Sunday, August 17, 2014

Are Your Business Advisors Telling You All You Need To Know To Keep You Safe?


Small business owners face many challenges when running their day-to-day operations.

Being profitable, of course, is the objective in delivering their goods and services and businesses have a range of costs associated with the running of that business.

Some expenses that businesses need to cover are easy to see - things like rent and plant and equipment, wages for employees, costs for utilities, fuel and vehicles etc. The list seems to go on and on.

These costs are a basic part of running a business. Other costs are less easy to see the value in but are necessary for the business to go. Insurances, professional fees, payments to advisors and external service providers, and marketing.

To look for ways to not spend the money on them would be like buying a car ... but not being willing to pay for fuel to make the car go.

What is often less well appreciated is the cost that businesses can face if they miss out on keeping their compliance obligations met and up-to-date.

While many businesses may have an attitude that desires the business to be a safe workplace, many small businesses particularly, are not well organised when it comes to documenting the procedures and policies they need to make a standard part of "how we work".

These procedures can seem like an unnecessary complication for businesses which don't have staff allocated or even the skills and time necessary to undertake this role. And very few businesses have even assigned set roles and responsibilities in a formal way, detailing all the tasks that are carried out in the business.

If there is no guide to tasks, it follows there is no procedure for them and no training standard for that task... no documented safety protocols for all the jobs that get done.

This is problematic in several ways.

Firstly, without accounting for every task, new staff can be left without a concise standard to use when carrying out their work.  Which means that the owner of the business can be left dissatisfied with their performance.

These gaps in documented procedures mean that there is potential for gaps in training. That can lead to gaps in safety protocols being maintained. This lack of standard in how work gets done may go on without a problem for a long time. When they show up typically, is when there is an accident.

When that happens, the business faces two problems: The accident itself and all of the repercussions that flow from this; and no way to prove that the business was aware of and followed good safety practices.

Secondly the business can be exposed to financial penalties, increases in workers compensation costs and legal action from the person injured.

This is an issue that is as much risk management responsibility, as it is a potential threat to the profitability of the business,

Getting caught up in such an incident on the job can affect the bottom-line of the business,  the reputation of the business and open up the business to months or years of disruption and stress for the business owner and the injured employee.

Another aspect of this lack of documented procedures and standards is that the business may be locked our of opportunities to bid for work that they could do profitably, but are unable to tender for because they don't meet the requirements for the job due to their lack of procedural documentation and systems for the workplace.

This can be a handbrake on the progress the business could be making and costing the business significant profit not realized.

Advisors - Your Duty Of Care 

 One would hope that Accountants working with small businesses would be making clients aware of their obligations around these issues and reviewing the needs of the business regularly to ensure that they were not exposing the business to unnecessary risk.

Unfortunately this doesn't always happen.

For those who are working with small businesses part of our role should be to ensure that any issues we notice may not be happening in the business, should be made clear to the client.  If the small business owner chooses to ignore that information then that is up to them, to accept that risk.

When we work with businesses and fail to communicate the issues that we see are a problem, we let our clients down.  They often believe that if there is something amiss in the business, that their advisors will surely let them know. They are well entitled to think that would be the case. Sadly, it often is not.

If the client buys a website they should be able to assume that the website is capable of doing the thing they bought it to do. Many, many don't.

If the client has an accountant who sees that there is insufficient money being allocated for fundamental expenses, they would draw attention to this. Many, many don't.

Those professionals who do work with small business need to have a selection of good people around them who are committed to serving the client with all care and due diligence in their dealings and who can do what they profess to do, in getting the client into the best position possible for that area of their business.

Accountants can be directing small business clients to help with accessing industry standard procedures that can be customised for the business, help with promoting the business and providing good strategy for marketing, and so on and so forth, for all the different segments of the business.


