Continuous Focus on growing Profitability (Part 1 of 3)
Staying the course when you’re in business a number of years or feeling unmotivated.
When you’re in business a while it can prove challenging to keep the motivation levels up each day or each week. With the ups and downs (particularly in the early years of a business), once the ship steadies, it can be easy to move into a comfort zone. However, without continuous improvement your business may start lagging behind the competition.
This series of articles will be small reminders of staying on track. Hopefully prompting readers to continue improving, continue focusing on your profit level. Ensuring in the longer term your financial freedom.
My usual caveat… When reading below, ensure you always focus on what makes the most profit in your business. If you’re unsure of what this is, start there and only work on improving what you know will make you money. If it’s lower margin, leave it for another day. Start with the items that will make the biggest impact financially FIRST.
Staying ahead of the competition
I recently read an article on LinkedIn of the importance of having an anti-role model. Have a read here if interested.
It reminded me of starting out and how I developed my own style around servicing clients. My training days were in a small practice and my focus became ‘doing things better than the others’. Many people don’t change accountants very often so always asking clients why they wanted to move, was key to me learning how to get ahead of the sometimes larger, sometimes similar size, firms. Watching what they did wrong that made the client want to leave. Always ensuring to the best of our ability that we wouldn’t fall foul of whatever that may have been. (For example, in our profession clients dislike slow turnaround times of accounts and another big issue; not having access to a partner / director when they need advice.)
This approach (what I felt others did wrong or this Anti-Role Model) can work for any business if you think creatively about how to get the information (if you’re not service based). The information in WHY people chose you to work with is one of the most valuable pieces of information you can have. Whatever it is, ensure it never slips. If you can improve it, do. If you can market it and talk to potential customers about it, make it your USP.
Ten years – Six Tips!
In the earlier days of setting up my own business, it was easy to stay focused on continuous improvement. I’ve always enjoyed the education part of what I do, so reading and learning more and more about how a service company can improve worked for me (and still does). However, it wouldn’t be true to say that this always worked. No business is perfect and no doubt other accountancy practices have gained by whatever mistakes were made in our business. Recognising when I’m in a slump and changing something quickly has usually got me back on track.
If you find your focus a little ‘off’ and you’re not feeling as motivated as you perhaps did a while ago (be it years, months or weeks), some of the things that have worked for me over the years are below.
– Network with people who do NOT do what you do but are of similar mindset and passion about their business.
– Network with people who DO what you do and are of similar mindset and passion about their business. These colleagues are facing very similar challenges to you and having someone to discuss these challenges with can be seriously helpful. Two heads are always better than one in finding solutions, sharing tips and ideas and you may also find yourself avoiding some pitfalls from their experience.
– Keep reading. Remember ‘You will be the same person in five years except for the people you meet and the books you read‘ Charlie Jones. There are always recommendations available. There are many books I’ve only enjoyed one chapter or perhaps only got one good idea (even when they promise 21!). I believe it’s worth it for that one idea or new way of looking at things.
– Attend training seminars. As a Chartered Accountant I’m bound by continuous learning obligations. Finding seminars repetitive at times as the years go on, so it’s good to watch out for new businesses in your field and new ways to learn (online courses). Look ahead in the calendar and book one in every month or two. Any ideas or innovations in your field or if not, attend some of your potential client ones, to learn more about ways you can service them into the future. Knowing what their pain points are can you help you design a new offering for the future and ensure your business never falls behind the curve.
– Become more self aware – what skill could be improved? Being honest with yourself and taking stock at least once a year of what you’re good at and what you could improve at in your business, is a great way to keep improving. Many people aren’t too comfortable with ‘selling’ especially here in Ireland. However, having attended courses given by Jo Collins of Sales Performance, I’ve learned that the skills around selling are not as scary or off-putting as I may have ignorantly believed. Listening skills, finding ways to help your client, looking after the existing clients as well as the new, staying relevant – all of which are definitely not outside my comfort zone. Learning tips on improving these skills has been extremely useful to my business. [Thank you Jo]
– Pick one thing. If you recognise there’s something more you could do to improve your business, then don’t feel overwhelmed. What we don’t know, what we need to learn, where to start? These questions can keep some people stuck and nothing actually gets done. List everything on a page (get it out of your head). Then look at the list and think ‘What one thing, if I changed, would make the biggest impact on the bottom line of my business?’ Then rank the others. Set aside time to do each of these (be it a week or two) and then set a reminder for the next thing to be done.
Many people feel they haven’t got what it takes to be innovative or creative, yet making small improvements will change your life in the longer term. Don’t sell yourself short. While looking at what you can improve, also take note of the items you do well. Never beat yourself up. We are human, not perfect.
Part 2 in this series will issue on 12th May.
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Have a great week.
[29 April 2019]