Guest Blog post by Philippa Bowen
Life is full of coincidences.
Su Butcher and I met for a chat over lunch a couple of weeks ago and one of the conversations we had struck a real chord with me. I had had the same conversation with 2 businesses I work with in the last month; what is the difference between working in a business and on a business?
For me the biggest challenge is the mindset of the owners/ directors of the company. If they are happy to be part of a team, paying their bills and “getting on with it” there is probably a limit to how successful their business can be. They spend their time in the “now” of a business, looking very short term – perhaps the next month at most, to make sure that they and their employees have work to keep them busy once the immediate job has finished. This doesn’t mean that these businesses make no money; they can be multimillion GBP turnovers, with very decent profit margins, depending on their industry. BUT they will always be considered small by the leaders in their industry because actually they have the potential to increase their turn over by 10 or more times if they start to work on their business not in it.
Working on a business means taking a fundamental leap and developing and nurturing a whole new mindset, often called a helicopter vision. Your work will no longer be a direct income generator for the business, you will be out making strategic business connections, spending your time clarifying the vision for the business for the long term future and developing a plan to get it there. Hovering above your own business and the market as a whole to see what you could be doing better, where savings in your organisation could be made, where investment is needed and importantly where your customers and competitors are moving to. You then also have to ensure that you have the right people in place to deliver this plan and ensure that it happens. You have to develop trust in the people that you have working with you and who are still in the business delivering services to your customers. You have to learn to delegate and communicate your vision and passion for your business to your employees.
For some business owners the first step in learning to delegate can be as small a thing as allowing someone to type up letters or invoices, employing an answering service for when they are busy, getting their day to day bookkeeping done. For some this is a more fundamental shift in how they have always done business, handing over a client to someone else and allowing them to deliver your product or service can be scary, but with the right systems and procedures in place and if you have hired the right person in the first place this should be an asset for your firm and not an obstacle, after all who wants a business that falls apart if they go on holiday, or have to take some time off for personal reasons.
There are some industries where it is noticeable that businesses fall into 2 categories – the small, intimate up to 4/5 person business, or the large and very large 25 plus employees. Architects, accountants, solicitors are the ones that immediately come to mind.
I think the reason is this: the small ones are where a few like minded people are actually working as sole traders but under a singe banner. They may think they are a business but actually they are unable, or even unwilling to take the necessary step to move to the next level, where they can’t work full time as they have in the past, but have to hand some or all of their work load to someone else and trust that they will deliver it to the client. I am certainly not suggesting that anyone would do this without some sort of check on what the other person is doing, but there does have to be an element of trust and of letting go. This then allows you to concentrate on going and getting a string of new clients which then means you need several new employees who you can trust to service this new income stream.
Business needs to be a collaboration. Build a really good team around you, create a good infrastructure and communicate your vision – this will allow any business to grow and thrive.
Or you can carry on working in your business for as long as you like.
Philippa Bowen has a wealth of experience working with larger companies, now she works with SME business owners to grow their businesses.Find out more about her here.