The Good News For Accountants Is Good News For Business Too

When working with businesses actively and showing the care and attention to detail that you would want in your own business, you become a value to the business, not a cost. And in so doing, assist your business clients to avoid unnecessary costs, be able to access good opportunities and grow the business in a sustainable way, while developing the business as an asset that is optimal for pricing when the time comes that they might want to sell.

 Accountants - If you don't have a plan to make a strong network of associates to whom you can actively refer, then this is a good time to develop this as a strategy as part of your business plan. Just "anyone" won't do. Without driving it, that network just won't work. Hire someone to drive it for you as their primary objective.

Business owners - Review the service that you get from your business advisors and service providers. Are they proactive in letting you know what you need? Are they giving you the quality attention you need to make the best you can from your business?

We put our heart and soul into building a business - and our financial security too.  That's a huge commitment and we need all the help we can get. Make sure you are surrounding yourself with service providers who take an interest in your success and the health of your business too.

Not all businesses work from the same ethical perspective. Some advisors just want to be in a transactional relationship with clients, just do the thing they do now and not stretch themselves to be of more value to clients. In the workforce, this is known as "presenteeism" - unlike absenteeism, the employee is at work, even if they are not doing much more than they absolutely have to, to keep their job.  So too it is with service providers.

When you have identified your trusted advisors for your business, it is up to you as the business owner with the wellbeing of the business in mind, to listen to their advice and act on recommendations that keep your business safe. Whether that be safety procedures or other risk management issues, or business development processes.

We must choose the kind of business we want to work with, and the kind of business we want to either be... or become.


Related posts

Check out my articles on Linkedin

Our reputation online is our reputation - manage it. 

Good news and bad news for accountants
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

This Help All Business Needs On Social Media Marketing


 Many business owners are active online to some degree. They have listened to a webinar about online marketing or attended a workshop or some other event where the idea of being on social media for marketing has been the topic pushed at them.

Then they come to this point, which was explained very succinctly recently in an email I received.

"Generally I am finding that there is so much information out there, it's hard to figure out where to concentrate on for small wins, where improvements can be made with the website/ social media channels etc, marketing plan and so forth

As mentioned I am really trying to read and read and read when possible but some guidance / coaching is probably going to help me reach my goals a lot sooner"

Points for this business owner being perceptive enough to know that trying to do it all alone can be both a false economy and a source of needless confusion and frustration. 

Are you feeling lost in the maze? 

What all business needs to know on using social media marketing 

Integration

Your website is integral to your business presence online.  That means that it must be effective not just on the page for visitors but also "in the back" where Google reads it.   

Your efforts to promote your business online can't be spent all on promoting online properties you don't own. If you want to promote Facebook, get a job there, don't do your work for them on your business Page free and imagine that they can't take it away in a moment. They can and they might. Meanwhile you can use it all you like but don't build your whole presence on a rented platform. 

Integrating your website with your social media platforms means that your social efforts are captured with your website and customers can find their way to your site for more information, to check you out and to see that you are the real deal! Trust is a high value commodity online and one of the things that you and your business needs is the means to develop trust. That's where social media can help. 


Audience (Really Your Online Network)

Well let me start by saying "audience" is definitely the wrong word for what you are building. It's wrong because at the most basic level, broadcasting to your online network is not the thing. 

Before you can occasionally broadcast a promotion, you need a network of people who are willing and interested in following you and receiving your updates, and people are interested in people who are interested in them.  That comes way before you can effectively build your useful network of eyes (people) to see your offers. 

There is no shortcut to this. Engagement is essential.

If you have a high level of traffic into your business then you can begin to build your online network with those who are already familiar with and like what you do. 


Message

Knowing clearly what the single message is that you want people to know about your business is vital to being able to create the types of content and target that message to get to the people who want to know about it. 

If your products and services are geared to satisfying customers who are male, 30 - 50 and single then your message is going to be significantly different and needs to be in front of another set of people than if you were looking to develop a network of senior citizens with an interest in buying a retirement unit. 

For social media your business can use successfully, you need a clear message and a clear persona of who your content is meant to delight and help solve their plight.  

