What is the biggest impediment in doing business?

Why is decisiveness pivotal to business? The answer may seem obvious, but aren’t the best insights the simplest?

My biggest frustration in business is indecision. You are a business owner; focus on what is optimal for your business.

I favour #informeddecisions. Equip yourself with optimal information, but don’t forget to base a decision on that information!

There really are only three types of business decisions:

1.     Yes

2.     No

3.     I don’t know, therefore I must investigate further

Make definitive decisions.

As a business owner, you control what you focus on and how you make decisions. The best business owners take minimal time to make the best decision, and politely ignore time wasters. This important focus also eliminates “decision fatigue”.

We work towards making more right than wrong decisions. There is no secret formula. Decisions are not always based on facts, yet often on subjectivity.

You can always make more money but never make more time! And don’t waste it!

Prioritising client health

The three pillars of health are interdependent. Mental health, physical wellbeing and financial security go hand in hand. The importance of these health pillars is amplified now more than ever, with environmental, personal and socio-economic factors throwing lifestyle and financial plans off course.

At Stylequity, we find ourselves a part of this health journey alongside business owners. How can we provide ongoing support to our clients and their employees?

The answer presented itself during a chance meeting with Benefit3 – a champion of corporate wellbeing that empowers clients. In turn, Benefit3’s @LoriChappel and @MarisaBreytenbach partner with top solutions providers, such as @SelectWellness to provide these wellbeing services. @SelectWellness are specialists in the design and delivery of employee wellbeing programs that work.

Such wellbeing programs are built upon underlying principles:

  • Start from the top down. When leaders exemplify good wellbeing behaviour, employees will follow.
  • Wellbeing is an action not just a thought. Programs embed sustained behaviour changes.
  • Relationships at home and at work, meaning & purpose, the work life balance, emotional resilience, intellectual stimulation and more traditional physical health & vitality all contribute to our wellbeing.
  • Every individual has their own unique wellbeing recipe, to which the programs are tailored.
  • Accountability and responsibility for managing our own wellbeing truly matter.

Stylequity looks forward to working with Benefit3 and Select Wellness on improving our clients’ wellbeing!

How do we select clients?

“You can’t be everything to everybody, but you can be everything to somebody.”

Trent Shelton 

Choosing an ideal client for a professional service firm isn’t an easy feat… Although many business owners see their business as unique, we, at Stylequity see the similarities of businesses, and business owners.  

There are a few fundamental truths, common to most businesses and business owners, including making profits, wishing to grow, sticking to core business and providing for the owners’ lifestyle. 

Since fundamentally all businesses and business owners are very similar, we might consider every business a potential customer, right? 

Well, not so much.  

There are two very important elements we consider: 

  1. What is the client looking for? What is the client’s need?
  2. What is the purpose of engaging with this particular client? What are we going to get out of this engagement? 

Client’s perspective 

These two elements are indeed, in order of importance. The first one to ask ourselves – are we a good fit? Do we have the knowledge / experience / credibility to serve the client, and take them on the journey with us? 

These questions (and their brutally honest answers) are fundamental to client selection! 

Stylequity was formed in 2009, and gained 12 years of credibility.  

Our leaders and principals have gained tremendous amount of experience prior to forming Stylequity, working on both sides of the equation – having handson experience running businesses and business units, and advising and consulting clients. We have been exposed to an incredible variety of businesses, business models, industries and markets.  

Although our strengths lie within our broad experience, some clients would prefer advice from people with specific industry knowledge. And that’s ok.  

To gain our clients’ trust, we must be very clear and confident in our ability to deliver, and back our confidence with our previous successes.  

Stylequity’s perspective 

The second element is what we, as Stylequity, are looking for from a client engagement. We consider the following cornerstones for every* potential engagement: 

