What if my business grows and I don’t?

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

What if my business grows and I don’t? This week a long-standing client, entrepreneurial to his fingertips, who has tripled turnover in the time I have known him, said: “I have decided the sweetspot for employing people is between £18k and £30k”. We were talking about shifting invoicing responsibility into Finance at the time and […]


Why employees don’t listen

Friday, August 18th, 2017

A client is making great strides with his systemisation – but he was a little disappointed with the results of a recent planning meeting with his managers – he thinks his employees don’t listen. They went through the business plan and discussed every manager’s one number. Sales have one number to hit.  Design have one […]


Running aground with every tide

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Three recent events prompt me to return to the topic of cash flow forecasting. Firstly, a client who is perpetually short of cash in his business. He has had some bad payers and a couple of bad debts but we have sorted his credit control processes out now. Last time we met he was still […]


Time, he flexes like a..what was it again?

Friday, July 28th, 2017

One of my clients raised a key challenge in his business this week; making time to manage people. “I’m really happy with the new management hires but I’m worried that we are so busy I don’t have the time to look after them properly and they are becoming a bit rudderless.” My client is systemising his […]


Simple stuff that works

Friday, June 30th, 2017

I have been helping clients with a couple of systemisation issues lately. The first, a manufacturer and installer, said that he wanted to introduce a culture of caring for the customer into his business.  In pursuit of this he has introduced some KPIs around delivery times and defects and held meetings with his employees to […]


I’ve done the Vision

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

I spent some time yesterday talking to a client who has big plans for his business. He recognises that he must change the way he manages and find a way to get things done through other people.  That’s why he has started to systemise his business. We spent time talking about the performance of his […]


The marketing beachhead

Monday, May 15th, 2017

I spent some time discussing marketing with a client recently.  He runs an IT support business and is facing the challenge of breaking out of the referral beachhead.  All growing businesses need to do this to grow beyond the few customers that know and trust them.  They need to develop their marketing story and the […]


My business is different – no really it is

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

I’ve yet to come across a client who doesn’t think their business is uniquely complicated. “Ah yes but my business is different…” they will say when we start to discuss systemisation. Of course, each business differs in detail. Each will have its own special problem employees and its own baroque approach to stock or invoicing […]


Lead validation and misleading metrics

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

No doubt the person responsible for marketing within your systemised business has website session and conversion targets – but can these be misleading metrics?  Here is some interesting research from Straight North that shows just how many conversions may not be true conversions at all…. The Critical Importance Of Lead Validation In Internet Marketing Your […]


We are all bricklayers now

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

One of my clients has been unhappy over a couple of recent hires, an architect and a quantity surveyor.  He runs a growing building firm. Neither of them performed the way he expected or wanted them to.  Technically they seemed to know their stuff but they didn’t step up to the plate in terms of […]


Why salespeople hate CRMs

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Contrast these two lists of desires – both relating to people involved in sales: List A Control Visibility Keep all Contact information mine Accurate data More sales now Build future sales List B Freedom Invisibility Keep all Contact information mine No time on admin More sales now More sales now No prizes for guessing that […]


Brexit means …err..

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

At a recent networking event I attended the speaker, a business representative to the EU, asked the business owners present what they wanted from Brexit.  She was confronted by a sea of blank faces.  This was hardly surprising as we’d just listened to her explain for fifteen minutes that no-one involved in Brexit at Westminster […]


Success and Succession

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Close Brothers’ research shows that 4 of the top 10 worries for owner-managed businesses relate to developing the people to take over your business. The good news is that most businesses already have the right people to hand. The bad news is that most business owners don’t know how to develop a high-performance management team […]


Systemisation – what’s in it for me?

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Recently, a client engaged in systemising their business asked me to give a brief presentation to their staff on the changes they were making.  As with any change programme, the engagement of staff in the change is critical to its success. This is what I told them: Why change: Companies need to grow.  Growth develops […]


Our brave boys

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

So – after the pain and frustration (but – admit it – not  that much surprise) the inquest has already started. The usual suspects: Effort Our players are tired because they play too many games Everyone else’s players have a better attitude – ours are all pampered millionaires who don’t care enough Ability Everyone else’s […]


Systemising your business

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Want to read two excellent books about contrasting approaches to systemising your business? “Traction”, by Gino Wickman, describes this approach: Vision – make sure all your employees understand and share your vision for the business People – make sure you have the right people in the right seats Data – make sure your business is […]


Management – a dirty word?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Comparing and contrasting usually offers insights. Comparing the progress my clients make on systemising their business has led me to try to identify the common factors that help or hinder this process – business systemisation factors. The things that the quicker systemisors have in common? They are good communicators, good with staff They prioritise and […]


Procurement – the Devil’s work?

