Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Part XVII - Preaching What I Practiced

All my experiences in business have been very varied and I have had masses of exposure to so many different business models and industries coupled with the first taste of entrepreneurism, that now was the time, to put some of my practice into a structured support network for small businesses.

My first consulting client was a printing and promotions company and although the Managing Director running it had himself come from a corporate background, he used to be in charge of operations and knew very little about sales and marketing - an ideal first client!

The company had been in existence for 4 years at this point but was still not making a half way decent income for the owner. He was making just enough to cover his overheads with a little left over for building and equipment maintenance. Luckily this guy had a number of shares in his previous company and drew sizable dividends to contribute to the household income.  

I was surprised that this was an ‘established’ business with clients and everything, employing 4 people but no business development plans or activities of any sort. Still yet,  somehow the business managed to pick up the odd client but even then the opportunities within were never maximized.

Initially the MD wanted my help to establish a telesales department seeing that that was something I had successfully implemented in the past on an international basis.

So of course I went through a serious phase of analysis to really get a handle on where the immediate opportunities lay without any additional overheads to the company. We devised a strategic three months plan focussing entirely on the creation of cash flow through low hanging fruit.

As I said, looking back, this was the most exciting first client I could have ever wished for.

We created internal business policies for the employees and customers, made sure sales were maxed with existing clients whilst implementing a strict payment policy. By the end of the three month, not only was my client feeling really enthusiastic about his business again but he was also able to draw a decent income for the first time in 4 years!

I had found my absolute passion in life - building businesses internal and external market opportunities with minimum investment and maximum returns!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Part XVI - The Upside

As we established last week, running your own business takes a ton of hard work, commitment, perseverance, patience and self belief.

Sounds daunting? Well, maybe a little but all the things you get in turn will make more than up for it but of course only if you place a great emphasis on these benefits for yourself and your family.
You will get total freedom of strategy, direction and implementation as well as an enormous amount of flexibility. You can create your own schedule, decide the priorities of the things that are most important to you, both professionally as well as personally.

Your dedication and quality standards will be the brand that you create for yourself. You can take enormous pride in everything that is achieved because it is based on your own hard work. The passion you have for your product or service will make a huge difference and of course the earning potential is exponentially higher if you focus on your model and belief in your success!

Perseverance and patience are the key to making it past the 1, 3 or 5 year mark but for us moms the flexibility should far outweigh anything else.

So in our case when we managed to make it into our third year, we were really starting to see some great results with money coming in all over the place. The only thing was that as a husband and wife team, we found it very stressful to work together. Financial aspects especially in the early days were tough. The fact that we were continuously thinking about business 24/7, considering different elements and over thinking some more, was not very healthy but I suppose inevitable.

So at the three year mark we decided to re-think how we could go back to just being a couple without having to be business partners.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Part XV - Small Business Needs

Here I was with a background of a large, corporate expense accounts, size-able marketing budgets and a team of experts in each department taking care off - well I didn’t really know all so well what it was they were taking care off every day!

It seems less significant when you are part of a massive machine, that has been well oiled and is fitted with it’s own GPS system telling you exactly which turns to take next and the direction it is heading.

Now as the maker and creator of your own destiny, well quite another story altogether!

So how does one get the word out about your product or service if you don’t have much money to spend? And how do you build a thriving business on a shoestring? By the time everything else had been purchased for the business such as tools, a complete office set up with computer, all in one printer, fax machine, business stationery, office supplies, oh and did I mention the new business mini van (company car had of course gone back...), insurances, there was no more money in the kitty!

So yes, maybe the corporate world had prepared us both very well in our various professions on big scale projects, but running a small business however was really quite on a different scale and magnitude. Everything starts and stops with you - no safety net, no emergency funds.

All of this and we haven’t even spoken about the actual work. Trying to figure out exactly HOW you want to do business. Your policies and rules on any aspect of how the company should feel, act and progress.

My marketing planning used to be based on fitting into the corporate business plan with extensive macro and micro environment research (Exactly!!!), the right marketing mix of communication tools such as print, PR and radio or TV with maybe a trade show thrown in!

And my husband? Well he is the very best money can buy when it came to actually doing the work, but customer consultation, design, quoting and quantity surveying - well these are all very specialist things that take a lot of time to define, practice and refine!

So when we weren’t busy looking for work, creating supporting documentation, planning, strategizing and learning accountancy - we fell into bed, exhausted, with two small children wondering if maybe tomorrow would be a day when they could ask for that play date they had been longing for so long!

And on the upside...................

Monday, June 1, 2009

Part XV - Going It Alone - Almost

During my time as a political candidate, one thing really stuck out at me and that was the entrepreneurship of local small business owners.

I had the opportunity to speak to a number of different industries and sizes of companies during my campaigning. The passion and determination was incredible and fueled by what I experienced coupled with my husbands vision to own his own construction business, it was sealed - husband and wife team setting out to going it alone!

With his technical expertise and my background in sales and marketing, we figured to stand a pretty good chance of success. We knew little about the finer details of running our own business. The accounting side was a new challenge that I had to master and it is today that I wonder why we went about it in such a painful and long winded way!

I was determined to learn a Sage Accounting System to ensure our financial wealth was well managed and carefully controlled. It took hours upon days if not weeks and many very late nights to educate myself in the art of accounting. Something that easily takes years to perfect and should be left to the experts!

Hindsight is a wonderful thing however when you are very close to your own business model, sometimes you just can’t see the obvious solution to more efficient and profitable processes.

The dream of being your own boss, running the business the way you think it is best and getting the opportunity to do things your way, come with an inevitable trade-off:

No-one holding you accountable to the objectives that you set
Full responsibility for every aspect of running a business, even the tasks you may not enjoy or are no good at
Working with a partner who holds equal shares, trying to agree on the most simplest of things
Managing your cash flow to survive as a business and as an individual with bills to pay
Getting out and drumming up opportunities

As you well know my fellow entrepreneurs - the list is endless!

To be continued.......