Is It Time To Save Your Business?
The economy appears to be doing well. Many small businesses are having a good year.
Then there are those that are not doing so well. Their product or service may have proven itself in the marketplace, but problems have developed and things are beginning to feel out of control. If that resonates with you, keep reading. It may be time to save your business?before it?s too late.
I say before ?it?s too late? because I feel really bad when I have to tell someone I can?t help them. They?ve waited too long. Sometimes it?s just too late ? and there?s nothing left to work with. You don?t want to find yourself in that situation.
In 1998 I was able to help a young business woman save her business, turn it around and put it on a clear path to success and profit. That became a defining moment in my practice. Although I had worked with a number of small business owners, I had not realized how critical my services could be. Denise?s case was clearly a matter of life or death for her business
Denise knew her business was in trouble when she consistently couldn?t meet her cash requirements and her debt kept growing. It had reached the point where she was seriously considering bailing out when a colleague referred her to me.
Within 6 months we had turned her business around and redesigned and repositioned her business for success. Upon that foundation, she was able to build the business of her dreams based on a sound plan, well-calculated action steps and a way to stay in control.
The light bulb went on for me when I realized there are thousands of businesses out there just like Denise?s. The owner is struggling to find the right course of action to resolve escalating problems before it?s too late. This challenge exists for so many because they have not been taught how to take control and keep control of their business.
From that point forward I made the commitment to help small business owners make the critical changes needed to turn their business around ? and then guide them in setting the course for the business they want.
That?s been the focus of my business ever since. I?ve learned that it?s important for business owners to identify the Warning Signs that spell trouble ahead. Unfortunately, many don?t recognize these signs early enough to take corrective action?before it?s too late.
So tell me: what is not going well for you right now? Would you answer ?yes? to any of the following questions? Be honest. This is meant to help you take a hard look at your business.
- Marketing efforts are not producing results
- Business is being lost because we?re not properly set up to handle it
- Productivity is poor; too much time is wasted on problem resolution and corrections
- I end up doing the work that others are supposed to do
- I?ve had to borrow to meet payroll more than once in the past 6 months
- Standard operating procedure is ?Chaos?
These are only a few of the Warning Signs that could indicate you need to take a closer look.
Fortunately, there is a solution to these situations if caught in time. It consists of two major steps.
The First Step is to stop the losses and change the course of action. That means taking a really hard look at the issues and the problems, then clearly identifying where changes are needed. I use an abbreviated and accelerated version of the Prime Strategies, http://primestrategies.com/prime_strategies, starting with the Results phase. Consider this: where you are now is the Results of the Actions you?ve taken up to this point. You want to know where you are and the steps that have led to this place.
In this Step you assess your current situation, set specific short term goals to change course, develop a strategy to meet the goals and then create a plan of action to make the calculated changes. This does not need to be an in-depth assessment; it?s meant to zoom in on the critical areas needing attention, right now. It does, however, mean stepping back from your business and taking a very objective look. Ask yourself: what would someone else see if they were looking in at your business?
Jill and George were partners in a 5 year-old insurance agency located in a New England town of 28,000. Sales were falling, customers were leaving and there was friction growing between them. What they learned upon assessment was that although they were sharing an office, a business name and structure, they were each doing their own thing. There was little or no cross-selling. Customer service was sporadic and mostly ineffective. Meanwhile expenses continued to climb. Both felt things were on a downhill course. They knew a change of course was needed ? soon.
The short term goal was to get the business functioning as one. To do that they added some software that allowed them to better integrate their operations. They set basic business policies that included a plan to meet with all clients to assess level of satisfaction and resolve any outstanding issues. This became an opportunity to cross sell. To offset the cost of space rental, a conference room was turned into a temporary office for a financial planner. Once the business was back on its feet, the conference room would be reclaimed. As a first step to establish accountability, financial reports were reviewed and analyzed each month.
The Second Step involves redefining the business basics and creating a plan to realize the potential of your business. It includes rethinking the Purpose, Vision and Mission, and using personal and business assets as the foundation to develop a brand platform, market message and position. Now you?re ready to restructure your business and carry out the plan of action that will create the Results you want.
Jill and George recognized they already had a small market share. Both were dedicated to the business and enjoyed working in the industry. Their personal assets were their tenacity and their complementary skill sets. Jill was the networker; the outgoing one. George was better at back-office operations. They decided to divide the duties accordingly.
By consolidating their offerings they found they could make a bigger impact and reach a broader market as well as do more cross-selling. Their marketing message became ?total asset protection ? whatever your needs?. Using this message they created a year-long marketing campaign that included direct mail, some speaking engagements for Jill and an e-mail piece emphasizing the total scope of their services with an incentive for referrals. By consistently putting out the same marketing message and building affiliations with other financial services partners they set their course to become the number one casualty and indemnity agency in the region within 3 years.
Call to Action: I?m sure you went into your business with a dream of what you wanted it to be. You don?t have to give up on that dream. Tackle those killer problems, regroup your efforts and take the actions necessary to make it happen.
Is it time to save your business?
About the Author: Marian Banker, MBA, is a Business Leadership Coach and President of Prime Strategies, http://primestrategies.com. In working with entrepreneurs at all stages of business she has refined the application of the Prime Strategies into highly effective programs for small business owners who are struggling with the challenges of building a business. To find out, request the Prime Strategies Warning Signs Checklist, firstname.lastname@example.org to see where you may want to focus some serious attention now.