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Successful businesses have a plan

That successful businesses have a plan shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to you.  But the number of businesses that don’t have plans is extremely high – in excess of 75%. And then they wonder why they languish in what Daniel Priestley, in his excellent book, Key Person of Influence, calls the ‘Struggle Zone’.

The Struggle Zone is characterised by small business owners who either work on their own or have up to two people working for them.

They have no time, no money and are hugely stressed and on the verge of burnout.

This is not what they imagined when they started their business.

Why your business doesn’t grow

But it gets worse.  I have come to the conclusion in talking to hundreds of small businesses is that the lack of money, working all the hours and high levels of stress are no longer seen as pain. It’s become the norm, so they just accept this is how life is and don’t consider there could be a way out. In fact, when offered a way out, they still seem to prefer sticking where they are. Heaven forfend they could reclaim their lives and change their business so it worked for them. But it seems they would rather stay hitched to a yoke, plodding daily on.

This is hugely frustrating for me, both at a business level and personally.  I know there is another way. I know the difference that can be made when you have a plan and you work on it. Nothing brings me greater joy than when I see my clients succeeding. Corny, but it’s absolutely true.

The secrets to a successful company

I have been doing some research recently to help me develop my Mastermind offering and I have interviewed a number of business owners. I chose three types of business owners to interview. The ones who have never sought business advice, those who have and business owners who have made a success of their business. And the results have been interesting:

To the questions – What are your top three tips to a new business owner/what would you do differently, the answer in all cases was:

‘I would plan’ 

Hopefully, that text is big enough to make an impact!

Along with:

The successful businesses said the reasons they were successful was because they:

  • Had a strategy

  • Understood their limits and scope

    i.e. they created a niche and this, along with the strategy helped them make decisions about what they weren’t going to do as much as what they were going to do

  • Had a clear grasp of their business/knew their numbers

    They embraced the financials. They didn’t shy away from them and leave it to the accountant to tell them how much money they had six months after year-end.

  • They met regularly to review their business

    They had a monthly board meeting at which all the above were discussed and the next month’s plans and actions were put in place

It really doesn’t get simpler than this. There is no rocket science to having a successful business. There is a lot of sweat and persistence and I hate to tell you, it’s not all exciting.

Passion for your business is key, but it’s not enough

What you actually do may be the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. Whether it’s creating beautiful wedding dresses to providing pension trustee advice. And having a passion for your business is absolutely key. But in the words of my ex father-in-law, that ‘don’t butter no parsnips’ unless you have an efficient business system in place alongside it. It will be very difficult to make money without flogging yourself unless you have a plan and run your business as a business.

And before you think I’m being a patronising so and so, let me assure you, I am firmly in that Struggle Zone too and have been there for the best part of three years.  It feels really painful to me and I have been taking steps to get out of it.

  • I have a business coach
  • I am in an accountability group who hold my feet to the fire. In fact, so much so, I was challenged to write and post a blog by 11.30 the next day. Ta da! I managed it – this is the result. It would never have happened without that kick up the whatsit. Thank you, Andrew!
  • I have a plan
  • I have been on an accelerator programme which has taught me a lot and consequently I have honed down what I do and become a lot clearer about my next steps.

The benefits of getting business help

There seems to be some shame in asking for help – surely you should be able to do this yourself right? In an ideal world yes. But would you attempt brain surgery on your partner? Or jump on board a 747 and fly it to Honolulu?  I hope not! Please don’t try this at home kids! You wouldn’t do either without some (a lot of) training.

It’s easy to see that in these cases you would need training and support to do these things, and less easy to think that you would need this to run a business because how difficult could it be? But running a business requires certain skills and experience and unless you have them, why wouldn’t you want to get help to do it?

All the people I interviewed (who were on the same accelerator programme as me) who had paid for business support all knew and accepted they needed help.

They were looking for

  • A framework to help them kick start their business
  • Wanted to know the steps to take to makes sure their business got off on the best foot
  • To be able to get their business successful faster
  • Wanted the accountability of the group to challenge them and keep them on track

And it’s been the last one that has actually proven to be the most beneficial to those of us who continue in our groups now the programme has finished. Not only does it keep us accountable and drives us forward, but we have shared information and there is a possibility of collaboration between some of us.

Planning workshops

I run regular 90-day planning workshops – if you’re interested, please let me know and I’ll keep you updated on when the next one is –

  1. Great post Karen, loved every word.

  2. Spot on as always, even if it hurts to read what I should be doing! Great post Karen, plenty of things ringing bells!

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About the Author:

About Karen Espley, blogging for The Chameleon GuideKaren Espley of The Chameleon Guide works with ambitious small business owners on her Profit Accelerator Programme. She brings pragmatic and real world advice in a group setting to help her clients make a significant difference to their business through increasing profits and running a highly effective business.

Offering workshops and group profit programmes for companies wanting to reach their full potential.