Often in business, we size up a situation and become determined not to be worse off but in so doing we lose focus and miss out on creating successful outcomes.
It comes down to mindset. Are we actively looking objectively at strategies that put us in a position of strength or are we setting minimum standards and fixing mistakes as we go so as not to fail? It takes foresight and effort to plan to win. It is about proactively weighing up strategies that have risk but are calculated to provide a greater benefit. It is about learning and adjusting as we go.
At a recent peer-advisory board a business owner was faced with a $6,000 “expense” that could be eliminated. A wise choice – reducing expenses – because as confirmed in our recent Business Pulse Survey there are dark clouds on the horizon for New Zealand businesses. But during discussion with other business owners on his advisory board – the return on the $6,000 “investment” would add $70,000 p.a. to his net profit and by analysing and taking this path he would become more motivated to grow his business during a downturn. Also, with the opportunity to double the “investment” to $12,000 he could add $140,000 p.a. to his net profit in these troubling times. Sure, this is not a given – he still needs a defined goal, strategy, and action plan to achieve it but that’s what planning to win does – it makes you put in place a plan to take advantage of opportunities. Planning to not lose is reactionary and cautionary and can gradually stunt business growth. It avoids the need to be visionary, create a plan, and be held to account and often the business owner who finds themselves in this reactive position is there because of difficult circumstances and lack of motivation or encouragement. Are you planning to win – or, subconsciously, doing just enough to not lose?
“The first secret of getting what you want is
knowing what you want”
Arthur D. Hlavaty
The call came through one February afternoon during a break at The Alternative Board’s Australasian conference. “Hi, I own a professional services company. I want to grow it but I am having trouble with my sales staff and I need help and advice to sort it out”.
I thanked him for the call and
promised to arrange a meeting with him once I got back home.
At the meeting, I asked him what was top of mind, and he repeated he wanted to increase his client list, and that his sales staff were underperforming. But I also uncovered the reasons for wanting to grow his business:
he wanted to exit his business in 3 – 5 years,
he had a buyer in waiting and
he wanted to maximise his return.
That’s great I thought, I’ve signed up a new client who has stated an interest in being a member of The Alternative Board until he sells his business in 3 – 5 years’ time.
In our first coaching session, I said “forget about the fires in front of you, what is your personal vision?” In other words – “in the ideal world what would you be doing?” My new client talked about his community, his mission at his church, his family, and using his Ph.D. to grow things that he was passionate about.
None of this was about his business, so I questioned him a little more. His response was he had been building his business for fifteen years with the goal of semi-retiring at 55 – three years away. And now he had lost the passion for doing it. So, I questioned him – why was he still running his business? The facts were, he had a buyer that was willing to pay enough for the business to retire on and he owned commercial properties that would see him financially independent for the rest of his life.
A smile slowly came over his face, “What am I doing? It’s not about sorting out what my business needs, it’s about me sorting out what I need!”
I lost a client that day. I coached him for a few more months putting in place the plan for semi-retirement but the value I got was in the satisfaction of helping a fellow business owner find clarity – rather than a mutually beneficial solution.
I’m proud to be an independent business owner within a high CALIBRE* organisation. An organisation that puts its clients’ needs above its own.