As a business coach, I’m always being asked what it takes to run a successful business. Hey, I’ve done it myself and grew a business from a garage to five locations around Australia.
Here are my FIVE TOP TIPS to having a successful business which makes you money, is sustainable and doesn’t stress the heck out of you.
Sure I know you’ve all heard the expressions that a business owner doesn’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. We hear it time and time again and yet the vast majority of business owners simply do not have a solid and documented plan in place. Why is that? Well, it happens for three main reasons. Firstly, the person doesn’t see the value of a written down plan. They just figure if they have a bit of an idea in their head, that’s good enough. Bluntly stated – no way! Something floating around in your head changes, gets half-forgotten and likely will not be accompanied by action steps attached to that planned goal or objective. The second main reason people don’t have a plan is that they just don’t know where to start or how to do it. I understand that sentiment. Whilst there is so much available online, understand what will work or not work can be hard work to distinguish. Finally, the third most common reason that people fail to plan is purely about time. They state they just don’t have the time. Time is a resource just like money, profit, human resources. You need to use it to generate other resources … and part of that process is solid planning.
2. Focus, Determination & Staying Power
If you think having a good business is about doing it easy, or taking it easy or being cruisy, then you’re listening to people who are telling you ‘porky pies’. (Lies). To do well, you have to work hard. Think about the best athletes. Whilst they may well have natural ability, if they want to be the best, they still train long hours, exercise, eat well and train some more. They don’t lie around till 10am, cruise into the kitchen for a leisurely breakfast and then settle in for a long lunch well into the afternoon. Good business is the same. It’s dedication to perhaps get up a bit earlier and get things done. It’s discipline to finish your quoting or invoicing rather than switch on the TV. It’s about doing things you may not particularly like to do. That could be following up on quotes or perhaps some debt collection calls. Good business is about turning up day in and day out and doing the hard yards. Absolutely working smart and doing the right tasks is critical … but it boils down to hard work. Perseverance will pay off.
The same applies to marketing. The right marketing with perseverance tempered with sensible tweaking will pay off. Remember this also; what marketing strategy that worked well five years ago may well not work today. What is working today probably will be obsolete in 3-5 years. Marketing (like technology) is an ever-changing landscape – you absolutely need to be able to adapt.
3. Adapt, Change & Do Something Different
Humans naturally don’t like change. I’ll bet if you’re honest, you’ll admit you’re not always comfortable with change. However, change is everywhere. Thirty plus years ago when I left high school, there were no computers, absolutely no mobile phones and the concept of social media was a complete unknown. You wanted to send someone a message, you pulled out a piece of paper, wrote them a note, put a stamp on it and they would get it in a few days (at best). It’s expected there will be more changes in the next ten years than we’ve seen in the last 100 years. When change happens, you pretty much have three choices. Bury your head in the sand and present it’s not your problem and won’t affect you. Longer established business owners I work with wonder why things are getting tough, yet refuse to market via social media or sometimes even have a website. Secondly, you can follow the crowd and do what everyone else is doing. Or, thirdly, you can lead the way. Be a leader in your industry and embrace change, technology or advancement. Try something new and be realistic. If you try something different (maybe getting and using a business coach) you don’t have to commit yourself for a decade. Do your due diligence, give something a go – you may have only one regret; that you didn’t do that different much earlier. Give something new a go.
4. You Deserve what you Tolerate
I know this is a pretty tough statement. I’m not saying anyone deserves a bad business or deserves to fail, but at the end of the day, if you tolerate something, you cannot blame anyone but yourself. If you have the employee from hell, then do something about it. For a service-based business, human resources will be your greatest asset (or worse liability). Recruit well, screen well, employ great people and look after them, and your business will go from strength to strength. I work a lot with professional and trade service businesses where people power makes a huge impact. The business with only the owners or one or two staff will only ever be able to grow to a ceiling level. There is only 24 hours in a day and regardless of how smart you are with your time, you need to leverage other people’s time (or duplicate time in some other manner) in order to grow. Part of recruiting great people is inducting them well, communicating with them what your expectations are and managing them well. That is with direction, support, training and guidance. Now if you do have a ‘bad apple’ you need to manage them out – pure and simple. If you don’t and tolerate them, then you’re going to get a whole lot of headache. Keeping them on won’t be doing you any favours, not do them any favours, nor help your clients or your other team. However, before you manage them out, be sure you’ve done the right thing from your end with support, training, clear communication, guidance and direction. Remember that great (documented systems) go hand in hand with great team.
5. Use Professionals, Learn, Educate & Grow
Any smart business owner will always be asking questions. S/he will always be wanting to learn and grow and s/he will always be listening to professional advice. In fact, the smartest business owner surrounds themselves with those better in their specific field. If you are a heart surgeon, I’m sure you’re exceptionally skilled at performing a heart bypass. However, that doesn’t mean you are exceptional at the finances or recruitment. You may be a skilled electrician, but marketing and IT may not be your forte. Even myself, with 35+ years of experience, knows when it’s time to enlist a professional. I’ll use a lawyer or website designer, as I know I’m neither qualified nor skilled in either of these areas. I know enough to be able to communicate with them, but I also know when it’s time to use a professional to get the job done right. If my website is down for a week, or not working effectively, then that affects business. There are absolutely times to spend smart money on people who know their area of expertise and know how to get the job done. Losing business, losing work or losing something more should not become a consideration.
I hope these tips have given you some thoughts about business success. This is just the tip of the iceberg in very broad strokes. As a professional business coach, when I work with clients, we break it down into much smaller components and ensure every nut and bolt of the business is effective, well-oiled and correctly linked to all other components. A successful business is a little like a well-oiled money machine – built well, carefully maintained and looked after – will take you a long way.