Content 

It's fantastic that we all have cameras  with us now everywhere we go. What's not so good is the confusion that this can bring about. Your products and services need more than just Instagram photos to show them off well.  Some products are easier than others to capture well in an image. Professional images need to be a priority for some uses online. That's your website, your promotional material and some other work you might want to share as a template that you can adapt and re-use.  If you are selling meals, professional product photography is an art form. Not an iPhone filter. 

Building trust is not what you get with stock photos on your website of people who don't work there. It's like a high resolution statement that your business is not to be trusted. 

Graphic design in the form of banners and marketing collateral will make you stand out as well prepared and fastidious, and your own photos taken through the day supplement these to show you as being real. 

The topics you will write about, the articles that you curate and share with a comment, all of these add up to elements of your content and context marketing. This is a critical part of your online marketing strategy and needs proper resourcing and skills, and experience to do well. 

Platform

Don't like Twitter but like Facebook? That may be irrelevant. If your people who love what you do and are potential customers love Instagram, you better learn to like it too.  Remember this social thing is not about playing on Facebook, it is work and it is about having your business in the right place at the right time for the right people. I notice that when people tell me they don't like a platform, it follows that they don't understand it and have no idea how to use it properly. Opportunity, once it is seen, is hard not to like. 

Online is alive too. 

No matter how much we might like being online, many times the people we would like to get to know and develop some influence with are not online. Or not yet on the platforms that we might prefer. Consider how you will bring people online from offline so they can follow you and make your business updates part of their day. Enrolling people to your online properties, signage, promoting online profiles offline... all of these are part of your online business marketing.

Research

It doesn't matter what you know today, there is much you don't know about how to make this work for your business. Whatever you know today, be sure, that it will not be the same a month from now. This online environment changes by the hour. What tricks some are using to work today, will work against businesses tomorrow. Count on that. What won't change is a good strategy. Your tactics might flex, but the strategy will see you through that in good health  Staying up-to-date with these changes is a full time job and not one that many businesses have either the time or the understanding to manage well. 

Research is an ongoing facet of the online marketing space and this must have a place in your marketing process. 

Each of these topics above mean hours and hours of work to prepare, to promote and to get really good at in your business. 

You can try to cover off on all of these things alone, or you get some help to do more and get to your goals faster, and with less hassle.  One more thing help buys us is a fresh set of eyes. That can be just the thing we need to find our way out of the maze that is social marketing. 

Money for jam

Once you have established your working network online, you have the basis of your own business sales channel. You can then feed it and help it grow. 

That's something you can't buy ... but you can fund. 

And it can be amazing!

Related posts:
How to start blogging for business - and what to write about
10 Steps To Local Marketing Online
The Dirty Secrets Business Needs To Know About Social Media
Why You Need To Build Your Mailing List And How To Do It
How To Get Your Local Business Found Online
How-To: Developing A Social Media Strategy For Marketing
Quick & Dirty Business Review
Test Your Website For Roadworthiness
What You Should Know About Social Media For Business




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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Your Reputation Is Another Asset Of Your Business. Manage It!


Way back I did a presentation on The Greatest Asset In Your Business - an asset that is very often overlooked. It was about the customer database and of keeping in touch with customers. Many times this is the biggest asset a business has to leverage. Too often though, it is not treated as even an item - not configured within a marketing database that can be effectively used to generate more sales, with too little information saved  that could be creating more sales, more referrals and higher profits for the company.

In the short time since I wrote that the world has changed and I would now give equal weight to an allied aspect of any business, which is reputation.

Nowadays, reputation is not just an issue relating to people who are familiar with your business, but can also be a factor that determines new business that you do - or won't - get. Yes, it is that important. Your business can be under discussion far and wide on social media channels online and offline too. Yet too many businesses have no way to know what is being said about them, be it good or bad.  While other businesses are getting uplift - these businesses are not even in consideration.  And every customer who wanted to complain but didn't say anything is saying plenty to their friends and network.

