As we approach the end of the year and look upon a new year of opportunity, I have been spending some time reflecting on the past five years as a business coach. Those years of coaching have gone very quickly indeed and I look forward to the many years ahead doing exactly the same. The learning curve for me has been quite incredible. 25 years in the tough industry of food manufacturing and you think you know it all. As a coach you quickly realise the intricacies of business, the diversity and personalities of people that run businesses all go to create the amazing mix of talent we have in the UK business fraternity. Despite the media fuelled doom and gloom, the UK is certainly a healthy place to be doing business!
In the first quarter of 2019 we will fully appreciate the implications for businesses in relation to our proposed exit from the EU and we will be aligning our forecasts accordingly. What doesn’t change for every business in the UK is how we seek to fully appreciate the opportunities that lay ahead and how we, as business owners, can take full advantage of them.
Moving beyond fear, embracing opportunity
Undoubtedly, we all have natural fears about the future and I would personally only ever focus on the opportunities. Where there is a market and a client that is willing to purchase what you can sell them, there is always opportunity and every business owner will need to work beyond their fears. Personally, I always see a new year as an exciting time for clients and myself and would urge every business owner to take time to analyse their business model and look at those incremental improvements they can make that will only create further resilience and strength moving forwards.
This year I have focused on numerous subjects relative to the business owner. Some represent the emotional aspects of business that every business owner has and will experience throughout the duration of their business career. Other articles have provided more direct financial, process and transformational advice. Every article has been constructed to advise and relay some experiences from myself and my clients. The advice comes from my experience of 25 years in manufacturing and, more recently, my five years of coaching some innovative, inspirational and talented people.
Here are some of the articles from earlier this year…
Something I am often asked, and an area where there can be much confusion is what is the difference between a coach and consultant? Are you a coach or consultant? The lines between the two are a little blurred, and probably this article demonstrates why that is.
The ability to create greater profit is probably the most emotive subject for all business owners. We all want to make more money in our businesses, reducing the need for investment when doing so. Generating more cash in the business can come from improvements within cash flow but, as business owners, we rarely look at the incremental changes we can make to positively affect margins, and ultimately profit.
‘I will ask an initial question. How many people have a business plan or strategy in place now? Simple answer, in my experience as a Business Coach, is very few or none at all.’
Short term gain seems to be the way many businesses function. We are looking for the short-term fix, or next project that will keep us going, but don’t look at our business strategy for the next year, two years or longer. We have no end goal to work towards!
One of the questions I am asked at the very beginning of any communications with a business owner is… Why business coaching and what can it do for my business? My initial answer is always very similar and packed with questions… Well what do you want to do? What are the problems or concerns you have currently? I.e., Why did you call? What are you looking to achieve? What are your succession plans? …and many more!
Undoubtedly, as the politicians continue to disrupt business confidence, we are all sitting and contemplating the future for business in the UK. It is a stigma and situation the country seems to adopt all too readily; the media fuelled debate or debacle has many of us watching on with a slight element of trepidation around what the future holds.
If you do some research on this subject you find a huge amount of information available on how to deal with emotions in your business, i.e., those who work for you who may be experiencing emotional difficulties. But there is a real lack of information or advice for business owners who are probably, at some stage, going through difficult periods within their business and their emotions are being extensively and regularly challenged on a daily basis.
As a coach I get to meet many business owners, but also talk to individuals about their experiences and working environments and how this affects their performance, desire and ambitions. One such case I came across recently sent a shiver down my spine, but really highlighted just how toxic situations can negatively impact on a businesses performance.
Winning that new client can be an absolute buzz but occasionally it can be a nightmare scenario waiting to happen. We all look to expand our businesses with the right kind of business acquisition, one that is going to be enjoyable, profitable and ultimately provide a positive impact inline with our growth plans. However, it is very important to make sure that new piece of business is going to be a profitable one and, if it isn’t, should we ditch that client to find one that is profitable?
Every so often I get feedback from my clients, in the way of testimonials, and this reveals many aspects of the work we have been doing together and how we are affecting the opportunities for the business. I always see coaching as a partnership with a common goal, and that is to create success by having a full appreciation of your numbers, which in turn perfectly highlights your opportunities and future direction for the business.
The year ahead – what are your plans!
My year will start with an exciting opportunity to coach new and existing businesses in the manufacturing sector, taking my appointment at CEME (Centre for Engineering and Mechanical Excellence) as an incumbent business coach available to the residents of CEME. This will open up opportunities to coach some of the UK’s most innovative businesses in the field of engineering and look to help them achieve high growth, as I do with all clients.
I personally see this new step in my career as fulfilling one of my personal goals, providing group seminars to businesses whilst continuing my usual one to one coaching with existing clients. A great new opportunity for me… so what opportunities are you going to create for yourself next year?
Start your planning now!
Most business owners are very busy people indeed and, for some, this point in the year is a good time to start to process and download your experiences - the good points and the bad - and reflect on them to see how you can make 2019 a great year. My advice for any business would be to look at a number of specific elements in your business. Typically, this would include:
- Skills – What kind of new skills do you need to progress your business forward?
- Profitability – How can you increase your profits? What incremental improvements can you make to do so?
- Team – What training can you provide and what new members of staff will help to take your business forward?
- Financials – How can you achieve a better grasp on your finances? Cash flow, forecasting, projections, cost analysis and many other tools that will provide control, clarity and the insight you need in order to grow your business.
- Infrastructure – Identifying where you can improve productivity by introducing new systems and processes within your business infrastructure.
- Marketing and sales – How can you become more creative and consistent with your marketing, conducting a gap analysis to identify your target markets and setting goals in place for your sales team?
If I could pick one defining moment from my experiences as a coach, every single business that trades in the UK, and has a stable market with the desire to grow, can build some clarity in their business to make the year ahead more profitable.
Time is precious so don’t waste that opportunity and get your ‘New Year’ plan in place!