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Great Changes Ezine #5: Improving a Small Business
September 29, 2011

Encouraging Changes You Desire

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Issue #5: September 30, 2011

How to Start Improving a Small Business

Summary: Many small businesses are managing to stay open, but not setting the world on fire. But they could often do much better with some relatively simple changes. But what ARE those changes? This article explains a process to help businesses get to the next level, from the viewpoint of a business coach.

Each Business a Unique Challenge: Businesses are particularly challenging due to its many variables: 1) what the business does, 2) business size and age, 3) the specific combination of people who are involved, 4) what each of them do, or are SUPPOSED to do, or SHOULD be doing, 5) the business owner's goals, 6) financial considerations, 7) the business environment they compete in, and much more. Suffice it to say that each engagement is quite different.

An experienced business coach however, can take these unique combinations of variables, and see similar and familiar patterns owners can't easily see. Looking in from the outside creates a different view. The following steps can be powerful:

Get "Buy In" First: Obviously, the active business owner must be very open to outside help, and must realize that employees' increased effectiveness is a big key to success. And the staff must be (or become) involved in the process of making positive change.

Hold a Group Brainstorming Session: The business coach will be the brainstorming facilitator. (S)he must know what the owner wants to realistically accomplish at the initial brainstorming session, which will normally include all of the key employees.

The facilitator will ask everyone to briefly write out their thoughts about various topics such as: what they do, what challenges they face, what they'd like to accomplish during the session, etc. Writing should only take a few minutes. With proper planning and execution, in just 3-4 hours, this session will accomplish A LOT.

An Example: Recently I held a brainstorming session for a 2-year old business with all 4 employees. Owner #1 works more than full-time, whereas Owner #2 has a full-time job elsewhere, and does occasional work for the business. Staffer #1 has been employed over a year, and Staffer #2 only about 4 months.

Soon everyone agreed that the systems in place to service clients were poor, and needed to be refined. It also became clear that Staffer #2, who was hired to do sales, had no sales experience and was interested in getting involved in other duties.

Another key issue was that Owner #1 was trying to manage and stay on top of everything, while also running himself ragged bringing in new business. Furthermore, the business was losing good clients because customer service would sometimes drop the ball, not knowing where the problems were, nor what to do about it - a demoralizing situation indeed.

WHAT WAS ACCOMPLISHED: In less than 4 hours, very significant progress was made. 1) It was discovered that communications were poor mostly because their communication software to keep track of jobs was lacking something essential, and therefore wasn't being used. Owner #2 figured out he could quickly add the missing feature himself. 2) It was decided that Staffer #2 should help service clients and do marketing (his major in school) rather than do sales. 3) Staffer #1 really shined and was given additional responsibilities, including training and supervision of Staffer #2. 4) These three accomplishment will allow Owner #1 to be able to focus less on service and more on closing more accounts.

Takeaways: These relatively simple changes will allow the business to grow more profitably with far less headaches. In a short amount of time, most small businesses could benefit by really focusing intensively with the help of an appropriate business coach, consultant or advisor.

The specific takeaways will vary, but the paybacks can be phenomenal!

Let's Challenge Each Other!

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Until next time,
Larry Rudwick

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