We like to think that we have control over what happens around communications about our business but in truth, that isn't always the case. It rarely is.

Many businesses are still not actively engaged  online and for some there is a mistaken belief that not being active online somehow prevents anything "going wrong" for their business online. They can't make a mistake and say the wrong thing. They may believe that the business not being online means that others can't talk about it.

Of course that's not the case at all.

For any business using the internet to advantage their business, it is important  - but not always the reality - to  be well trained in the use of platforms and really understand the nuance of communicating effectively online and not just learning as you go along without guidance. Things can go pear-shaped rather quickly.  How you get that training is another issue. To get proper training look for real engagement online. Don't be fooled by the advertising they are doing, or the poor quality posts they put online. Look for some personal expertise in their writing, not just banal auto posted quotes and cute pictures.  Look for engagement and association with knowledgeable people in the industry.

For a business not using the internet to advantage their business, the chances are they are uninformed about the traps that they can still fall into, even though they are not participating online. In other words, they are not getting any benefit for the business by using the internet in their marketing - but can still be subjected to the downside risk.

 Things To Keep In Mind For Your Business In The Online Space


Just because you are using the online networks to promote your business, does not mean that every comment on your page will be favourable. Learning how to manage potential friction online is important.

Posting topics on your Facebook or Twitter wall, is not a guarantee that everyone will either agree or like what you post.

There is a view that some business owners online seem to have that anyone commenting on their posts  should only say something that agrees with them. That is not only unrealistic, it also shows a lack of understanding of how the online environment works in practice.

Some people are prone to posting hostile comments. Learning to deal with those situations is part of the training you need to have. Managing online communities is not a casual business and is a skilled ability. It seems easy enough when only your close friends and family are engaging but that's not what will always happen.

Other people may post comments that don't agree with your view. They may not be hostile but the unwary business owner or account manager may not know how to defuse that situation.  Not agreeing is actually a potential starter for a good discussion on your page. While things are kept civil agreement does not always need to happen.  Keep in mind that some platforms - the best ones - do not allow you to remove bad reviews but you can respond to them. This can actually work in your favour in the long run. It shows the reviews to be more 'real'.  False reviews are also now illegal, which is something to keep in mind if you are tempted to game the system.

Our impulse can be to jump to a defensive posture and not really understand the comment, and assume it is hostile when this was not intended. Some delete comments and reviews they don't like. That's no way to run a business account on social media,.

Deleting comments we don't like. Attacking those who don't agree with us. These are just two ways not to be tempted to use when managing social media accounts.

Monitoring Your Reputation Online 

Knowing what is being said about the business online is part of managing a reputation for a business.

To know what is being said, alerts can help and monitoring your brand online is essential.  Those deleting comments they don't like or even deleting their own business page (which happens!) is no protection and can make you and your business even more of a target for comments against you.

Just because you don't have a place online for people to complain about your business, does not mean that complaints can not be made on other platforms, websites and discussion groups.

It is all too easy to confuse social media for business with 'playing on Facebook'. Social media is the best opportunity business has ever had access to use to improve their reach for new business. It is not a game, and it requires a professional approach, a steady hand and respect as part of the essential operation divisions of the business.


Related articles

Get your business on Google ...free!
5 tips that will improve your website performance 
Local business: Tips to online marketing 
Getting started with your business blog
Social media help for your business



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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Paid + Organic Search The Big Winner For Business

Get your business found on the web banner www.lindyasimus.com


Many companies have moved to using the web successfully, but are paying high prices for paid advertisements on Google.  Yet the same companies are nowhere when it comes to earned placement on Google in organic search.

If you are paying for ad campaigns on Google, improving your organic reach too, can multiply the effectiveness of your Pay Per Click ads. So - if you have a budget for paid search, it makes a lot of sense to take the extra step of making the most of the potential for organic search too.

