to take on the responsibility of sales for your company, although you may not be making the sales calls, you do need to ensure that your sales person has the right sales processes, sales metrics and that they are in fact the right person for the role.

Without the right processes, metrics and people in place, it’s likely the onus will fall back on you to get things done. Sounds familiar? Letting go isn’t easy, but having a proper delegation structure in place will allow you to focus your energy and resources on building a successful business. Here are my recommendations for effective delegation:

1) Have the right processes

Ensure you have the right processes in place to ensure that the task or responsibility will be done correctly and in accordance with your standards. For example, if you are delegating writing you will need to ensure what type of writing, how much time the writing should take, what structure the writing must have, what approvals are required, what source materials, and how the writing must be started. The process needs to be written down, explained to the person who you are delegating it to, and followed up with by you to ensure the process is being followed.

2) Measure your success

The only way you can truly know if the process is working right is to measure its effectiveness and subsequent success. To measure the success of the objective, you may want to consider KPIs as they are an effective way of measuring key business objectives, as are analytics. There are numerous measurement tools available, so finding the one appropriate for your business is important. Whatever metric you choose should be spelled out and communicated to the person taking on the delegated task or project. They need to understand that they are being measured in their responsibilities.

3) Have the right people

In a previous blog, I discussed the importance of building a solid team. Ensuring you have the right people working for you means that you can delegate appropriate tasks with the confidence they will be completed accurately and efficiently. Trust and communication are two qualities that can make or break a business. In my many years as a business advisor, I’ve witnessed numerous business owners cycle through employees simply because they had the wrong person in the role who was not fully capable of handling the responsibilities despite having the right processes and metrics in place. Invest wisely in securing the right team. With the right team in place, you’ll experience no hesitation in delegating important tasks and responsibilities.

Delegating is what most business owners crave – you want someone or something to take the huge responsibility of doing it all yourself off your shoulders. Have no fear, by ensuring you have the right processes, metrics and people in place will mean you can lessen your load, and free up the much-needed time to do what you have always wanted to do: focus on building your business.

 


A Business is Only as Strong as Its Team

team.jpgWith over 30 years of experience, I’m often asked by business owners how they can take their business to the next level. While there are many ways of doing this, such as marketing initiatives, sales strategies, staffing and the like, I always stress one important factor that tends to be overlooked – the foundation of a solid team.

As a business owner, you’ve likely hired staff to support your operations. If you haven’t hired any staff yet, it’s likely just over the horizon if you plan on any form of growth in the near future. Strategic staffing ensures you are hiring not only the right person for the job, but someone who will support the vision and future growth of your organization. When hiring someone to fulfil a role, ask them what their values are and how they think they align with your company’s mission. Simply put, just because a candidate has a certain skill set, it does not mean they are a good fit for your company. Having a team mentality with cohesive goals will foster a dedicated work environment built for success. If your team encapsulates members who are willing to grow as individuals, both professionally and personally, there’s a good chance they’ll want to apply that opportunity for growth to the growth of the company. Taking the time to mentor your employees will result in unequivocal benefits for both parties involved for years to come.

Further to aligning values and goals, balanced skill sets will ensure you have a strong team. It’s important to remember that as individuals, it’s human nature to have both strengths and weaknesses. The strongest team is one that encompasses skills of all sorts that complement each other in a synergistic manner. Similarly, there must be a good balance between leadership and peer support. As a business owner, you should strive to lead your team to success through empowerment and motivation, but most importantly, through example.

One thing that I have observed in organizations is that there is sometimes a lack of effective communication within teams. As individuals, we tend to think that everyone we interact with wants to be communicated to in the same way that we do. However, this is not always the case. While one person in your organization may like to talk things through, another might like things written down. Learning how to effectively communicate with your team will allow for a more productive workplace and will ensure that your goals are always successfully met.

Ultimately, a strong team will only thrive if trust is established between team members. In my next blog, I’ll discuss in more detail the best ways to build a strong team and how you can go about measuring their success.

Do you think you have the right team in place to achieve your company’s goals?


Processes: Follow-up to the 3 P’s of Business

0 - blog delete 2You may recall from my last post that all successful businesses have three things in common: effective policies, procedures, and processes. Today, I’m going to focus on the third “P”of business – processes. What impact does having effective processes in place have on your business? By focusing on this element of the three P’s in particular, my aim is to help you understand the significance of having processes in place in your business, and reflect on the effectiveness of your current processes.

What does it take to complete a task? A process, you may remember, is the high-level overview of a task – the map that guides you from start to finish through the steps you need to take to reach your objective. When faced with a task, how does your business act? Any successful, efficient business will have clear processes in place, with clearly outlined steps, to deal with such situations.

What types of processes exist in your business? Are they clearly implemented and communicated? To give you a sense of what processes look like, I’ve detailed below some examples of the types of processes that you should have in place in your business.

Example #1: Onboarding

You’re probably already familiar with onboarding, whether it’s by name or in concept. Onboarding is the process through which new employees acquire the knowledge, skills, and behaviours to become effective organizational members.

