Getting your business back into shape – Article from the Illawarra Mercury

This is an article that appeared the Illawarra Mercury on the 31st May 2010.

Running a business involves a range of difficulties and day-to-day challenges that often results in you losing sight of your original goals and ambitions. It is a tough call to run the business and oversee your own performance.

The original vision you have for your business can get left behind as you struggle through the day. This is where having someone with an objective view to come and help you identify where you want to go and how to get there can be a valuable investment.

As business around the world has become increasingly competitive, the demand for business coaching has increased. Businesses that use coaches range from one-person businesses needing help in acquiring customers through to multi-million dollar companies that need comprehensive business planning and strategy work so they can progress to the next stage of growth.

Seamus O’Brien, a business coach at Small Fish, has spent half his working life as an entrepreneur and the other half employed at very senior levels in a number of corporate and not-for-profit organisations.

“I have had some spectacular successes and dismal failures over a long life as an entrepreneur,” said Mr O’Brien. “I have done the hard yards and learnt from my experiences and backed this up with a rigorous process of professional development including a Masters Degree in Business Administration before working as a business coach.

“Businesses are often responsive to the opportunities of coaching and mentoring when they want to grow and give new life to their enterprise. They are often very effective people who are dissatisfied with their enterprises current progress. After initial promise the enterprise may be trapped on a plateau with opportunities staying just outside of reach. For many it is part of a long term plan to exit their current business, taking with them some just reward for their investment of time, effort and money.

“My impression is that all business and enterprise operators think that their set of circumstances are unique and maybe from one point of view they are right, but it seems to me that there is more similarity than difference. Often this is expressed as working hard in the business and taking no time or having no systematic way of working on the business. Things slip, opportunities are not identified or if identified they pass by without being successfully capitalised upon. Gradually the competition overtakes them and what was once a thriving enterprise starts to inexplicitly decline. There is much research on the business life cycle that would leave me to believe that while individual circumstances are unique the pattern is unfortunately very predictable. The good news is it can be addressed.

“However, it is important to remember that there are no magic bullets. People need to work systematically and be ready to be challenged to do things differently. The good news is that as the coaching process progresses they report return of their original energy, optimism, increased levels of motivation and enthusiasm. This is not just for the business but for life,” said Mr O’Brien.

Warwick Reader, the founder of marketing and consulting company Profit Growth Systems, has over 25 years of broad hands-on experience across all areas of business strategy, sales and marketing. As the executive director of the Illawarra Business Advisory Service, Mr Reader also has extensive experience advising small to medium businesses on the best methods to start-up and grow their companies.

“It is usually when businesses are at a sticking point that they ask for help,” said Mr Reader. “They can see potential for growth but don’t know how to proceed. The boss is usually too engaged in the day-to-day running of the business to be able to step back and look at the bigger picture. While the business owner or management team are experts in what they do, they may need assistance in other aspects of managing the business where they don’t necessarily have the experience,” Mr Reader said.

“A good business coach can understand the owner’s needs and those of the business and act as a sounding board to bounce ideas off as well as provide independent and objective advice to keep them on track to meet their goals. There are many family owned companies in the Illawarra that have become successful but have not kept up with the requirements of modern business practices. This has often stymied their growth opportunities and exposed them to business risks that could have a negative impact on their future.

“While each business is unique there is a commonality in what is required for each business to be successful and grow. Businesses need a sound business plan including marketing strategies, good business management, as well as leadership and passion for what they do,” said Mr Reader.

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See you later.

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