We Did it Again: Business Excellence Conference Asia Pacific - Best Client Results 2018-2019.
Winning awards as business coaches has never been a driving reason to get us out of bed of a morning.
It’s always been about the results we get for our clients. Life changing improvements to their businesses in terms of money, reduced stress and free time. That’s what we live for. And it’s what people pay us for.
But when we do pick up an award for best client results in a league with some heavyweight competition, it’s a nod from our peers that we’re doing the right thing.
Talking about our award is not something we do just to big note ourselves and try to impress prospective clients. After all, if you don’t know anything about the ActionCOACH community it may not mean much to you at all.
But it is relevant to those of you who’ve done us the honour of choosing us to coach you.
The fact is, anyone who’s worked with us, or considered it, knows we put them under pressure to change the way they do things.
As your business coaches we make challenging demands of you. We often make you feel uncomfortable and sometimes overwhelmed. Inevitably at those times some start to question whether the direction we’re asking them to take will really get them results.
So when we tell you we won an award for best overall client results among all our peers in the Asia Pacific Region - it’s a way of proving our stuff really works. And saying, if you stick with our methods, they really will get you the results you want.
This year’s win at the Asia Pacific 2019 Business Excellence Awards in Vietnam came as a very pleasant surprise.
Confident as we were our clients had done well, no one besides us has won the award twice in a row. We’d already won the award for 3 years running, so it seemed a long shot.
But we did win it again. This time now, for the fourth year back to back.
So we didn’t just get lucky last year with a couple of star clients, or the years before that. 4 years in a row says we’re on to something and being consistent. We’re getting the same sort of results for different clients year in year out.
Here are a few examples of client financial results that helped us over the winning line.
Along with many examples of financial gains like these, we also helped many, many clients simply improve their lifestyles by systemising their businesses.
The big lifestyle payoff in most cases has been that they have more time to spend with their families and can take real holidays for the first time in years.
One client took 4 months off to spend with his family, while his business ran perfectly well in his absence. Numerous others have taken multiple month long vacations while their businesses have continued to thrive in their absence.
So if you’re struggling with a business that’s not giving you the results you want - maybe underpaying you or taking all your time here’s a simple truth.
However hard it feels right now - there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Whether or not you can see that light today makes no difference.
As your business coaches we know where the light is for a struggling business and exactly how to get there. We’ve been proving that for years.
Follow our methods, do the work and we promise you’ll get the outcome you seek, whether that’s more money, a better lifestyle, or both.
If you’re a already an Action Centre client, do you know anyone who could use our help? If so please share this article with them and let them know how we’ve helped you.
If you’re not a client and would like to find out how we can help you, drop us a line and we’ll be glad to explain how we work.
Normally I’d start at the beginning of a journey and talk about my experience with the client and what brought about that relationship. Today, I want to flip that around and talk about results first.
A business that I worked with some time ago, grew over 20% within 8 months of working with me. Steve transitioned into becoming a Business Leader and facilitated many goals through his team, put in a new operating system into the factory, upgraded his payroll, rebranded his business. It was all done. The greatest achievement for Steve was that he successfully created a business that ran without him. How was that possible? Well, it’s possible for any small to medium sized business. That’s what I help people do everyday.
In Steve’s line of business, he was providing plumbing, heating/cooling and other services so his business was based on services, maintenance and equipment. There were many conflicting activities occurring in Steve’s business before we worked on it together to get the great results he experienced. It boiled down to focussing on just two things - increasing profits in every area of the business and freeing up Steve’s time. Within a year Steve was able to book a holiday (and go on it!), his family expanded with the arrival of their first child, and his team was able to keep the business growing.
Although I no longer work with Steve I do continue to catch up with him from time to time to get a bit of an update on his ever growing family and business. It was at our last meeting where Steve told me that his business was now travelling at a year-on-year profit increase, he and his family are travelling a lot more, his staff were getting regular bonuses and he had finally kicked off his investment plan by purchasing a couple of properties over the last two years.
When he came to my office, that very first time we met, he was looking for another way, another strategy to use that could turn his team around. That’s why when we sat down for the first time I decided to talk to him about football. Apart from enjoying the game, it’s the easiest way to explain coaching.
