A few weeks ago in my blog Belief Critical to Business Success, I mentioned a business owner had asked for my advice on growing a business. I met her on Friday and I was impressed. She has built a solid business foundation, identified a niche market, boasts a modern website, uses the latest technology and demonstrates a strong belief in what she does. So what’s missing? I entered the conversation with no preconceived idea about what I was going to say or what magic advice I may have for her , but as we spoke, I found there were 2 key things she wanted to know – how to grow the business and deliver more profit?
I take it for granted that if you’re in business, you’re making a great income. I can’t quite believe the number of businesses that are running because the owner likes what they do, but they aren’t making any money. I can think of 5 women in business who I have met only over the past few months who without telling me exact numbers or figures, it is obvious that they aren’t making the money they would like to.
How does this happen? They have great ideas, they are passionate, they have great quality products/services – but they aren’t making the dream income that they thought owning their own business would bring. Or in some cases, their expectations are too low. One commented “I’ve only been in business 5 years so I know it takes time and I’ll get there”. Rubbish. It isn’t the longer you are in business that the money and profits will magically appear just because your doors are open.
By talking to these women individually, it frustrates me that their great ideas and hard work are not being rewarded financially. How can they become more profitable and take their businesses to the next level of performance?
- Ask for the business – in my post why is confidence still an issue for women at work? I express my frustration with women who self-doubt their ability in sales, meetings or negotiations. Being profitable means asking for the business and not just having a coffee, touching base or having a chat. At the end of every meeting, be clear about asking for the order right now or in the future. Is there any reason Mr Client you wouldn’t give me your next opportunity? Confidence in asking for the business screams “expert” and belief in what you do.
- Take a risk – doing the same thing the same way is going to deliver the same result, so if your financial results aren’t what you want them to be, it means changing tact or trying something different. This will inevatibly feel uncomfortable which is good! This means you are learning something new. For me, at Entrée Recruitment this has been promoting the temp and contract side of our business when I personally had a stronger tendency towards permanent recruitment. This change in focus was a huge driver in delivering greater profits.
- Build relationships – I often get asked how I win new clients and how I’ve cracked the corporate market? One step at a time, one client at a time. Having one solid relationship with a CEO is more beneficial that having five relationships with non-decision-makers. Once you have an established relationship with someone who loves your service – duplication becomes easy through testimonials, referrals and targeting like-minded organisations and individuals (you do have to ask again remember)!
- Build a brand & profile – marketing in this day and age has never been easier with social media. Your business needs to be in the press (ads & editorial), on the web, talked about through word of mouth and have a clear strategy on how you want to be perceived in the market. Whenever I am going out to see a new business, I always Google them, look at their website and try and find out who the key people are. What happens when you Google your name and your business? Be clear in your positioning and then tell the world!
- Discipline – making money in business means taking the right action every day and committing to your high pay-off activities. Highly profitable business owners don’t procrastinate and fill their day looking busy – they are disciplined to do the important things that will generate the biggest results. For me at Entrée Recruitment this is coaching my team and business development. Ask yourself what are the top 5 activities that aren’t urgent and without them, your business will not grow – then do them consistently.
- Hire right & retain the best – the biggest cost in most businesses is staff. Getting this wrong is going to cost you significantly in real dollars, leadership time, re-training, reputation, culture and delivery. Getting it right is finding that sweet spot in business – leadership will feel ‘natural’, you stress levels float away and this empowerment brings you work/life balance, confidence and profit.
- Invest in your leadership skills – this was one of the biggest turning points in my “growth” journey at Entrée Recruitment. I constantly invest in books, conferences, mentors and a business coach. Learning from others and being coached to greater individual performance has a direct impact on the bottom line.
- Be tight on costs – one of the PA’s at work jokes “here comes Nicole with her calculator!” as I approach my meetings. As a rule of thumb, I focus on the top line as generating revenue is always going to result in greater profit, but I keep a very close eye on costs, don’t spend unnecessarily and always negotiate with suppliers.
- Love what you do – it’s virtually impossible to have financial success without a passion for your business. How can you convince people to spend money with you if you don’t ooze excitement for what you do? I don’t mean over the top bubbly gushing – I mean you are educating your clients every chance you get and presenting the value you can bring to their business.
In my first year of Entrée Recruitment, we generated $3 million in revenue with very low overheads and start-up costs. This wasn’t by accident, it wasn’t luck and it wasn’t through an established client base. We simply did it better through discipline, relationships, top talent and through making mistakes.
Since I have been talking to these business owners – one has taken a risk and moved out of a home office leasing her first corporate space, one has started building on her relationships by asking a current CEO client for a referral and another has invested in her own development by engaging a business coach. Financial results don’t just happen by being in business and doing the same stuff – moving forward always involves taking different action.
Become profitable, be disciplined and take action.