Admit it: You need help
I went on a ski trip recently with a group of 7 other people. I am a decent intermediate skier, but have not skied bumps in over 30 years and even then I wasn't very good. The others in the group were all advanced skiers. We made a few runs on groomed hills and then hit our first black diamond bump hill.
It didn't look all that imposing from the top of the hill, so I decided to go for it. I didn't go too far before I found myself on the ground, on the ground again, and again. So much for me taking this big step and thinking I could do it on my own. Luckily one of the group members held back (thank you Robin!) and talked me down the hill. By the time I made it down the hill the others had taken a break waiting for me to make it down. I was so embarrassed that they were held up because of me and that I couldn't keep up with the others. The reaction of the others was surprising: they were supportive and understanding.
This story is not too unlike some business owners that we meet. They are deep into working in their business and jump head first into challenges and opportunities. In some cases they do fine but other times they lack the tools, skills or outside view of their business to take advantage of the opportunities or manage the challenges. My skiing experience has given me a better feel for what these business owners deal with in their own business.
The most successful business owners that I have met look for outside input into their company. This does not have to be a paid consultant, but it could be leveraging those close business and personal contacts. During a recent engagement I spoke with a business owner that solicits input from his close friends during ski trips. He takes advantage of his time with these successful business owners to explore ideas that he can leverage in his own business. A couple other areas you can take advantage of outside input without having to spend big money includes:
Do you have an board of directors? Many business owners respond to this with "I have a drink with my board at the end of each day," indicating they speak with their significant other at home about what happened during the day but they do not have outside expertise providing input to their business success. An advisory board is a great way to get that outside input in a fun, friendly and open environment.
Start an advisory board that you can have open discussions about your business and solicit input to help move your company to the next level. To get started, identify four to six close contacts that are successful in their own function or business and that you respect. Ask them if they would be interested in participating in your volunteer advisory board. In most cases you will find they will be interested in supporting you.
Your board meetings should be at least once per quarter and may be more frequent in the beginning or when specific issues or opportunities arise. The meeting should have an agenda and a specified start and stop time. I am a member of one advisory board, where we meet at the business owner's home and the discussion takes place with wine and food. The board supports this business because we like and respect the owners, and we believe in what they are trying to accomplish. We do it because we want to!
Informal Accountability Groups
I am a member of a number of small (8 - 12 people) networking groups where we use our time to discuss business challenges and opportunities. There are no competitors in these groups, we trust the others, and find it easy to open up with our issues. An extension of this type of group is where you setup accountability for each person in the group to accomplish the activities that they committed to complete in an earlier meeting. This accountability helps each person focus on those areas in their business that they need to get accomplished outside of the immediate day-to-day business. The challenge in this type of group is to get members that are all interested in having such accountability. It is not for everyone.
Don't put it off
The benefits to getting outside support to your business are huge. If you are not getting a different look to your business, you should start as soon as possible. You may not be a group person, in that case develop one-on-one relationships where you can have dedicated time to discuss your business. Start now and see the benefits in the next few months.
Larry Turner is CEO of Roundhouse Advisors, Inc. and has over 25 years experience growing, starting up, repositioning, and revitalizing organizations. Roundhouse Advisors is a consulting practice focused on helping businesses increase enterprise value by managing pain, growth and owner exits. Larry is a consultant, public speaker, and the author of two books "Owner Exit Planning: Leave On Your Own Terms" and "Mapping Your Recovery: Grow sales in difficult times". For additional information visit www.RoundhouseAdvisors.com
"Mapping Your Recovery: Grow sales in difficult times" provides additional information on areas that can positively impact your company www.roundhouseadvisors.com/growsalesbook