There is ongoing debate on whether paid links get more clicks than organic links on search, the smart business owner will hedge their bets - and make sure if they are already committed to paying for results, that they also have the free clicks covered too. And if you have paid advertisements on Google AND your business comes up in the organic search - that's peace of mind for the customer and means they have more ways to check out your business and feel confident that your business is trustworthy and reliable.

Paying for ads while basic SEO is not done

When I am reviewing websites for clients, it often happens that the website they have been using for some years is missing vital basic code and features that would make the site perform much better. These basic simple changes don't cost or even require a whole remodel of a site, just the insertion of the right information in the right place.  These changes are in the page code and are for Google,  not visible on the page by a user.

Other incremental changes to the layout or content of the website on the page for viewers can also dramatically improve the performance of the website. Together, these small changes can give the business a lot more bang for their advertising buck.

To look at it another way, not fixing these basic issues on the website would be like turning on heaters in all the rooms in the house and then leaving all the doors and windows wide open.  It can warm the house somewhat, but wastes a lot of money for a poorer result than might be achieved with just closing some of the areas that are letting the heat out.


So your website performance can help your business get found by those searching for what you do. That's pulling people in.  Social media on the other hand can push people who were not already looking to see what you have on offer. That Pull + Push element can multiply your traffic to your site again.

Not only does social put your business in front of social contacts you know - it also puts your business in front of people who they know!


Not just what you say but also how you say it

In improving your organic search you will be adding content (which Google loves). You need to have information on the website that informs those searching for what you sell. It should be written in a way that is a match for what customers would search for, makes sense to them, and provides them with useful information to satisfy their query. Your website also needs to have fresh information added regularly so that Google will keep coming back to index the website.  A simple way to keep your website both fresh and relevant is to add a blog.  Authentic reviews or testimonials reinforce your social standing, and this is becoming the new currency of value. You want to be seen as The Authority on what you do. The go-to guy or gal.

Now it is easy to fall for the spiel of the consultants selling advertising online. Your role as the business owner is to ensure that you get the advice that is good for you - not just the advice that is good for the advertising consultant.  With your PPC you want to be paying for the words that you want - and not paying for the words that are not useful to you, as many are. That's a whole other issue though, one for another time.

The internet is such a fantastic tool for business. Use it well, and be successful as you can be!



Related articles

Claim your free business listing on Google ... before someone else does! 
5 tips that will improve your website performance 
Local business: Tips to online marketing 
Getting started with your business blog
Social media help for your business

 


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  Subscribe to Actionbites Blog

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Life Coaching Articles


Apart from my personal blogs I also contribute to a popular UK women's blog Birds On The Blog.  I write on business and life coaching topics and I thought I'd post a collection of some recent articles on personal coaching topics to share with you here. 


A healthy relationship with money can make for a much easier life in the long term. Do you really understand your beliefs around money?




It surprises me that even now I still see people claiming that Twitter is all about people saying what they had for breakfast. Twitter reflects who we choose to follow and what level of engagement we bring to that platform. We pick it. We can change it whenever we like. 

Our relationships too, don't just happen. We have the freedom to make of them what we will... 




The future is not yet written but its easy for us to predict the worst and plant all the things we don't want to happen as being in our future.  A better idea is to develop a future with memories you want to make happen! 




We love to work to become expert in what we do. But not matter how experienced we are, when the paradigm shifts and the way things get done we all go back to being beginners and face the challenge to learn the new ways... 



Single mothers can face a lot of bad feelings and judgment by people who don't know them. Not all single mothers are unmarried teenagers or a menace to society but that's often the message that we get about these women raising their children alone... 





Life is neither good nor bad but we can look at it as though it is. We can expect the best to happen, or the worst. Life doesn't care, but the effect on the choices we make, and the way we feel can be affected dramatically by how we view the world. The good news is that you have the ability to alter these frames ...
Optimism, pessimism and finding a realistic frame to see life through





Internal dialogue is that internal 'voice' that tells us we can do something- or we can't. It can help us or it can keep us down and afraid to try new things, or hope too much. You can use it to help you. Here's how...