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

So your biggest client has a new Procurement Director – and your business is looking like part of the collateral damage. The new PD’s first step is to reduce the size of the approved supplier list (removing you) and to make your best end-user contacts jump through lots more hoops before they can buy your […]


Quantum management

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Physicists (at least some of them) tell us that the multiverse is deterministic and that randomness (or uncertainty) is simply our subjective experience of our own particular quantum outcomes in an infinity of outcomes. Scientifically correct (probably) but not a fat lot of use when businesses are faced with …well…uncertainty. Recently, a typically insightful and […]


Agile sales

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Agile is an approach to software development that has been evolved to avoid huge IT projects that don’t deliver what is needed. The idea is that working, useful pieces of functionality are delivered in small stages typically lasting 3-4 weeks. The teams are small and self managing within each stage (someone with suitable experience is […]


Systemisation – practical or conceptual?

Friday, February 26th, 2016

Over time, as I have worked with business owners and entrepreneurs to systemise their businesses, my understanding of this process has changed. Originally I thought that what I was doing was helping my clients to make some changes in the way they think and behave. Whilst these might range from helping them to understand how […]


Sales generosity

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

I was struck recently by the contrasting sales fortunes of two of my clients. They both started in the same place – a familiar place for many business owners – they were the only people in the business who could successfully sell. Both businesses had had a succession of salespeople who had failed so the […]


How well does your Board function?

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

How well does your Board function? If your answer is “Not very” or “I’m sorry how would I know?” then you are not alone. Plenty of SMEs have strategic functions that work haltingly if at all. Here are some red flags to look for… Members of the Board were selected just because they report to […]


Does your business need a strategy?

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

Does your business need a strategy? Yes, if you are trying to grow your business beyond sales to a few referral customers. Yes, if you want to move business growth beyond your personal relationships with clients. Yes, if you want to capture and exploit what is different and better about what you do and how […]


Do young employees have differently-wired brains?

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

Do your young employees have differently-wired brains? Do your young employees want different things from work and life when compared to your more mature employees? Is the frustration over the attitude of younger staff felt by many of my business owners clients something new?  Or were our bosses in the 70s/80s/90s bitching about “schools not […]


Why your Marketing Manager is Failing

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

The word “marketing” is universally used to describe a whole bundle of activities designed to generate business enquiries or leads. This generalisation is not useful when it comes to recruiting marketing staff or outsourcing marketing activities. Traditional breakdowns of marketing focus on stages (awareness/interest/commitment) or the mix (price/position/promotion) or the proposition (niche/pain/proposition). These are all […]


Developing your management team

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

One of the many differences between a small business and one that is growing into a medium-sized one is the collective nature of responsibility at the top level. In a small business the owner takes all the major decisions.  Employees with the title of “manager” or even “director” do not see it as their role […]


Immigration and business growth

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

I heard two contrasting stories last week. The first was from a business owner.  Not just any business – a manufacturing business.  Not just any manufacturing business but one that exports 90% of what it makes.  The kind of business growth that the UK needs. He and his fellow-directors want to retire in a few […]


Trapped by success? Try business systemisation.

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

My clients are successful business owners and entrepreneurs.  They’ve all grown their business through hard work and natural talent….but They’ve reached a point where suddenly they are the bottleneck.  They struggle to grow the business beyond their own efforts and beyond their own control. Staff may be willing but it’s difficult to get them to […]


What is your excuse for not systemising your business?

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

One of my clients was struggling to systemise her business. We’d worked through how to set a simple 12-month budget and how to develop her pricing model. Despite promises she hadn’t made any progress on these between meetings. When we discussed this her initial response was that she had been too busy. Further probing got […]


Why Business Plans are a Waste of Time

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

Most business plans are a waste of time. They are irrelevant to the way the leaders of SMEs run their businesses. They are linear texts that don’t match the picture of their business that business leaders carry in their heads. They are sets of purely financial numbers that are frozen in time and don’t explain […]


How effective is your Management Team?

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

Why is it critical for an SME to develop an effective management team? As SMEs grow it becomes more difficult for the founder(s) to run the business on their own – they need to find ways to involve other people in defining business vision and strategy Delegation means managing through objectives and key performance indicators […]


Business planning is not optional

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

I was talking to a business owner yesterday about his business. Just about everything that could go wrong was going wrong. Sales were below breakeven and he has had to get rid of his under-performing telesales team. A contract for a big customer was leaking profit and damaging the business’ reputation. They had no finance […]


Marketing is crap, selling is all you need.

