The “Now What? Situation” for a business owner

Over the last two years I have been coaching a number of business owners that reached a point in their business when things were OK, they were working in the business that started months or years earlier and, like many others, started asking themselves what to do next.  Some of them lost some of their initial enthusiasm because of a number of different reasons; others wanted or needed to move their business to the next level and they were lacking the necessary skills or inspiration.

This is what I define the Now What? Situation, affecting at some point most business owners. The Now What? Situation can have serious repercussions for those that fail to react or, better, prevent it and take the necessary steps at the right time.

Starting a business in the UK is relatively easy, compared to other areas of Europe where I have direct experience, thanks to the minimum bureaucracy involved.  Most individuals with an idea for a service or a product to sell can start trading in a fast and straightforward way.

“Small businesses are over a quarter of all enterprises in the UK: over 520 thousand enterprises in 2009 were Sole Proprietors.  That represented a small decrease of 0.4% compared to 2008, in favour of Corporate Business, representing 58.2% of total enterprises (2.15 million)” (source  Statistics.Gov.Uk)

When the proposition is interesting and many customers are buying into the business then growth can be significant and soon the person with the initial idea and passion is no longer a service provider or product seller: he/she is an entrepreneur.  At the beginning things are exciting, there is a honey moon period that can last sometimes many months or even years. At the end of the bootstrap time there is a need to face a transition period that often catches the entrepreneur unprepared.

There are obviously substantial differences in running a business with you as the only decision maker compared to a company with partners, managers and staff.  Some key points to be addresses during the transition from the micro business and a larger operation are issues like:

  • How to grow: by recruiting staff or subcontracting?
  • When the decision is about recruiting how can you guarantee to look for the right kind of staff?
  • Can activities like admin, invoicing, book keeping and customer service be subcontracted to virtual assistants or other service companies?
  • Many people have no formal management experience: what is the best way of managing staff in order to maximise their skills and performance?
  • Does the business model need changing? If so how to plan and execute the change plan?
  • How to best implementing sales, pricing and positioning strategies?

Coaching can help virtually all business owners involved in a Now What? Situation.

The coaching approach offers a resourceful set of tools, a self directed learning approach that allows to build on the exact current situation, explore alternatives and pin down what needs to be done, establishing and instilling an accountability process.

When coaching a business owner it is very important recognising two key aspects:

  • Each individual person or business is unique in its way of being, operating and approaching the market: patterns and templates can be applied but a blank page approach is always easier to start with.
  • There will be strong emotional feelings about the business as it was initially started and resistance about how it should be changed for the future.

A business owner, working over a period of three or six months, assisted by a professional coach can be helped to define the exact path about how to move the business to the next level.  In short it is about changing a Now What? Situation into a Now I Know What should be done and I am doing it.

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This post was written by MaGa Coaching on 18 May 2010

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Presentation: grow your business with a coaching group

Please join us for this presentation at David Lloyds on Friday 23 April at 10am (more info when you enter the booking form): it may change the way you work.  Running your own business, being your own boss, has great advantages: freedom, independence, autonomy and financial rewards.

At the same time it is easy to get caught into a spiral of activities that are wasting your precious time, procrastination, lack of focus, motivation or inspiration; so if you are:

  • a business owner/partner in a small business, perhaps trading for a few months;
  • contractor or freelance in the marketing/creative industry;
  • thinking of starting a new business in the marketing/creative industry;

You will find very interesting the possibilities that a highly focussed coaching group can offer to you and your business.  Please have a look at the following questions:

  • are you working hard and making less money than you deserve?
  • have you ever asked yourself why some people work hard and barely survive while others seem to be thriving while working a just few hours per day?
  • do you think there is space for improvement in your efficiency and effectiveness?
  • would you like to work more on your business rather than in your business?

If you answered yes to two or more of the above you should come along.

This one hour presentation will be run by Massimo Gaetani, business and executive coach, founder of MaGa Coaching.  The presentation will show you the tangible benefits of how working within a coaching group, facilitated by a professional business coach, can help growing your business, focussing on essential profitable activities and being accountable toward yourself in achieving important milestones.