Lies we tell ourselves ... Mastering Self Talk

For assistance with personal or business coaching  contact Lindy Asimus.



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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

No Money And No Time In Your Business?




Too little money or too little time? 


What's the problem with your business that stops you doing the things you want to do?

There are so many different facets to running a business that can stymie our attempts to have the business that we most want.  Michael Gerber outlined this well in his book The E-Myth and referred to the entrepreneurial myth that exists - where business owners are often acting more like technicians in their business, than they are operating as entrepreneurs.

Too Little Money In The Business

It's often the case when I speak with business owners about the activities in their business that are not happening or don't have budget allocated to them to enable the business to be more effective, that there is simply "no money" for that activity.

No money is a clear sign that the business is not operating at the level it needs to be to deserve the amount of time and effort going into it.

The conundrum with this is that the business won't be able to operate optimally, when it is starved of the money and resources it needs to carry out all of the functions it need to do to be healthy and productive.

Funding for the essential elements of the business is not an optional or "nice to have" expense. It is part of the cost of doing business, and is as necessary to a healthy business, as good food and good lifestyle choices are.

Let's look at the various activities in a business that are vital.

Production
If you create products or make things to sell, or whatever it is that your business does at an operational level, it needs to be able to provide a consistent quality product and output. That might mean ensuring materials for the production is working right and you have all the materials you need to produce what you make. It will include the right levels of staffing to ensure that you can maintain the levels of production you need and ensure that customer are able to buy what you sell when they need it and when they want it. If your business distributes product that others make then your inventory will be important too - you want to have sufficient stocks to cover you for your sales and for the period between when orders can be delivered to you so that you have stock to sell, but not piles of money invested in stock sitting around not selling.

Administration
Let's include things like purchasing well in this section. Buying well with not only the right amount of stock, but also at the right price and the best deals you can arrange with your suppliers. There is no "one price" when it comes to negotiating terms and you need to be good at getting the best arrangement you can - and monitoring the suppliers to ensure they deliver at the price negotiated and the quantities specified and the terms agreed upon. Trust is not appropriate at this time and you need to make sure that you are getting what you have ordered.

Admin duties around accounts payable, and best times to pay without making payments too soon or too late and gaining a reputation as a poor customer who can't be trusted.  Ensuring that employees in these positions are on top of their game and not skimming money out of the business - yes it happens surprisingly often - is another of the responsibilities of the owner or manager.

Compliance obligations
Employee benefits and pay rates, managing rosters and staff performance are all things that need to be done, and are not optional, for a healthy business. 

Sales performance
Recruiting well - the right people for the right job, training in product and soft skills. These are vital to the business selling the most they can and at the right price. Discounting is often a sign of poor sales skills and poor preparation and training  - or dud products and lack of understanding of what is of value to customers. Independent businesses are unlikely to be able to compete on prices for the same stock as large companies and online stores, so product differentiation and sales experience for customers in store and in your online store is the key to being relevant to customers. While sales and relationship with customers is where the money flows into the business, there is often precious little training being done to optimise that transaction period during the sale, and in the after sale period.

Marketing
Marketing is like the lungs of the business. Just as you breathe without thinking about it so too your marketing should be happening ongoing and all the time - not just when you think about it. Not just when you remember. That wouldn't work for your breathing - and it won't work for your business.

What we call marketing now has changed too. The channels for marketing and activities of marketing are much broader now.  Your website, your online social profiles and your ability to engage with both customers and potential customers is much more community based now and the ability to be seen by friends of those who are customers has never been more available to business. That can work superbly for a business doing right by customers - or brand you as a dud if you are not treating your customers in a good way and providing them with good products at prices that are fair and consistent with the wider marketplace. Think you will overcharge for products that are available anywhere and you are dead in the water. Customers know what things cost, so treat them like intelligent people they are. Social media is another facet of business activity, not a game. It needs to be treated with the same respect and professional training as every other aspect of the business.

