As we move through the business cycle the question of whether the business should grow will come up. The prospect of growing the business can be scary to a business owner, it costs money, it’s hard work are often reasons given to not grow the business. However if you have a strong product, good systems and strategies then you are already well placed to grow.

So how do you address the concerns that are holding you back from growing?

If you believe that you can’t grow because you are irreplaceable then by default you will not grow as you are the greatest obstacle. This requires a change in mindset as you slowly let go of the reigns. Putting strong systems and process in place will relieve you of some of the burden but also give you security that the business is operating as you would like.

If you want to grow you can not do everything yourself. Employ people who compliment you skills. If you are a strong marketer but weak in the numbers then recruit a strong accountant or CFO. Don’t be afraid to outsource some parts of your business but a word of warning, ensure that your requirements are being delivered. Employing or outsourcing does not lessen your responsibility but it does reduce your workload.

Growing a business is hard, but so was getting started. It will bring a new set of challenges and require a different set of skills. Embrace the change and grow with the business, engage experts or a mentor to help you through. As you grow keep your eye on the business and adjust things as you go. Your involvement will be different but if you employ the right people and share your vision with them you will be amazed what they could achieve. The power of many may (and often does) find better ways to do things benefitting all.

In summary it is natural to be nervous about growth and taking new things on but if you face the fears head on you can succeed. The hardest step was getting started you are already half way there.

Nigel Hobbs
Small Fish Business Coaching

When looking at succesful businesses there are a number of things they do really well. They generally have a vision of where they would like to take the business this is supported by a robust plan. Additionally there is a strong execution culture that gets things done and allows for robust monitoring and measuring of results plus a revision process that leads to the plan being adjusted.

It all sound so simply: we have a plan and get on with doing it, yet business constantly fails at the execution step. Why?

Often the vision and plan of the business is written by the owners (or consultants) of the business without adequate buy in from the staff or workers who have to execute the plan. Without the buy in if the staff the execution will be poor and the plan is unlikely to succeed.

Poor communication. Too many times I have seen business owners proudly talk about their vision for the business but when I ask them if they have shared it with the staff they tell the staff don’t need to know its our vision. If everyone is not headed in the same direction your chances of success are compromised, communicate what you want to achieve with your business.

Poor co-ordination between different parts of the business. If improved cash flow is an important target but the sales force keeps offering credit then the goal will not be achieved. The goals need to be aligned.

Inadequate monitoring. It is important to measure the key milestones to success and adjust the plan according to the findings. Blindly heading to a target may result in you being so off course there is no chance of success.

In summary to achieve your business goals do not forget the importance of the execution phase. Monitor your progress regularly and adjust systems & process as required.

Nigel Hobbs
Small Fish Business Coaching

For those of you who have read my blog before you would know there are three main drivers of business profitability (revenue, efficiency & costs). Today I am going to talk about a process you can use to reduce the costs of your business.

The best place to start of by reviewing your monthly profit and loss statement. If you are not producing one I suggest you get started waiting until the end of the year for your accountant to produce one is simply too late. Most accounting software (MYOB, Xero etc) can do this for you easily.

Review all the costs in your business and look for areas of improvement or cost blow outs. Compare costs versus last year and see what has increased. Ensure you still need the expense, there is no need paying for ten phone lines if you only need four lines.

Set targets that are attainable and sustainable and are consistent with your overall vision. Assign responsibility to the appropriate staff member and hold them accountable to achieve the desired result.

Once you have reviewed you costs and found areas of improvement develop your implementation strategy and aggressively execute it. Communicate changes to your staff so they know what is happening and why. Measure progress (those P & L’s again) and adjust your strategies accordingly.

A word of caution your marketing budget is an investment in your future. Simply cutting your marketing expense to save costs will most likely have a long-term impact on sales. Once again measure and monitor your marketing spend to ensure it is working for you, but don’t stop marketing just to save cost.

Nigel Hobbs
Small Fish Business Coaching

As the business world drifts back to work after the Christmas break hopefully we have all spent our time wisely. The key aim of the break is to recharge our batteries and spend time with our families and friends. It is also time to get our business ready for the new year. To get our plans in place.

While most small business operators do not need a plan that is a book a plan on a page with key aims and targets should be sufficient. By documenting your “vital few” aims and developing your key strategies you will have a good blue print for the challenges of the New Year. Things to take onto account are:
Marketing
– How much are you going to do, what is you budget and what are your key times (Christmas, Easter, Mothers Day etc). Do you need to review your margin & price?
Sales
– What are you going to do to convert your marketing into sales dollars. Do you have a consistent sales process and does everyone in the Business follow it.
Productivity
– How can we increase the output of yourself and your staff.
Cost
– When was the last time your reviewed the costs of your business. Could we reduce inventory or improve our debtors position.
Money
– It is business after all. Do we have a good budget and planned our cash flow.

Putting these plans in place will help get the business up and running successfully for the New Year.

Good Luck,

Nigel Hobbs
Small Fish Business Coaching

In my travels I constantly come across business people who are struggling with the process of managing a business. In the past they were the business, the growth they have achieved and the staff they have put on have complicated the issue. Like most things there is no easy answer but there are some steps you can do to make it work better.

1. Communication – Inform the team regularly of your objectives and plans. It will help them with their decision-making and ensure everyone is heading in the same direction.

2. Define your core values – Your core values become your compass and should be constantly referred to as decisions are made.

3. Focus – We all suffer from time constraints so focus on the really important issues that will deliver the best result.

4. Clearly define roles – This allows everyone to get on with the job. If you as the business owner get too involved employees will learn to become dependent on you limiting both the employees and the business potential.

