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Friday
Aug222014

The secret of getting businesses to help themselves

By Ron Tanner, Shirlaws UK Business Coach

I often find myself taken aback by a client’s commitment to the quality of the work they do for their customers. At the same time there is this niggling question in the background - ‘how do we grow this business and keep delivering the same levels of service?’ 

Often they go looking for help and wind up sitting in front of me. My first step is to find out whether they actually need a business coach and if so, am I the right match for them. When I meet a prospective client for the first time they often want me to fix a specific problem in their business. It could be “How do I get more sales?” or, “How do I get my staff more engaged?” but in some cases, they don’t really have a problem. Some clients just want to know what levers they need to pull to get the business to the next stage. They are frustrated at the plateau they have reached and can’t agree how to move forward.

Consultants and business coaches are two different things. Business coaching is a relatively new industry and many business owners don’t fully understand what we do. Consultants fix ‘problems’ in businesses. Coaching is different; it’s about the client acquiring the skills themselves to deal with the issues that arise day-to-day in their businesses.

How does coaching help? I use a golfing analogy (even though many of my clients look like they’ve been too busy to go anywhere near a golf course for a long time). On the course the business is playing off about a 13 handicap. The simple questions I ask are “what handicap do you want to go down to?” and “how long do you want to take to get there?”

That’s when the silence happens… After an unusually long pause one client asked another question: “Can you help us with that?” Yes, is the simple answer.

It’s my job as the business coach to provide the framework for them to see their business issues and for them to have the clarity and confidence to act accordingly. At times, because of my 30 years business experience and drawing from the hundreds of businesses that I have taken to the next level of success, I’ll also provide some direct consulting advice. I call it the “magic mix”.

 

Take Stages test: burst through your brick walls

 

There are 14 key stages that each business needs to go through to get to advanced, sustainable growth - including two brick walls which many companies never break through.

Find out where you are in the lifecycle - and what to do next. Complete stages and download your 15-page action plan.

Take the Stages test

 

Monday
Aug112014

Seeing the right 'break'

By Ron Tanner, Shirlaws UK Business Coach

A couple of months ago I coached the directors of an independent financial advisory company on starting a “functionality” project. The concept behind this project was to drive the right people in the business into doing the right functions in the business. From a historical perspective the directors had taken care of everything and thus created a limit to the growth of the business and placing unnecessary reliance on them. By introducing functionality the staff had become empowered in the business and taken responsibility for a number of key areas.

As a coach, my job is to make the directors’ job seem easier. In Shirlaws we do this by creating frameworks so the ‘content’ of the issue can be easily categorised and thus easily understood by all. This stops the process of the directors walking around with a list of things they have to fix in the business and helps them focus on only one or two key things, for example the ‘context’ of what they need to do. 

What’s ‘context’? To understand this concept in an organisation I facilitate a discussion around questions like: What’s causing you problems in your business? How do you task decisions in difficult areas of your business? Where is there currently frustration or stress? The answers to these questions usually fall into the ‘putting out the fires’ or ‘crisis management’ categories. I find most decisions in business are taken as a response to those who scream the loudest and get the most attention.

In this company the compliance issue wasn’t a bushfire but it sucked a lot of the management time and energy. The answer was not to throw more resources behind it but to ask why is was occurring? Context is about discovering what’s behind the issue and getting clarity of the end game.

Compliance, like accounting and admin, is one of the things you have to do when you run an IFA practice. There’s no getting away from it. However there’s no need for it to become an anchor trailing off the back of your ship. When the directors looked behind the compliance proves they were running, they realised it wasn't aligned with the vision they had set out for the business. They wanted a company where individuals took responsibility and were proud of their jobs. By holding this as a ‘context’, compliance took on a new meaning and they began to have a strategic conversation about how and who could manage it better. The conversation moved away from the ‘how’ to the ‘why.

The result of this has been to free up more energy in the business. Energy to go and create more revenue; energy to take time to align the business vision and energy to take time to communicate to staff. Stay tuned…

 

Take Stages test: burst through your brick walls

 

There are 14 key stages that each business needs to go through to get to advanced, sustainable growth - including two brick walls which many companies never break through.

Find out where you are in the lifecycle - and what to do next. Complete stages and download your 15-page action plan.

Take the Stages test

 

Thursday
Jul312014

Package, Position and Grow – it’s quite simple

By Ron Tanner, Shirlaws UK Business Coach

How many businesses are clear about what type of clients they are looking for? Who finds it difficult to say 'no' to potential clients? What is your company known for in the market and what is it offering to its customers? Easy questions - tough to answer. Why? Because as a business, it forces you to focus on what you do for your clients. Do they buy from you because of your products, your service or perhaps price? Or do you serve a specific market? Do you have a framework for determining what type of client you are attracting and how well is that understood throughout your business? 

