Last year during a meeting with the Chairman of a local Chamber of Commerce we were discussing partnering for a series of training events later this year. While discussing what would be the theme of any training I asked him,
“In your experience what is the one thing that businesses want that they think would make the biggest difference to their business?”.
His reply was quick and confident. “More customers and more business”
My next question had him sitting with his hands in his heads exasperated,
“What in your experience stops business owners from getting more customers and more business?”
The reason I asked these two questions is that whenever and who ever I coach I first want to know what the client wants and secondly what’s stopping them from achieving it already.
The answer to the first question sets a direction for their coaching programme the second tells us where the quick successes are. Identify what’s stopping you, clear that up and you are off to a flying start.
He had his hands in his head exasperated because for years he had been working with businesses putting together plans and strategies to help them to get more customers and build their businesses and in his words.
“We work on a plan of action and when I go back a month or two later most have taken no action stops whatsoever, its sitting in a draw gathering dust.”
And I understood why this was the case. I will explain why.
The plans he put together with the business owners explained what to do (the strategies) but didn’t explore why they were doing it (the reasons and motivation for taking action). When we have a big enough case for why we take actions the next right step to take becomes easier and even compelling. When we have a compelling why no motivation to take action is required it seems inevitable and almost irresponsible not to take the action steps.
Every month I receive e-mails or calls from business owners interested in coaching to grow their business. The majority want the one thing he had identified, more customers. More customers equates to more business and more profit, at least in theory.
The conversation quickly gets around to why do they want to grow their business? The answers invariably are (after some gentle interrogation) so they earn enough money to feel secure and have freedom.
As we dig deeper, I ask the question “what do you mean by security and freedom?” Secure from the peaks and troughs of the economy, secure enough to pay off a mortgage, to recover the money they first invested to get the business started, freedom to not work so hard the list goes on.
I have one advantage all these people don’t have when looking to grow their business. I am not them! I am not personally nor emotionally invested in the business. Nor am I hampered by their limitations about what’s possible.
I will never know their business as well as they do and that’s another advantage because from a detached perspective I can often see what many in the business can’t. The technical term for this is high construal thinking – the ability to see the wood for the trees. To see what is called the elusive obvious but with some experience becomes the bleedin obvious!
I have not carried out a double blind research project for the answer to my next question, so when I say 90% of the people I ask my next question to say “I don’t have one” it’s only an approximation.
The question is “so what’s your business plan?” - 90% answer “I don’t have one”….yet!
A business plan is simply a map to guide you in a purposeful direction on a journey. Without a plan or a map you could end up anywhere and that’s what happens to many businesses small, medium and in the mature stage, without a plan they never know if they are on track or wildly off track heading to the edge of a cliff.
The first thing you have to determine when going on any journey is where you are now and equally as important determine why you want to go in a particular direction.
Set aside some quiet time and ask yourself the questions:
Where are we now? Do a reality check of facts about the business. Margins, best customers, worst customers, cash flow, strengths of the business, be honest about the weaknesses, etc. Be brutally honest.
What do I really, really, really want? When you come up with an answer ask yourself the second question: “Why do I really, really, really want this?” Knowing what you want and why you want it will help you to recognize if you are being drawn towards detours or projects that will take you off track it will ensure you are doing the right things for the right reasons. When you ask 3 really’s you go beyond the superficial answers. What ever your answers are go beyond the first three that come to you it’s often the answers that surprise us that are the hidden motivators that get us out of bed in the mornings and will keep you going through challenges and when obstacles arise.
Then be willing to be challenged on all of your assumptions and answers; from a detached perspective it’s often possible to see blind spots that the business owner often can’t see. As a coach my role is not only to assist clients to go from where they are now to where they want to be, but also to coach them to exceed their own expectations.
Only once a thorough rigorous enquiry such as this is in place are you ready to begin to put a strategic plan in place that will take you from where you are now to where you want to be and beyond.