5. Learn from your mistakes – It is impossible to get every decision right. So when things go wrong, review what happened with the team and take what you have learnt forward.

6. Enjoy your wins – Celebrate as a team your successes and wins. This creates a positive attitude which will lead to more success.

If you are suffering that challenge of managing your business think of the positives as the problem is generally caused by the growth of your business and if you put a few simple things in place you can enjoy the benefits of this growth.

Nigel Hobbs

Small Fish Business Coaching

One of the great challenges of modern society and business is the ease of access to information. Whether that is through the iPhone, iPad, laptop or desktop information is readily available and if you are blogging, twittering and emailing you receive a constant stream of new information.

This is becoming a real challenge, how do you keep on top of all the new information and still get things done! Like anything else you need a bit of discipline and make a time and place for each activity. Spending too much time on Facebook when you should be working is a recipe for disaster, but checking a few times a day for short periods is OK and not to time consuming. Surfing the next is a good way to find out new things but if you keep chasing rabbits down holes you won’t achieve anything.

So how do you get on top of technology and make it work for you:
– Be disciplined and don’t fall into the trap of “playing” when more important things need to be done
– Resist the need to constantly read emails.
– Turn off the email alert tone. It will stop you looking at your computer or phone, the email will still be there.
– Set a time limit for internet use and only look up information you need.
– Treat reading emails like reading the mail. Set times aside for emails and try to stick to it (some experts advocate two windows a day if you can keep to this you will free up heaps of time).
– Delete unwanted emails immediately.
– If you read an email and can action it, do it. This will save reading an email multiple times.
– Keep you in box clean & tidy (use files) this will make it easier to find and action things.

Try and not be a slave to technology but use it to make like easier.

Nigel Hobbs
Small Fish Business Coaching

Often when we think about Financial Planning we think it only applies to high income earners, but in reality it applies to us all. If you work for yourself and have a small business then it is even more important.

In previous blogs I have spoken about the need to plan your business direction and to maximise the sale price of your business these plan’s also fit into your financial plan. Some of the things you need to consider when doing your financial planning:
– When do you plan to retire
– How much money will you need
– What is your superannuation worth now and in the future
– What is your business worth as an asset
– What other assets and liabilities do you have

These things are fairly obvious but still need plenty of thought and planning but there are other things that are less obvious.
– The tax impact of any decisions you make
– Are you suitably insured for changes in your situation including life insurance, injury cover, business continuity and the list goes on.

When was the last time you reviewed your personal & family position on tax, insurance and your finances with an expert? Never, a long time ago? It is probably worth your while to make sure these things are in place to secure your future and if you need to change things give you enough time to make it happen.

In the routine of managing our business we often don’t give the Financial Planning aspect of our business enough time and effort or it is all too hard. If you get it right in the long term it will all be worthwhile, what is stopping you?

Nigel Hobbs
Small Fish Business Coaching

I read an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald today by Peter Martin about household spending in Australia based on the Bureau of statistics regular six-year survey.

Interestingly over the lat 12 years household income has increased by 50% yet spending has only increased by 38%. So where has the money gone? It has been taken out of the economy and used to reduce debt or increase savings. This has in turn resulted in a slowdown in both the property and retail sectors which is well documented. When spending and borrowing was high both these markets boomed and now they need to adjust to the new world where sales don’t just walk out the door you must earn them. Retailers must innovate and move with the times, the likes of Zara has landed in Australia and quickly made a splash. For property owners you can no longer borrow based on guaranteed capital growth and those with negatively geared properties and losing at both ends.

One other interesting statistic was that the percentage sales on cafe & restaurants had increased from 2.1 to 2.6% of household spend due to people eating out more. Although I sense this may have reversed in recent time.

So what does this all mean? Well firstly things are not as bad as they seem, there is money available it is simply being saved rather than spent at present. Therefore if you have a compelling offer customers have the capacity to buy, so from a business point of view it is not time to fall into the “doom & gloom” trap but to look for opportunities and aggressively take them.

Nigel Hobbs
Small Fish Business Coaching

I attended the Northern Beaches Business Expo on Wednesday and it reminded me how valuable these events are for SME’s in two ways. Firstly you can attend relatively cheaply as an exhibitor and have the opportunity to discuss your business with a variety of prospects. Secondly if gives you the chance to network and pick the brains of people from a variety of fields.

It always amazes me that business people find this all too hard or leave as soon as the even is finished and miss the networking opportunities. The reality is we all need to take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way, we need to leverage the local community and our fellow local business people. What better way than to attend an event and let the local community know what you do.

In sales you are constantly reminded that you need to be constantly asking people to buy your goods and services. Why not take advantage of events such as these where people come to you. Instead of thinking about the time or how hard it is, think about the benefits your next big customer just might be attending.

Nigel Hobbs
Small Fish Business Coaching

It is a sad fact that up to 80% of Australian Small Businesses have inadequate financial records. How can anyone run a business that way? The fact is that this is one of the major reasons why so many small businesses don’t make it. It is a bit like driving your car with your eyes closed and hopefully no one does that!

Most small business owners do not have any formal bookkeeper or accounting qualification, what they know they have picked up along the way. Keeping the accounts up to date is generally not a priority and not something they like doing. If this is the case then hire someone to do it.

Get a bookkeeper in part-time to keep your accounts up to date and produce monthly reports including a profit and loss. They can also help you monitor your debtors and assist you with your cash flow. Having your accounts accurate and up to date make the completion of the quarterly BAS quick and easy and your end of year tax a breeze saving those expensive accounting fees.

Whether you do it yourself or have a bookkeeper it is important to know how your business is performing so that you can correct any errors and make changes before it is too late.

Nigel Hobbs
Small Fish Business Coaching

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