What? How could a leadership coach say something like that you say? It’s easy. Listen to small business owners complain about customers who barter them down to a price proposal that’s unprofitable. Work with a small business owner who can’t tell you what their sales were for last year – but still want to make more this year and next.
Yes, it’s a challenge as a leadership coach to help small business owners get out of their own way. It’s also a challenge providing leader as coach training in creating an environment where individual owners can develop the self-awareness and authenticity they need to become successful.
Yet, talk with those business owners who are successful in business growth and they will all tell you that there is hope. Let’s review some of the critical steps to success and growth.
Step 1: Develop A Business Plan
Correct. You heard it. Develop a business plan. Write it down! Have a vision, a mission, specific objectives, implementation strategies, and action steps. Make sure you address your strategies for marketing, sales, strategic alliances, and set milestones. Look at your management structure, personnel plan, and identify management gaps. Oh, and let’s not ignore your financial planning – what are your financial assumptions, do a break-even analysis, a budget, projected income statement, and balance sheet.
Step 2: Plan For Value
Align your goals and objectives to a specific value set. Establish your values and guiding principles such as: –
- Humility, Loyalty, Trust
- Respect for self, others, the competition
- Caring, Responsive, Adaptable
- Integrity, Credibility
- Industrious, Hardworking, Fulfills Obligations
- Socially Conscious, Legally compliant with laws.
It’s important that you are working on a business that aligns with who you are and reflects how you can impart those values into your plan, employee selection, as well as marketing and sales strategy. Seek congruency throughout the business in these elements.
Step 3: Determine Your Growth Strategies
Work to align your business functions to meet customer and employee requirements. Seek to leverage information technology to establish and improve efficiency in customer service, production, sales & marketing. Establish goals that allow performance incentives: motivate your employees to grow and succeed.
Step 4: Develop A Targeted Marketing Strategy
How will you retain a customer and who are they? Develop a cross-sell/up-sell strategy by identifying what your customers like. In order to increase sales, research to find more customers. Contain marketing costs by examining the most cost-effective ways to advertise to potential customers – and measure the results.
Step 5: Develop A Solid Financial Management Process
Budget, then budget some more and tie the budget to your business plan. What are your projected revenues, cost of goods sold, and other expenses? Perform a budget analysis and develop that break-even analysis. Continually review your monthly income statements and balance sheets. Are you making progress reducing expenses and increasing sales? Do you perform at least a monthly cash-flow analysis? Develop an effective and aggressive accounts receivables process and maintain a regular and steady accounts payables process to maintain a good credit rating.
Step 6: Develop A People Management Program
Who does what, when, for what purpose? And how well? Develop job descriptions, pay rates, performance-based pay, and performance appraisals. Prepare an employee handbook to define and describe your business’ rules of the road. Have a benefits plan for medical, leave, and retirement. Oh yes, and tie all these to your values and guiding principles.
Step 7: Develop A Transition Strategy
In my leadership coaching I find many owners who wait for retirement. They may even want to pursue another business endeavor and wait for that. Or perhaps the owner has visions of his children taking over and waits for that. My recommendation – the day you start a business is the best and most appropriate time to implement an exit and transition strategy. Why? Well, you start out focused, tracking your personal goals and business objectives. Remember what the late Steven Covey recommended: Begin with the end in mind.
After years of successful leadership coaching, training, and consulting it all boils down to these recommendations:
- Have a plan
- Have a budget
- Have a valued product or service your customers need
- Have fun!