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This post was written by MaGa Coaching on 18 March 2010

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11 questions to ask before hiring a business coach

More and more people are nowadays becoming accustomed to the idea that businesses can be coached and effectively helped to enhance their performance, in a broad range of business management areas.  As the market is still totally unregulated many people are defining themselves coaches overnight without feeling the need of proper training.  This could have serious consequences for you and your business if you happen to hire one of these cowboys.  So if you are considering using the skills of a business coach to help you and your business to be more successful I am listing here are some questions to assess his/her experience and credibility:

  1. what coaching qualifications do you hold?
  2. what can I get from my business while being coached by you?
  3. on what topics can you advise me about my business?
  4. what areas of my business can you coach?
  5. will I be coached on one area at a time?
  6. in what areas do you specialise?
  7. how long have you been coaching for?
  8. how many clients have you coached to date?
  9. have you coached a similar business before?
  10. what is your background before you started coaching?
  11. do you offer packages or do you charge on a on going basis?

Listed below are some acceptable answers you could be getting; your personal expectations will have a key role in deciding what is acceptable for you:

  1. I hold a Business Coaching Training Certificate from Results Coaching System” or “I qualified as a coach from the Coaching Academy”.  Anybody can start selling his/her services without really being a qualified coach: unfortunately many people are currently doing it.  Having a qualification from a recognised and respectable coaching training institution will guarantee you to be dealing with a real coach not just somebody who defines himself/herself a coach.
  2. anything realistically achievable that you are willing to commit time and resources to” or “it will depend on what you would like to achieve”: coaching will help you to move from a current situation to an expected, measurable and tangible  outcome.  In any case the coach cannot know, before hand, what your business needs; you are the only person that should be taking the decision about where your business should be going.  Feel sound suspicious if the coach speculates on the expected outcome.
  3. as a coach I don’t advise, I ask questions and help you to find your own answers”: coaching is all about asking questions and not advising.  A person that advises is not a coach but perhaps a mentor, consultant or trainer.
  4. business  coaching can help businesses owners to work on a broad range of areas, such as sales, marketing, operations, customer care, soft skills, conflict resolution, motivation, personal performance of individuals and teams: the question is… what areas would you like to be coached on?”: the main role for the coach is to inspire you on your decisions about what to do and ensuring that it gets done, ensuring accountability.
  5. I usually help my clients to set 2-3 goals in different areas to ensure of keeping them  fully engaged in the business coaching process: it can happen that certain weeks there will be more progress on one goal than another;  in any case you will be involved, nearly on a daily basis, in some activities that are about your progress toward your goals”: working on a single goal can be prone to times when no progress in being made and it can cause a drop in motivation.
  6. I work primarily with owners and senior managers of small and medium businesses that would like to boost their performance and take their business to the next level”: it’s always advisable dealing with somebody that has clear idea of a specific positioning for his job.
  7. “I have been coaching for 3 and half years, full time for the last 2”: coaching is a relatively new profession and the few top qualified coaches in the UK have been coaching for just a bit more that ten years.  Therefore 2-3 years experience can be considered a substantial and reliable level of expertise, particularly if supported by a serious business management background.
  8. I worked to date with 13 businesses and on average they increased their profits by 23% in 6 months
  9. yes, a company operating in the same field and with similar size and turnover” or “I have never worked specifically with companies similar to yours: nonetheless the fundamental of coaching and business management are the same”: while most people would expect the first answer to be ideal the second one fits perfectly a  coaching scenario.  If you consider that coaching is all about you and your business, without suggestions or advises, the hands on experience with a similar company is not as relevant as you might expect.
  10. I have over 15 years of management experience in junior, senior and board positions in small to large enterprises”: It is essential for a business coach to have some solid hands-on experience in running businesses in a senior role.  Ideally a mix of experience in different sectors and sizes of companies will help the coach to have a richer background that will enable him/her to be more adaptable to your business.  This kind of experience helps the coach to bond quickly and naturally with the client because they can speak the same business jargon.
  11. I offer several packages like business, executive and personal coaching based on 12 sessions developed over 3 to 6 months”: open ended contracts, where you start one day and don’t know when you finish, are reflecting the working methodology of therapists: they are also encouraging the coach to keep you engaged as long as possible in order to make more money off you.