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

I advertised an event via email recently – a workshop on marketing planning. As usual I got a fair number of direct replies as well as some bookings.  Some of the replies were the usual sort of rudeness about spam and what I had to say – these people seem to have several minutes to […]


Account planning – a systemised approach

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

Why do you need Account Planning? – Account planning (or account management) provides a structured way for you to manage the development of an existing or target customer relationship – The aim is to increase or protect the sales from that account – It ensures that you capture the information essential to developing the relationship […]


Innovation is not optional

Friday, October 10th, 2014

August ONS figures show a continued fall in unemployment across the UK and in our region. Each new job is great news for the person who gets it and for their family and overall we must be pleased that the recovery continues. There is a downside, however. Recently I attended a business briefing with a […]


A tool for competitor analysis

Monday, September 29th, 2014

A business coaching client of mine has been doing some competitor analysis.  He is planning to launch a new product so he had his marketing person look at the competition. The results were useful but unstructured – along the lines of “..well we think our function x is a bit better than competitor A’s function […]


Is more information better?

Friday, August 1st, 2014

I met with one of my business coaching clients recently – they were concerned that they didn’t have as much cash in the business as they expected. I asked them to prepare some information for the meeting: Last 12 months turnover, gross profit, net profit by month Last 12 months working capital showing WIP, debtors, […]


Given up on your USP?

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

At my seminar today we talked (amongst other things) about understanding your unique selling proposition, or USP. My contention is that all successful businesses understand their niche and have a sales proposition that is uniquely attuned to that niche. The challenge back from some attendees (owners of growing businesses) was that it was impossible to […]


Great strategy – why don’t your staff buy into it?

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

A client of mine hired me because his staff weren’t performing up to his expectations. He’s a smart cookie and has been running a modestly successful business for many years. He’d read The E-Myth and implemented strong processes. His strategy was well thought-out and he’d taken all his staff out of the office for a […]


Getting great employees for your SME

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

The limiting factor in the growth and success of any small business is its staff.  The right staff can take on responsibility, innovate, sell, keep customers happy and make your life as the business owner much easier.  The wrong staff can drain you and the rest of your employees of energy and time. SMEs often […]


Is your business innovative?

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Innovation becomes more difficult as organisations get bigger. Resistance to change can come from vested interests, ingrained management habits, investment controls, risk aversion and the short-termism of shareholders. Many smaller businesses by definition have risk-takers like you at the helm and so should be more innovative – but often lack the resources or skills to […]


Systemisation: Raise your employees’ horizons

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Wrapping up a meeting with one of my business coaching clients today provided one of those moments of insight.  We had spent an hour working on employee performance management and delegation and were chatting about things outside work.  My client was describing the problems he was having with some modifications to his house.  He was […]


Employee Engagement

Monday, March 10th, 2014

What is employee engagement? An engaged employee is one who is committed to the aims of the organisation, who believes in its values, feels part of a team and so wants to give more than the bare bones of the employment contract or the task in hand calls for. These are the employees who make […]


Real USPs mean real sales

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

I was working with a client recently and he was telling me that he was unhappy with the performance of a new salesperson.  She was new to sales and he was coaching her as she moved from inside selling to accompanied appointments. I asked him about his sales technique – what was he actually teaching […]


Leadership and Systemisation

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

I spend my time helping business owners systemise their businesses.  Systemising a business has leadership at its heart.  Here are some thoughts based on that experience and a recent IoD event on leadership: Leadership requires vision – but you do not need to be a visionary.  For leadership to work across an organisation, other leaders […]


The sales trap and how to get out of it

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

This month’s story is about how to get out of the sales trap. It has no single customer as hero but is a composite of many customers, who were all trapped by being unable to grow sales and have found a way out of it. It’s a common problem. The business has grown because the […]


Systemisation – Why you need an Operations Manual

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Efficient operations, great customer service and profitable growth require a consistent and proven process which delivers the same result with the same quality time after time.  This has to be maintained no matter how busy you are and no matter how fast the company grows. You cannot rely solely upon individual knowledge and motivation to […]


Use a business advisor who can help you get benefits from IT

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

It is now possible for even the smallest business to deploy sophisticated business computer systems that only a few years ago would have been completely beyond their reach both technically and financially. A few pounds each month gives access to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and even full Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) systems. The potential benefits […]