  1. Ethical fit – are we willing to have our name and reputation associated with this particular business? Our reputation is the only element in our ability to gain clients, and we cannot afford to compromise on it. Under this section, we consider the ethics of the business (industry, code of conduct, etc.).
  2. Personal fit – can we work with the business owner? Our engagements are typically 2-3 years long, and involve making significant changes to the business and business owners’ life. We try to assess the owners’ propensity for change and commitment to the process. We also assess the business owners’ motivation to engage us. Business owners engage us for a variety of reasons. Are those reasons aligned with our ethos and values?
    We don’t always get this right, but we’re getting better with each new client!
  3. Commercial fit – here is the easiest set of criteria, to help us select potential clients. This is guided by the most obvious question: Can they pay our fees?
  4. Size of business – revenue and profits. 
    We usually work with businesses with revenue between $5M to $100M, which generate at least $1.5M net profits per annum.
  5. Business structure – private, public, or non-profit? 
    Stylequity works with privately owned businesses, and directly with their business owners. We don’t work with other advisors or leadership team, without the direct and ongoing involvement and accountability of the business owner(s). Because we require the involvement of the owner of the business (the person with most to gain or lose from every decision made), we will not work with public or non-profit organisations. 
  6. Industry or type of business – The list is too long to mention here, yet I can certainly point out that we will work with most businesses, except for those gaining revenue from unethical practices (gambling, drugs, alcohol or unsavoury financial services) or with start-ups. 

Choosing a partner for a 2-3 year relationship with lifelong ramifications, such as reputation,  success or failure of engagement, is an important part of running every successful advisory business. But here’s the kicker – clients with whom we would not work potential clients are identified even before our first approach. Our selection process is more focused, which brings us to a select group of businesses, which we personally approach and pitch to. The costs and time investment in this selection process outweighs the benefits of having a great client / service provider fit, and raises the odds of a successful, long term and mutually beneficial partnership for the long run. 

*Every set of rules has its exceptions. We may come across a unique opportunitythat lies outside certain selection criteria. Our principals will apply their own judgements on work with a certain client.  

Build seats on the bus, then fill them with people

Business owners often tell me that they do not have the right people for their business.

Well, that’s something I’ve heard many times!

I am not denying the importance of people as business drivers. What business owners are really stating is that their current functional structure is inadequate for growing their business. How about building the right seats on the bus and then filling them with the best available people? This is my own personal analogy. No business should depend solely on individuals. Otherwise, the business is unsustainable.

To manage the “people issue” is to address the functional continuity of your business. In doing so, you create a winning recipe for meeting the market, customer and business needs. In other words, make it less about the individuals, but focus more on the functionality of the business, and its ability to deliver.

Get this right, and you’ll soon grow your business in a structured manner so it generates sustainable returns on every business opportunity. In addition, this is a cornerstone step in addressing any succession or transition plans.

Create functional continuity to enable your business to grow and scale with time!

Business Growth, a marketer’s view

Shaking off assumptions about the work of marketers can be rather challenging. Many view marketers as the Colouring-in people, painting pretty pictures and being all creative… Although I’m a marketer, I have been on the other side for quite some time, working with fast-paced entrepreneurs and business owners.

More than just holding a crayon, marketers’ responsibility is to set the direction, mechanism & pace of the business’ growth.  In my current position, I’ve worked with business owners to fulfil our 3×3 promise – 3 times growth in 3 years. As my 6th year anniversary is coming up, I’d like to share my top tips for growth:

  1. Create a sustainable business model. Are you making enough money for the long term?
  2. Understand the market as well as the industry – this is an important distinction as outlined in https://www.orangesky.com.au/industry-player-or-a-market-player/
  3. Define your value proposition – what are you good at? What do you do better than anyone else? https://www.orangesky.com.au/usp-defining/
  4. Clarify your growth strategy – how are you going to grow? The options are multiple and varied. Here is a chance to veer outside your comfort zone. https://www.orangesky.com.au/quickest-way-expanding-market-share/
  5. Align your team towards the same goals – work towards eliminating anything that hinders growth. (Pro Tip – Watch out for potential conflicts of interests).
  6. Cultivate your pipeline – complacency is one of the top reasons for growth stagnation. Being bullish on new business development, continuously chasing new business (while, of course, making sure to maintain existing client relationships) is a great way to ensure rapid growth.
  7. Close sales – make sure you have good sales closers. Your team and bank account will thank you for it.
  8. Manage your cash – this is everyone’s responsibility. Business owners must manage cash carefully to stay a step ahead of competitors and take on growth opportunities when others can’t.
  9. Apply Macro management style– Teach your team to do their job and let them! Innovation, growth and great morale comes from your team members when they are left to do their job.
  10. Create a scalable infrastructure – your hiring processes, IT infrastructure, commercial arrangements, funding capacity, licences and compliance must support your growth aspirations.

Bonus tip (note – number of tips) – Under-promise and over-deliver!

The big question though, is how big do you want to be?

Why do deals fail?