Customer Service 
Customers pay the wages. Customers pay all the wages. That doesn't mean they are not a pain in the neck sometimes but that's part of managing the business. Providing a service or products in a way that is easy for customers to get what they want without a lot of hassle. That's your job as the business owner or manager to ensure. If customers are regularly complaining about the same things, then it's time to take notice of the feedback and fix whatever is causing the problem. That doesn't mean you put up with customers treating you badly as there is no reason to accept that as part of the day, but developing the soft skills of your staff and having good customer-friendly policies and protocols will help with that. Customers can't fix the problems in your business, you must.

Training is a basic part of running a successful business

What happens when you have a well trained and competent workforce in your business?

Each of these areas of the business outlined require a high degree of good management within the business. That means ensuring that good policies and procedures are in place that serve a desired purpose for the business. Not just haphazard, not just "we do it this way because that's just how we do it". That's not good managing that is letting the business down and bad for the business.


Good management compounds the advantages to the business. 

The upside of good management. Good staff, well trained with checks and balances in place and with good governance and oversight by a good manager has many rewards.

It means efficiency in the operational matters within the business.
It means high sales conversions and best margins possible are attained.
It means product mix and pricing is right for customers.
It means customers feel welcome to shop with you and feel confident they are being respected and well served.
It means optimised profit for the business.

And the spin off for the owner? As well as all that ... it means that you have time to think. Time to focus on the things that only you can do.

It means that you can get time away from the business. You manage your business instead of the business dictating what you can do with your time. 

It means that you have the pressure off and the time to act as the CEO of your business, and not one of the hired hands.

That's a gain in the health of the business.
And a gain for you in Time and Money. 

And that's a nice place to be.

Related

Online coaching and how to choose a coach that's right for you
Prepare your business now to sell it later for the best price 
Your business plan needs a compelling vision to drive it
Manage your effectiveness as a manager with coaching 
New habits are the foundation to motivation and successful change 



Like to discuss your business?
Lindy Asimus
0403 365 855
Subscribe to Actionbites Blog

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Business and Life Coaching: What To Look For When You Choose A Coach



It's important for coaches to keep an eye on what's happening in the marketplace and how coaching is perceived as well as what's important for those seeking to work with a coach.

"My business has been going for ten years but I feel like for the past few years I just don't have any passion for it and don't really know what to do about it."

That's part of the story of a recent business owner who called me about coaching.

Did he want to sell the business and do something else, I asked

"I don't even know what I want to do..." was the reply.

That will be  the part of what we work on together.

This is such a common issue that doesn't get much airing in stories in the media. Many business owners can be doing as much business as they want and not suffer at all from a lack of business to do but while the business may be ticking along quite well, and yet still have more capacity to do better, the will and drive may not be there. The business owner can feel great frustration and stuck  in a place they would prefer not to be.

Similar feelings of frustration may be the lot of managers who are in paid employment and getting quite a good salary  but feeling unmotivated, unexcited about life and work and frustrated but not sure why or what to do about it.


Who looks for a coach to work with to improve business issues?

The reasons people seek out coaching are varied. The type of coaching that they will find most beneficial will not be wrapped up on a fixed program of 'one-size-fits-all' packaged programs that clients conform to, whether they are relevant or not. Finding the right coach for the right person at the right time in their life is a tricky business.

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald highlighted the problems that some have found in their experience with different coaches.  A common complaint was that the coaching pushed them through exercises that didn't relate to their problem areas and didn't adequately address those areas they did have a need to work on.

Problems were identified with pre-programmed recorded 'webinars' that apparently people are paying between $7,000 and $20,000 for and they are just automated and are not personalised to the client's needs.

People Don't Come In One Size

Pushing people through a 'sausage factory' system is not coaching. It is a system for turning  people into commodities and selling snake oil dressed up as something it isn't, to people who need something it can't do.

Another business woman complained that in her coaching experience she had paid $100,000 over three years to learn that her coaching was not tailored to her needs.

