Secret Ingredient – an Outsiders Perspective
Case Study: TWO BUSINESS OWNERS – TWO VERY DIFFERENT OUTCOMES
October 2016 – Two real Business Owners:
Over the years of helping small-medium privately owned businesses, one of the key differences I’ve found between successful businesses and those that just never seem to grow, is that successful business owners understand that they do not know everything, and therefore seek advice from others. They’ve always got their eyes and ears open. Whereas unsuccessful business owners generally spend a lot of their time and energy justifying their own assumptions, or what they think they know.
Coincidently I was introduced to both these business owners in October 2016. Let’s call them Jack and George to protect the innocent.
Jack – National Retail Business
I was referred to Jack who owns a national retail business with approx. 35 staff, turning over a little over $18 million/annum. The business had extremely high levels of net profit (NPBT), Jack spends about 70% of his time working ON the business rather than IN it – analysing his figures, stock turns and sales metrics on a weekly basis to determine how things may be improved. He has an active business plan which outlines where the business is heading over the next 3 years, and due to having some excellent staff is able to take 6 weeks off every year just after Christmas. So whilst things appear to be going as well as possible in business for Jack, he still agreed to meet me; and was open to hearing any ideas that might help him improve his business further. At the end of our 1hr meeting, I essentially explained to him that due to the amazing state of his business and the systems he had set-up, there wasn’t a great deal I could do to help. Put simply – there were very few areas that I could identify for improvement; and I’m talking very minor improvement. However Jack wanted to keep talking, throwing around ideas he had, and getting my perspective. Which I thought was interesting – given how well his business was already going.
George – Furniture manufacturer/importer
Coincidently, during the same month I was asked, through a network colleague, to make contact with the owner of a furniture manufacturing business that had been struggling for 2 years. Soon after arriving for our meeting, the first thing I noticed was the disorganised state of the office – stuff everywhere. A lack of systems and processes immediately came to mind. Following a few minutes of small talk with George, I asked him how business was going. I’m paraphrasing, but his response was along the lines of, “Not good, and I really don’t have time to be talking with you. I know my market and industry – I don’t see what you could possibly tell me that I don’t already know?”
I had to conclude after my short time with George that of course he knew what he knew, but in reality he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. When business owners struggle in business for a long period of time, this position grows stronger, and they shut the door further on any new ideas or different perspectives. Which is essentially a road to nowhere.
Unfortunately it’s often the case that business owners who are struggling don’t believe that others’ insights can help. But it may be the one life-line they truly need.