The world of football and the world of business are the same. Without a person standing in the sidelines watching your play it’s hard to anticipate where your team should be positioned in the next quarter. Both worlds are competitive and everyone’s trying to get the ball and kick a goal. The difficulty is that the game (or market) keeps changing. It gets faster, has quicker rotations and the ball is constantly in motion. I help many businesses kick more balls through the big sticks and get on the field with confidence knowing their next play.
Businesses come in all different shapes and sizes, they produce &/or service different things for different markets. The owners come from humble beginnings (some starting their business straight out of high school). But results like Steve’s happen all the time, and to anyone who’s willing to put the effort in. It’s got nothing to do with any secret handshake or society. I work with normal, ordinary people trying to make a living who have real business challenges. Steve, like so many after and before him, wanted to stop ‘making a living’ and want to start making a life. And, as they say the proof is the pudding. That’s why it’s worth it.
Judging my the title of this blog it comes across like Alex lacked in confidence or didn’t believe in himself or something along those lines. Well, that’s not the case and I’ll explain why a little later.
Thinking back at my time with him I came to realise that there were two forces behind his established building business. The first was attention to detail. He had that in spades. And the second force was the classic duck above water syndrome. It was always present in his business. I could feel it in the early stages of working with him. His receptionist, the logistics manager. All scrambling to get through each project. That’s not to say that it’s a negative, it was just there.
Even with those two things going on, Alex always had the bigger picture in mind and worked really hard to make sure he got there. And that’s really why he came to see me. One of his questions to me was “How do I get my business making the most it can, without growing too fast, too soon?”. He asked me to be his business coach so that we could step-by-step work on improving his business in a steady and realistic way. And that’s what I do best.
Mentoring and coaching is a process and I explain that to each and every client (or person who’s curious). What I do is provide, show and encourage each Business Owner to do what they set out to do but this time, do it bigger and better. Alex and I talked about this and kept coming back to that theme of process.
Each area of his business was under consideration for improvement, redevelopment or a complete overhaul. I put this to him in one of our meeting “It’s like when you construct a building with your team, you assess what’s in, what’s out and what you can repurpose. It’s the same in a business.” Alex wanted lots of details, lots of answers and absorbed the information pretty quick. So I put together a “program of works” kind of like something he would for one of his building jobs and that had Alex comfortable and ready to get started.
“I want to be the best. Isn’t that good enough” he told me. “Why not aim higher?” was my response. We talked about the importance of vision and mission. Being the best is what everyone talks about. I’m the best painter, best hire car, best restaurant, best pilot. Everyone is the best these days. Our conversations on this subject shifted to being different, finding a space in the market that he could “own”. It wasn’t long before Alex completely reshaped his initial direction into a very clear one and he started winning more business in the work that his team really excelled in. So much so that he had clients on a wait list! In twelve months he had increased his profits to over 200% and it all started with a clear direction.
The next pieces of the puzzle in Alex’s business journey are quite far and expanse (a bit too long for this blog) but I’ll touch on a few of the areas that I think also made a lasting impact in quick succession.
Teamwork. When I hear “there’s no ‘i’ in team I roll my eyes (on the inside). Until I see it for myself then I find it hard to agree that a team is well oiled team. In Alex’s case though, I am really pleased to say that his team were a cohesive “team” and worked together (even if they did it in a ordered chaos kind of way in the beginning). Alex was keen for me work not just with him but also with his team to improve their performance. So in the proceeding months I was in and out of his office each week, talking to his team as a group, as individual staff members and with Alex.
It’s hard to tell someone who is really attached to their team that they aren’t working together as well as they could. But when they are all open to the process together then those conversations are a lot easier to have. They all honestly believe they were a good team. And they were. To a point. It didn’t take me long to explain the different kinds of teams, which one they were, and what kind of team they could work to becoming using updated techniques and capitalising on their already positive team energy.
Out of all the areas of Alex’s business which we reviewed, the team were one of the greatest and immediate changes that I saw. They worked really hard to upgrade their levels and never lost their sense of belonging. As a result of all the changes in the team, Alex’s business received three times as many referrals from prospective clients! The follow-through on enquiries, courtesy from staff, efficiency of the on-site team was tremendous.