Where do I begin? No starting point means no deal! In business acquisition, the motivation of the buyer must align with that of the seller. Successful deals are conducted at a reasonable price within a designated timeframe. We have seen deals fail due to unrealistic time and pricing expectations or personalities. A commercial deal expert will help you negotiate a favourable outcome.

To the buyers:

Be clear on what you are ready to pay, based on realistic performance and projected growth. Decide on the size of business you’d like to buy within a certain industry. What customers and capabilities would you like to gain when acquiring a business? The key is to resolve questions as soon as possible.  Prolonged timeframes kill deals.

To all sellers:

The right buyer for your business is most likely a competitor, customer, supplier, or investor.

Confirm your business proposition. Make sure the buyer knows what they are buying (leave no stone unturned). If not, you could attract the wrong buyer – a discount buyer or a “tyre-kicker”.

Make sure that you have a good business to sell or to invest in. A business not based on a historic position rather on a future growing one. Build in a growth strategy that the buyer can implement. This will impress the buyer.

Accept certain truths:

  • Buyers do not pay full price. They will pay market value prices.
  • The wrong buyer yields the wrong outcome.
  •  A sale is complete when the buyer deposits the final amount for the business.
  • Learn to let go of your business when it is time to sell it.
  • Understand that you are not an expert at conducting deals. Seek advice from a commercial deal expert.

Good luck with your deals.

Focus on Human Activity for Economic Recovery

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again! People drive and create economies. Businesses are created by people. Governments are elected by people and/or run by people, and together we create the societies we choose to live in.

Globalisation drives our basic need for human interaction. As you read this, you are probably assessing what you genuinely need and deem important as an individual, business owner and member of society.

So how do we stimulate our economies? By stimulating human activity, and hence, sustainable economic recovery and improved society development! As people, we can all achieve this together.

Good businesses are driven by great leadership, good management and staff ownership. We must prioritise what we can control by collaboration and careful planning to achieve focused outcomes. It’s the collective small wins that create the momentum. The same applies in business.

Business owners’ short-term focus should go beyond ongoing cost management to drive long-term sustainability. I have never met founders who have created a business only for monetary gain.

Start focusing on managing opportunities (and their associated risks). This comes through redefining your markets, understanding the true market constraint, and identifying which opportunities you can practically cash in on. This is the first step of creating a robust and focused strategic plan.

Once you link your strategic plan to a feasible implementation plan, you as a business owner create the flexibility your business needs to sustain itself and grow.

Do you as a business owner have a focused plan for the next 30-Days, 12 months and beyond? I do!

We, the People, are the Stimulus!

To stimulate the economy, we must securely stimulate its people. True stimulus can only be driven by people. 

We are in a tremendous position to envision and create what we want as a society. Sustainable business practices should be applied across our economies, and within our businesses too.  

As a business owner support the government as an active agent, not only trying to stimulate the economy from a top-down but also from a bottomup fiscal approach. What do I mean?  

Topdown fiscal economic stimulus is characterised by tax cuts and encouraged investment spend in designated industries. Bottomup fiscal stimulus involves direct investment at a micro level and ensures job security and a reasonable income to live, for most people 

When people feel secure, they will spend money more confidently. The economy will become broader and stronger, as well as more sustainable in the long term.  

So, what am I doing as a business owner? I’m using my greatest creative asset – my people. 

We are reinventing the business and changing its direction. We’re doing this through a series of our own discovery sessions. It is amazing what we have found out; how that has re-energised us and created a clarity of focus. 

We aim to attain the countless new opportunities before us in this highly evolving environment. The end goal is longterm societal benefit and sustainable values at the right margin.  

So let’s stimulate businesses, our economy and income by stimulating people 

I know I will be doing that for my people and my clients! 

Never look a gift horse in the mouth!

We have been given a rare gift, though we may not perceive it as such. The coronavirus gives us the opportunity to change the way we do business and, more importantly, to re-introduce humanity into business. 

We speak of sustainability. But what does sustainability truly include; the proper use (and re-use) and respect of all our known and to-be-discovered resources. This is not only environmental management, it is also people management; aligning our business models to truly reward people and ensure everyone gets to share in that sustainable prosperity. 

This phenomenon spurs us on to realign our business models and improve on our existing social structure. 

Yes, it has resulted in ongoing navel-gazing. It makes all of us face our own understanding of mortality. For those of us who have been very successful at working the existing system, it is a highly scary proposition because what we know has changed, and will change. It does not have to be this way. On a global scale, we can now reframe our society and business model for the better. Without such a phenomenon, we would never have considered doing so. 

