This could solve your business puzzle…
Written by Zac de Silva, posted by The ICEHOUSE on Friday, November 08, 2013
Are you a crossword doer? Medical experts recommend doing a crossword a day – they say it’s exercise for the brain; it supposedly gives it a workout, keeps it in shape and helps you stay mentally agile. But for me, crosswords (like exercise) can be bloody frustrating. Sometimes I can sit there for five minutes, just fuming that I can’t think of the answer to fill in that last gap. Or I know the answer – it’s right on the tip of my tongue – but I just can’t put pen to paper with it. Other times I simply have no idea, and that’s the most frustrating and de-motivating of all.
What’s worse is when I’ve been puzzling over a clue for what seems like ages, then I voice it out aloud, and one of my know-all teenagers immediately chirps the correct answer. (How do teenagers forget on a weekly basis that Thursday is rubbish day but have no problems keeping track of the names and ages of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s vast tribe?!) And as annoying as it can be to be trumped by your own flesh and blood, it’s also kind of great, because with their help I finally get to complete that damn puzzle.
Sometimes business is a little like a crossword puzzle. You know what you know and are confident you can easily answer any problem or question related to your area of expertise. Sometimes you have a vague idea of what could be the right answer to a question, but you’re not sure enough to stake any action on it. And sometimes there are areas in which you have absolutely no clue.
Particularly curly crossword clues can cost you a lot of wasted time (and mental energy) – and so can certain business dilemmas. Sometimes when you get really close to a problem, or you’re just so busy that you can’t think straight, it’s impossible to see the wood for the trees. It happens to all of us. In the same way that it can be a good idea to verbalise a crossword clue to get suggestions from other members of the family, there’s also no shame in asking other people for help with what you don’t know in business. As the saying goes, you don’t ask, you don’t get – if you don’t ask for answers, you won’t ever have them. And it’s your business that will suffer as a result.
I see it all the time. Someone starts up a business because they’re highly skilled in that area or have a product that they really believe in and they want to go out on their own. Often they’ve worked for someone else previously, but they may not have taken much notice of the behind-the-scenes stuff or the ins and outs of running a business. So they open their own business, and they do a roaring trade for three years. (Why three years? In business there’s a rule I have discovered through working with many clients called the “3 year network drought” – within three years you will have exhausted your networks and if you aren’t getting word of mouth referrals, you might have a challenged future business and nobody else to sell your wares too within your personal sphere). And then after three years, the business comes to a bit of a standstill. The owner is confused – their service or product is great, what’s going on? Why isn’t their business flying?
It’s kind of like being on a diet. In the first two weeks, the kgs fall off. You have awesome results and you’re inspired and motivated to keep going. But then comes week three and your loss is negligible. It’s a bit demotivating. Week four and you’ve reached a plateau. It’s at this point you may decide to introduce a nutritionist or a personal trainer into the mix, hoping that their knowledge and their motivation will get over that plateau and achieving results again. It’s the same for business.
When you get to the point where motivation is low, exhaustion is high and you’re starting to feel like you have only two options (shut shop or try something new), you should get some help. Stop treading water, stop feeling out of your depth – take control of the situation. Talk to an expert. Get new blood in with a unique viewpoint. Get new ideas circulating. Throw those perplexing questions out there and get the answers your business needs. It could be that you decide to sit down with your lawyer or accountant and ask them what they think (be careful that they are astute business people themselves, though – don’t take advice from anyone who has a less than thriving business and also be careful that such professional advisers are truly “rounded” in their commercial skill base as often they are lacking here…). Maybe you know a successful businessperson who’ll spare a bit of time to mentor you. Look out for business courses in the areas you struggle with (Icehouse regularly has good ones, of course). Or get a business coach, like me, to look at your business, give you some answers based on knowledge and experience, and get your business flying.
Whilst there are no guarantees, a good business coach will almost always be able to impact positively on profits via focus on sales, gross profit, cost control and the very important softer side of business, such as you being a good leader (nobody wants to work for a hypocrite), your team being more engaged (it’s proven that engaged staff make more than twice the profit for you than someone who is “averagely” engaged), growth in customer experience and systems improvements and lots more…
Mary Kay (the cosmetic legend) once said, “A company is only as good as the people it keeps”. Included in these good people, I would suggest, is a good business advisor – it’s a vital piece of the puzzle that every single company and business owner needs.
Don’t let your business become unfinished business. Ask for help. Getting someone else to give you new perspectives on your business is food for thought. It will help take you to a higher level of accountability too – everybody needs a boss! There are lots of really good business coaches out there (via The Icehouse network) – do your due diligence on a business coach, as you do with all big decisions, and it could very well be one of the best decisions you have made for your business (and yourself) in a very long time. For business coaching, you know who to call!