Do you know what your newly hired employees want out of the onboarding process? Generally speaking, new employees want on-the-job training, a review of company policies and procedures, a company tour, equipment setup, and the availability of competent and approachable mentors. New employees want to learn how to do their job efficiently and start contributing in a meaningful way as soon as possible.

In those first few weeks, new employees form their opinion of your organization. This is why onboarding is so vital. It’s a proven fact that an effective onboarding process leads to higher job satisfaction, higher retention, better performance, greater organizational commitment, and a reduction in occupational stress.

Example #2: Exiting

When an employee resigns or is terminated from a position, a number of tasks must be performed to ensure a smooth transition. If you’ve ever left a position, think about the tasks that had to be performed, the assets that had to be returned. As a business, if you forget to perform any of these tasks, you’re opening yourself up to risk.

You should keep a checklist to be followed when an employee exits so you don’t forget anything crucial. Your checklist may include: an exit interview to gain insight on areas of improvement, collection of company property (laptop, smartphone, credit cards, keys), process outstanding payroll, and the removal of building, computer, and network access. Also ensure that you have the employee’s current address and phone number if they need to be reached.

A clear exit process is necessary for your organization both to protect your business and ensure that exiting employees leave with dignity.

Example #3: Financial

Your business needs financial processes to work smoothly and mitigate risk. Some examples of essential financial processes in your business may include: accounts payable/receivable, payroll and benefits, and budgeting. Financial processes must continue without major failure day by day to avoid financial chaos. Financial processes should be efficient and effective, align with your goals, utilize best practices, and minimize risk of fraud.

The Bottom Line

Put simply, to remain successful your business needs processes of many types. For essential tasks to be completed in a way that mitigates errors and risk, those occupying the top rungs of the organizational ladder must take process creation and optimization seriously.

What do essential processes look like in your business? Are they efficient, or could they use some work?


Growing Your Business with the Help of an Advisor: A Case Study

09022011_trusted_business_advisorBeing your own boss can be one of the most rewarding career paths, but without a doubt, it can also be the most challenging. Regardless of the size of the business, the leader at the top is not an expert in everything; it has been my experience that they are experts in a field. This means that there are many questions – operational, HR, financial, marketing, sales, and strategic questions – that will need answering.

A few years ago, I met a business owner in the creative field who wanted to grow his business from a home-based operation with no employees to a fully functioning business with a team of dedicated staff.   This was something he had been struggling with and didn’t know how to achieve or whom to ask for advice.

Through our discussions, it quickly became clear that in order to truly make changes for a lasting and successful business, this creative entrepreneur needed a business strategy and resources. The owner and I established a series of meetings over the following months to create and detail the business strategy including goal-setting, creating a framework for the business; establishing what services will be offered to maintain and grow the revenue, creating pricing models, and examining additional product lines.

While developing the strategy, we also began planning for the resources needed to implement, support and drive the strategy including assessing locations, rental costs, reviewing staff requirements and duties, bookkeeping and accounting needs, invoicing systems, phone and internet systems, and IT support and back-up.

Once he executed on our strategic and resource planning, his business has not only grown, but is thriving! This business owner is typical of the entrepreneurs I see as a business advisor, where they have a clear vision of what their business is and where they want it to be, but what they need is the proper strategy, resource planning, and business advice to help them realize that vision.

Just as “two heads are better than one”, achieving success and reaching your goals often requires expertise beyond your own skill set. Calling on a business expert will help ensure your business needs are calculated and understood so that your business results align with your vision.

Do you have a business advisor or coach? How valuable have they been in helping you grow your business? I look forward to a lively discussion!


To Expand or Not To Expand Your Business

Business ExpansionAt a certain point in one’s business ownership, it is inevitable that you will consider whether or not business expansion is right for you. As a business advisor and leader, I see business owners contemplate this decision often, and it is not one that should be taken lightly.

There are a number of questions you must ask yourself before deciding to move ahead with growing your company, and these questions require not only thought, but research and analysis of your current positioning. I’ve detailed three important questions below to get you started on your decision-making process.

1. What type of expansion is right for you?

Are you looking for internal growth, or have you considered acquiring another business? Be mindful of the fact that what will work for one company may not work for you. Though looking to other cases for reference is important, know that your business is unique and therefore your expansion plan must be custom suited to your needs. It is easiest to rule out the expansion options that are simply not plausible, whether it be in terms of time, money, or interest to pursue, and then to go from there!

2. Will your business benefit?

Business expansion naturally means increased risk. It is important to project what expansion will do for your business financially. If there are cost advantages associated with the growth, how long will they take to be realized?

Your customer base is also a crucial factor of consideration. Will your loyal customers stick with the business through the change, and even more importantly, will new customers be there once you’ve expanded?

3. Can you afford the change?

Depending on how you want to expand your business, ensuring it is financially feasible may not be an easy task. Business loans, while available, are not always easy to secure. If your expansion does not see the success you had anticipated, you are left indebted to lenders and your livelihood is at risk. Analyze all your financing options and be sure to understand the risks associated with each one.

 

These questions are just the beginning when it comes to the decision-making process involved with business expansion. Have you undergone an expansion? We’d like to hear of other considerations you had to make before your decision. Please share in the comments!