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This post was written by massimo on 3 October 2009

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Accountability and clarity of distance: where self coaching fails

I was recently at an event where David Hyner, a well known and respected coach, was explaining his model for self coaching for which he defined the Massive Goal Principle.   David has interviewed in his life a number of top achievers from all walks of life and he derived from them this methodology.

Within an hour of intense and interesting explanation he highlighted a well organized technique that involved a pyramidal structure of concepts and metrics about planning and execution for the achievement of your own big goal.

While I was fascinated by the good structure and the level of charisma that David managed to establish in a venue filled with nearly 50 business people I started thinking about a few simple concepts, mostly biased by my experience and training:

  • Given a large number of people, for each great achiever in that group there are hundreds or thousand that in spite of motivation, inspiration, luck and a number of other factors did not achieve what they planned.  Dan Brown had one of the characters of his novel “The Da Vinci Code” stating that: “history is written by winners”: by the same metric I would say that great achievers are well known or become famous but who tried equally hard with poorer results won’t be mentioned too much.
  • If we look around we’ll notice that many people are not trying to achieve anything great and they are happy to “survive”: having a relatively easy life, a job to pay bills, never challenging themselves and drift along.
  • Most people fail at achieving something because of a number of factors and accountability to themselves and motivation tend to be low or inexistent, even when the initial purpose was good.

In business as well as in life people tend to think in terms of goals: what to do (I want to run a marathon), learn (I want a degree or a new qualification), achieve (I want to raise my turnover by 30% or having a £100K job) and so on.  In reality how many times did you hear somebody saying that she will start dieting, exercising or wasting less time on meaning less tasks at work and so on and so on?

I have even encountered last year an online product that offers, for a fee, a structured coaching program that supposedly helps a pair of friend to set up a mutual coaching programme, establishing goals for each other and coaching each other toward their achievement.  The only experience I have is of two friends of mine who decided to try this and within a few weeks their goals, although if reasonably well defined collapsed for lack of consistency from both parts: committing to a close friend was not felt strong enough and the so-called coaching sections were merely friendly chats without a structure and a time frame.

Self coaching, following a personal commitment or written instructions from a book or online, fails because of the lack of two main factors:

  1. accountability: we tend to promise to ourselves, often in good faith, that we’ll do this and the other.  Many people tend to over commit themselves about their “to do” list: frequently this can cause stress, anxiety or apathy toward the particular task.  Ultimately these are just promises we do to ourselves.  Let’s see 2 examples:
    1. I tell to myself that I will get up at 7AM and go for a run.  I can be the kind of person who does it or, as it can happen, when the alarm clock goes off I might simply ignore it.
    2. I agree with my friend Mark to meet at 7 and go for a run: it becomes an appointment with somebody else and makes me accountable toward him; as I do not want to let Mark down and I will be there at 7.
  2. clarity of distance: when I am involved in a decision about myself it is usually difficult to be objective about the direction to take: think at examples like changing job, deciding upon an important purchase or committing on a business strategy.  An external, detached, person can often see very objectively your situation and come out with a decision that, perhaps, you would not like and take that easily.  The clarity of distance is natural if you are completely extraneous to a person rather than a friend or a relative.  In fact who knows you very well and has exposure to a historical knowledge of what brought you to the decision, might be as biased as you are about it.

The above reasons are offering the perfect case for using a professional coach to help one’s decision process: the coach has (really, should have) qualification and experience to help your decision process and help you to:

  • commit yourself to challenging, realistic and measurable goals
  • ensure that you are accountable toward yourself and the coach
  • when you stuck in an important decision the coach will have the clarity of distance to facilitate your decision by helping your thinking process

Professional Coaching offers structured and time framed sessions that, like short business meetings, are designed to take decision and plan actions.  Coaching is based on questions, powerful questions that help you deciding and committing on what to do: whether you are ponderating the options about the next acquisition for your company, how to plan for a new start-up or what to do next in your career a coach can ensure your thinking process is always at its best.

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This post was written by massimo on 25 June 2009

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