I am a business coach, and I have seen many business owners come and go, especially over this crazy past couple of years that have challenged us like never before!
What I have definitely learnt is not to be complacent! When I think of what Covid and being in lockdown taught us…and a word we’ve all heard more than we’d probably like, is to “PIVOT” .
This word, whilst it makes me cringe now, actually saved my business. You see, I was in recruitment, and when Covid hit, whilst some recruitment agencies were making hay while the sun was shining (the likes of Techies were in huge demand) I was specialising in Fashion Retail, and with physical stores being closed for long periods over lockdown, so too was my livelihood.
My multiple 6 figure business had literally come to a grinding halt! So, what did I do? I lost sleep that’s for sure, I slipped into a state of depression and anxiety, worrying about how I was going to survive financially and support me and my tamariki. I sulked for a bit and then along came the PIVOT – I started to focus on my coaching business instead, and BOOM here we are, and I LOVE IT!
Relying on being at the right place at the right time, has worked for many and for some a real reality, but for most isn’t much of a strategy and not something we can actually rely on.
Here are some questions I would definitely recommend you ask yourself before you venture out into the world of entrepreneurship and starting your own business.
What is your WHY?
This is the holy grail right here, and you need to be really clear on why it is you want to do what you do.
- Is it to put kai on the table and pay your bills?
- Is it the freedom to do what you want when you want to? (a big one for me)
- Is it providing your tamariki with the best education, or giving them the opportunities that you wish you’d had as a kid? (another big one for me)
- Is it buying your first car or home?
The answer to the WHY question lies within only YOU! And when you know your why, everything you do anchors back to this. So, what is your WHY?
What motivates you?
Getting to a meaningful answer involves some serious self-honesty here. Commitment comes from motivation, and this is the fuel you need to get really good at something and keep you driving forward.
So many small businesses fail because they are not passionate about what they do, which means an instant decrease in the ol’ motivation department. The saying “do what you love, love what you do” definitely rings true here.
So, what motivates you?
What value can you add, and how are you communicating it?
You should be able to explain – in three sentences that Karen can clearly understand – why do customers need what you’re selling? If you can’t, you need to do some work here on gaining clarity around the value you add to others.
The reality is (and don’t take it personally) no one really cares about what you do. You have to make them care.
Be passionate, but please don’t bombard us with meaningless industry jargon and other gobbledygook that leaves us more confused.
I often refer to this as having an elevator pitch – being able to deliver what you do so compellingly, that you can grab someone’s attention in the amount of time it takes to go on an elevator ride with them. Short, sharp, punchy and passionately.
What differentiates my product or service from my competitors?
This one will help you understand and maintain your competitive advantage
Having an advantage means delivering more value than your competitors do. This can come in the form of – local business, NZ made, Pakihi Māori, lower prices, better design, instant gratification, speed to market, organic, and the list goes on.
What makes your product or service different from your competitors?
Are you using your time wisely?
You either pay in money or in time.
I learned this the hard way, trying to build my own website when I was clearly technically challenged! I spent hours, weeks, months working on it only to end in frustration and actual tears at one stage!
The choice is yours, if you’ve got time on your hands and don’t mind doing the work, then be my guest. Sometimes when we start out in business, we don’t have the funds to pay for what we need so we try and do it ourselves, but that means it is usually zapping more of your time and energy that is better well spent on moving the needle forward in your business.
I will hands down pay someone who loves what they do, to do the things that I hate. I ended up paying someone to do my website, and it was amazing and done within 3 days.
Who is your role model/s?
I am a strong believer in having a coach, and in my case – coaches and mentors! Without their support, guidance and let’s be fair – a hypothetical kick up the ass when I need it, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
One piece of valuable insight one of my coaches told me which totally resonated “don’t try and reinvent the wheel” and this has been my saving grace on so many occasions.
Somewhere, someone is “doing it right” in your industry. Learn from them and put your own spin on it.
Am I measuring the right things?
Are you measuring data at all? If not, how do you know what you are aiming for?
If the money was to stop flowing in, how long would your business be able to survive for?
Sales growth, gross margins, inventory turns, cash flow ave sale, items per sale, etc etc etc.
You really need to have some KPIs – Key Performance Indicators that are relevant to your business to establish goals and measure your performance.
It is critical to not only know where you want to go, but to produce a plan on how you’re going to get there.
Am I celebrating my success?
All too often as business owners, we are moving on to the next thing, without stopping.
To breathe, and give ourselves credit for some of the awesome progress we have had, the impact we have made and the experiences we have lived.
Take this opportunity to look back before we move forward!
- What are you most proud of and why?
- What has been your biggest learning / growth?
- What do you want to do less of or more of?
Do I have the right people?
There’s no substitute for having the right people.
Finding the time and money to train your team might seem a bit overwhelming, but if you invest in your people and give them the tools they need to be awesome at their job, they will continue to contribute to helping you to build your business.
Good pay for good work is still a good formula, however pay only goes so far. Perks and benefits are a great way to add value.
Word to the wise – If you want to get the best out of people, say “Thank you.” Genuinely ask them how they’re doing and actually listen to the answer. It doesn’t cost a thing, but to many it means the world.
Do I have the right customers?
I had one rule in my recruitment business, I DON’T WORK WITH DICKS. That was it. Some clients are better fits than others, so if one of my perspective or existing clients were being dicks to me or my team, I would say “chow, thank you but no thank you”. Life is too short.
Be clear on the types of customers/clients you CHOOSE to work with. When you are in total flow, the right customers will come your way.
Am I truly utilising technology to my advantage?
Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. If I knew back then what I know now about systems and automation, I would have saved myself a lot of time and misspent energy.
In short: systems win, heroes don’t.
Can the business function without me?
If you want to run a successful, growing business the answer should be “Hell YES.”
It means you have dependable people and awesome systems and processes in place.
This is freedom at its absolute finest.
Are you willing to tap out?
If you’ve done everything that you can possibly do, rallied the support of everyone that you possibly could and it still doesn’t work out, you need to know that’s ok.
It just means you swallow your pride and tap out of this project, look back at your key learnings, and come back stronger with your new and improved idea!
When you hit this stage, go back to question 1 and revisit your WHY. This should give you all the encouragement you need.
In fact, go back as often as you can to question to keep yourself in check 😊