To me, this is an opportunity we have all been looking for. Yes, we can argue that doing business is delivering demand at a profit. Should we not redefine demand as meeting sustainable justice at the right margin? Sustainable justice can encompass any social, environmental, humane, emotional etc. aspects we hold in regard. 

Right now, with our ingenuity and creativity, we are teaching ourselves and embedding better sustainable values: 

1.     We are learning to communicate better. 

2.     The flexible model of working from home is now being tested and will truly be refined. In time, we will get better productivity and work life balance. 

3.     Supply chains will become truly flexible and continuous (maybe not at the lowest cost but at the “total lowest cost”) by truly considering elements such as supply security, risk management, and human cost. 

4.     New business models will arise out of this. 

5.     Governments may realise what their true role should be, that of not only a facilitator, but an active one. 

6.     We as humans will understand what is essential and what is not. 

I call on all business owners, investors, managers, employees and people to look up, look forward. Let us build a better sustainable business society that we can all be proud of. 

I know I will!  

How to earn clients’ trust

Trust – A firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.

Trust is not a given. We encounter it daily when interacting with people, including family. Trust must be earned over time, and requires dedication and consistency. It takes a long time to build trust, and merely a split second to lose it. The smallest misunderstanding, the smallest incident, an inaccuracy or an untruth, can crack the wall of trust. That crack can never be patched up completely.

How do we build trust with clients? Trust must be at the forefront of every interaction with clients. From our brand messaging and positioning in the marketplace, to keeping our promises to them to the letter. The ongoing communications can be flawless during a project, but if we promise a specific date, and don’t deliver for whatever reason, we crack that wall of trust. Trust is fickle that way.

It’s the little things, not the big promises, which make or break trust with those around us. I clearly remember explaining to an employee a mistake my payroll team had made, which caused the employee much grief. Once I rectified the situation, the employee responded with:

“We don’t talk very often, but whenever we do you seem very honest, open and straightforward with me. I really appreciate it…”

We all make mistakes – owning up to them and rectifying them helps to build trust with others.

I don’t mince my words. I choose to simplify client conversations. Not because I don’t know the industry terms, but because people instinctively understand, and don’t need to pause and think about them. People tend to distrust what they don’t understand, so why put additional hurdles in relationships?

We all need to understand the value of clear and simple messaging; brand and reputation. Company brands and personal brands go hand in hand. A very successful businessman with whom I had closely worked, referred his brother to me for advice. I clearly remember him telling me: “My brother is a very clever man, and doesn’t suffer fools lightly. I don’t refer people to him normally, but I trust you to get along with him because of your direct approach.” We got along just fine. We still do.

How to earn clients’ trust:

1. Own your shortcomings

I’m not perfect. I’m not trying to portray an image which I can’t live up to. People can subconsciously relate to that. Although I’m an advisor, I don’t always know everything. Being aware of your shortcomings allows you to work towards searching for answers.

2. Keep time

When making a plan, stick to it at all costs. We are the only ones who can control our time. We all have the same time in the day and get to decide how we spend it. You made a plan – stick to it.

Although life happens and you may be unable to keep promises, be upfront with your client about why you cannot meet them or a deadline and apologise profusely.

3. Actions speak louder than words

I can’t stress this enough – practice what you preach. The more your actions match your words, the easier it will be to earn trust. The more discrepancy exists between your words and your actions, the harder it will be to gain (or regain) trust.

4. Communicate your feelings

Stoicism puts a barrier between people. Being perceived as emotionless doesn’t help in building trust. If your feelings can impact your working relationships, find a way to express them. Be respectful without hiding your emotions. They need to know they are working with a human being, not a machine. We all have feelings and can relate to others displaying theirs. We all trust others we can relate to.

5. Demonstrate integrity

Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.

Do the right thing. Always. Even if it isn’t for your personal gain. Sometimes it will even hurt you, at that point in time. Yet you’ll gain a lot more than what you may lose by doing the right thing. You’ll gain respect, and trust.

On a personal note:

Steer away from phrases asking others to trust you! “Believe me”, “in all honesty”, “to tell you the truth”, etc. are the worst things you can say if you want to build trust. If you are genuinely honest, you need not convince people of that with leading phrases.  Just take those out of your vocabulary. Trust me on this one!