Which brings me to the reason I thought this was worth writing about.

Coaches - be they business coaches,  or life coaches all bring a different product to market. If they are part of a franchise, they bring a system that is sold to people who may or may not have any personal skills in coaching, who can follow the proprietary system.  This may or may not be consistent with what you need but it is the System they use and that's what you can expect to get.  Some of these plans lock you in for a set amount for the full year - even if you pull out because you find it of no value.

That's a red flag right there.

Common Thoughts On Selecting a Coach 

Some will tell you that to find a coach to work with you should make sure they have this and that academic qualification  and other such criteria covered to base your decision on. Now I don't know about you, but I know many academics. Their academic achievements don't always reflect a broader range of personal skills and business experience that coaching can benefit from.

Often in coaching engagements there are needs for not only an academic approach - but also a intuitive capacity to identify blocks and beliefs issues that may be constraining the client, which allows the client to access perspectives that were new and useful in moving past the limitations to open up new possibilities - and close down non productive thinking patterns. At other times practical knowledge and problem-solving skills are required to be of value to the client.

When I read about the business woman paying $100,000 over three years only to come to the conclusion that the coach was not tailoring the coaching to her, my first response was a bit of amusement really.  That is a fantastic learning that she made, but it also illuminates the value of a good coaching arrangement.

Measuring What Matters When Choosing a Coach 

With a tailored approach, $100,000 over three years is like paying for a junior member of staff for that time, but with the right coach, the growth in sales and value of the business could be several multiples or more of the expense, not counting the value in personal growth of the business owner.

The wrong coaching program, the one with no tailoring your coaching to your specific needs, has no capacity to deliver the results you want so is of no value no matter what the cost. It fails the fundamental basis of coaching which is to help you move from your current circumstance to one that you prefer. To do that you and your coach need to know where that is!

Perhaps John Ruskin said it best:

"There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that person's lawful prey. It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money - that is all. 

When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. 

The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot  - it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you that you will have enough to pay for something far better." 

What Does a Good Coaching Arrangement Look Like?

A good coaching arrangement would be empowering that business woman over this time to be able to distinguish good methods for making decisions and developing her skills in reasoning and applying those skills to her immediate environment.  That is, how to assess upfront what is a good arrangement. how to verify that your strategy is effective and how to avoid situations where finding the real value of something doesn't happen three years after you have been doing it, but instead lets you develop a strong and ongoing method for checking your results and measuring these against a benchmark that is of value to you personally. It should meet your criterion in both objective and subjective manner and be a fit for your values and the outcomes that you want.to achieve.

Your coaching should be aiding your personal evolution and developing your personal abilities to think and operate more effectively in your own life.

For the client who called me this who is experiencing frustration a lack of purpose, his experience with attending motivational seminars and previous coaching that left him feeling like he was there to help the coach work out their own personal issues - it can be tough to find that right match of a coach that has the specific strengths that one needs,  Personally, I think a values match is good as a start point and  yet that alone is not enough.

Your Worldview As It Applies In Coaching

Your coach also needs to have the ability to meet you in your map of the world and be able to see how it looks through your eyes - in order to understand the best way to tailor your coaching to make progress using a language that you understand and makes sense, informed by your experience and internal drivers.

You can't get an automated 'webinar'  or sausage factory approach, that will ever, ever replace the right human being at the right moment in time, with the right skills to give you a hand to find some new ways to the better place you want to be.

We who choose to work coaching others do well to keep that in mind and be willing to go to the effort of providing responsive coaching methods and flexible pricing options that don't seek to trick clients into buying something that doesn't and can't fit their needs.


Related

Online coaching and how to choose a coach that's right for you
Prepare your business now to sell it later for the best price 
You business plan needs a compelling vision to drive it
Manage your effectiveness as a manager with coaching 
New habits are the foundation to motivation and successful change 


Lindy Asimus
0403 365 855
Lindy Asimus Business Coaching

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Lindy Asimus
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