The business support conundrum

I am in awe of business owners. Ever since I broke away from a career in the City I realised the real heros were not economists or investment managers it is business owners who are the lifeblood of the economy, creating value, jobs and contributing to their local community.

It was with trepidation that I entered the world of small business ownership after a move up north following the birth of my 2 kids. I realised pretty quickly I didn’t have the skills to compete in this market and initially found it difficult.  I also increased my respect for those people who run these businesses massively.

However, within the world of SME’s it was pretty clear that there were two tiers of business.  Some were thriving and the others were just surviving.  The successful ones seemed to have a high degree of visibility, charge the highest fees and have the best clients.  Then there were the others where growth seemed to be a constant struggle, with much stress, long hours and generally remained under the radar.  Often these businesses were similar in terms of their product or service and experience.  The difference seemed to be that one group knew how to manage their business better than the other.

Having worked with many business owners it is amazing that, notwithstanding how good they are at what they do, how ill-prepared they are at managing their business.  But it’s actually not that surprising as there is no blueprint or training model for business owners to build a successful venture.  Many people fall into their management roles and end up muddling along, which ultimately predicts the success of the business.

It’s clear they need support.  But, sadly for many organisations training and development is seen as an expense rather that an investment. And, for those who are ambitious and open to the idea of support, where do they go?  There are certainly no shortages of options.  In my early experiences of networking it was quite common to find more business support services than business owners.

This in itself creates a big challenge for business owners.  They know what they want- clients growth, revenue and free time.  But they don’t specifically know what type of support will make this happen.

On my own journey I have invested in things that I can now see would never deliver what I needed.  CRM systems, business coaches, social media experts to name a few.  They all promise to “take your business to the next level” but rarely do so.  The irony is they are all valuable elements of running a successful business but, on their own and independent of each other, they simply won’t solve the problem.

What makes this worse for the struggling business is that they invest their limited budget in something that could never give them what they want.  After trying and failing some of these initiatives they, quite understandably, revert back to muddling along themselves as they can’t afford to get burnt again.

So what is the answer?  Sadly there is no quick fix.  The first step is understanding what you are trying to achieve and what that will entail.  Once you have this in place you can set about building it with the right support.  The, rather boring, phrase “working on your business not in it” is extremely relevant.  Businesses just don’t spend enough time planning then implementing key business activities.

The approach we use at Refine is based on the following stages

  1. Define goal
  2. Build framework
  3. Add systems and processes
  4. Then accountability and targets.
  5. Finally ongoing management and improvement.

If you would like to test your current business development practices, take our short on line quiz to see where you currently sit

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