If the answer is 'yes', then do your clients understand what you are known for? If that's a 100% ‘yes’ too, then read no further. Your product and positioning strategy is working. If it's a 'no' then there's an opportunity to build one. 

Understanding your position enables you identify the right opportunities quickly, align your marketing and discover where you are in the marketplace in relation to your competitors. 

The very first step is to understand if your company is a 'product' company or a 'distribution' company? Quite often I find clients think they are a product company because they "sell products" but on further analysis they are a distribution company selling others products or services that look like a “product”. Product companies are usually in the minority. They are the companies that spend proportionally more on R&D than other expenses. They innovate product, build it and leave the distribution and selling to others. Distribution companies are usually service based and client focused. 

For example, many software businesses build software solutions for clients. They are distribution companies. Once in while they do such a good job on solving a client’s problem they think, “this would make a great product to sell to lots of businesses – let’s do that as well”. They then begin offering this “new product” to the market and find it difficult to get it moving. That’s because their skill base and capability is in “servicing clients” rather than delivering new “product” to a market. You need to decide what the core capability in your company is. 

How does a company decide how to package and position their product whether it’s a service or a product?


1. Discover whether you are a product or distribution company.

2. Determine how you are presenting your company. Is it by product, price, market or service offering?

3. Make your primary position choice - the other three make up your secondary position.

4. Create alignment over all four. For example, if service is your primary position, does your pricing (secondary) reflect the cost of providing that service or do you still discount? 

5. Build a positioning statement. Think Avis, “We try harder”

A new positioning strategy takes application and time. Once completed, the commercial and cultural benefits to the company will be substantial.

 

Take Stages test: burst through your brick walls

 

There are 14 key stages that each business needs to go through to get to advanced, sustainable growth - including two brick walls which many companies never break through.

Find out where you are in the lifecycle - and what to do next. Complete stages and download your 15-page action plan.

Take the Stages test

 

Friday
Jul252014

Your people need feeding

By Ed Percival, Shirlaws UK Business Coach

They have been with you through the worst depression for 100 years.

They have probably had their income reduced relatively.

Even now, you can’t pay them what they deserve.

And all that time your  focus has  probably been on your commercial performance.

Their soul needs food.

They need to be seen and recognized.

Tell them how important they are to your organisation.

Tell them what they do and how they behave that makes it so.

Tell them how you feel when they do great work.

Let them know the effects on you of their brilliance.

Beware of being mechanical.

Be authentic.

You will make them stronger and more resilient.

In seeing brilliance in them, you’re acknowledging yourself too, so you become stronger.

See them in their glory before your competitor comes looking.

Begin gently, especially if your acknowledgement muscles have atrophied during the depression.

 

Take Stages test: burst through your brick walls

 

There are 14 key stages that each business needs to go through to get to advanced, sustainable growth - including two brick walls which many companies never break through.

Find out where you are in the lifecycle - and what to do next. Complete stages and download your 15-page action plan.

Take the Stages test

 

Monday
Jul142014

Productive feedback

By Ed Percival, Shirlaws UK Business Coach

Why are you about to give feedback?

To improve or to correct?

It seems that critical feedback tends to weaken the recipient’s energy.

This has the same effect when they do the criticizing for themselves.

[ we have experimented many times using muscle testing and found this to be the case most of the time]

Telling them what they did  well seems to have a strengthening effect most often.

So if you’re aiming to improve, I encourage you to reinforce first.

This usually needs to be learned by both parties.

Somewhere I read that 15 year olds get 5 times more negative comments than positive.

So most of us have grown up bathed in negativity.

When they land in front of you, it may be that they are not familiar with hearing positive feedback.

Make sure your comments land with them. If they try to dismiss your comment, or brush it off, then make the comment again.

You might reinforce it with a lead in phrase ‘ I have something really important to tell you about how good you just were” – and tell them again.

If your comment doesn’t land, it won’t change their energy.

To encourage them to do something better, or to include a missing piece in their performance, I suggest starting with a comment about what you witnessed that was good and then prompt them to include more of something you liked, or to include something you feel was missing.

Their own feedback on their performance can be very useful, but most people are harsher on themselves.  If that’s how they respond, you can support them by having them reflect on the parts they did well

 

Take Stages test: burst through your brick walls

 

There are 14 key stages that each business needs to go through to get to advanced, sustainable growth - including two brick walls which many companies never break through.

Find out where you are in the lifecycle - and what to do next. Complete stages and download your 15-page action plan.

Take the Stages test

 

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