Without the team and Alex believing that they could improve and wanting to make the changes in themselves for the good of the business, the ongoing success wouldn’t have happened. And that’s why I say that it’s important for any business to believe in the process and have confidence in the art of business coaching. Personally, I get a kick out of seeing good go to best, then skyrocket to amazing.
I forgot to mention that Alex had contacted some of my previous clients before he came to see me - you know, to make sure I was what he needed. Now from the coaching and the results he experienced in his business - he is one of my biggest advocates! He keeps telling me to him to anyone who wants to reference check me. Thanks mate! I’m keen to hear about the next profit increases your team have have achieved this past quarter. I bet it’s topped what you did last year!
Charles liked to be called Charlie. That’s how he rolled. His business was friendly, everyone was a mate and they knew him on a first-name-basis. From the outside you’d think his business was a group of people who really liked hanging out with each other. Some of the guys had worked with Charlie for almost as long as he’d been running the business - well over ten years. When he and I first came together (many years ago now) he had one problem: how to hand the business down to his son Joel. Charlie owned a very successful construction company which was also handed down to him by his family. Joel was about to be the third generation business leader.
As I share this with you, I was going to describe the different business areas we talked about at our coaching sessions and every time I think back on those sessions I remember we kept discussing problem - people.
“Who’s running your operations?” “Why isn’t the sales team handling the follow-up calls?” “Why are you doing the on-site checks?” The more questions I asked the more it became apparent that Charlie running from one team member to another every day. His hours in his business was spent working in all the different parts of his business. And he wasn’t a spring chicken.
The team that he had in place were falling short on quite a few different areas like skill, aptitude, initiative and in some cases, basic know-how. I was well aware that Charlie and his team were more like a family to him, but as his Business Coach (and friend) I had to tell him that some of his people weren’t up to scratch. Charlie defended his team (as anyone would) by saying “I was handed the business from my family and this is the team that has stuck by me.” Charlie was loyal to his long-term staff, but, aside from being great mates, I explained that some members in his team weren’t allowing him to focus on growing his business and providing him the time necessary for Joel to learn the management ropes. Charlie was constantly being sucked into the day-to-day issues, problem solving across every level of his business, even down to administrational queries, sales, production and operations. And the problem with people was amplified because he kept employing more staff to make up for the short falls of the existing staff.
“A good tool for your team is to define each role,” I advised him, “it’s to help the people in the roles and to helps you find out if the people you have in those roles will thrive”. I introduced him to DiSC Performance Profiling. And he was hooked. He liked it because (a) it’s an independent measure of which person fits a role best and (b) he gets to find out his team’s natural preferences and how he can help them better.
It didn’t take long before Charlie told me “OK tell me what’s working and what isn’t in my HR, and give me a plan on how to change it”. I then went about taking him the start of the process before any person was addressed in the business. We started with Joel and his vision for the business. We created a concrete business plan, a future direction and where the business needed to go on a high level. Then we went about creating the roles that the business needed to fit that direction. Joel was very much an active participant in this process and to this day revisits this plan regularly.
When it came to people we certainly didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The original team did have some movement when we discovered how their DiSC personalities did (or in some cases - didn’t) fit the roles that they had been doing. For example a Frank was a High “I” (an “Influencer”) was in a non-people facing role in the Operations Department. I suggested perhaps a role which was customer-facing may suit Frank so Joel and Charlie promoted Frank Estimator (which he still enjoys many years later). Another staffer, Irene, we discovered was a ‘Conscientious) with a D (Dominance) and Joel offered her Project Management role. Every “t” was crossed and “i” was dotted as well as motivating the team to move forward.
The key to Joel and Charlie’s success was being careful with each role, using DiSC and building on the best in people. The real breakthrough came 6 months down the track after we had the right people in place, when Charlie found he had time on his hands. Time that he never thought he could have in his thirty years of working in his family business. Joel was such an active member of the management team now that all Charlie did was ensure he was on the Board of Management which ran each month and spend the better part of his time sharing his thoughts and assisting Joel through the Strategic Business Plan to grow the business and advise and guide.
“It’s a huge relief because it’s no longer completely up to me to execute the plan” he told me. Charlie and Joel are now focused on building his business into the next phase of growth. Joel has managed to sail the construction business into 150% growth figures which was amazing. So naturally our sessions took a whole new course which was exciting for them and for me.
This client story is a great example of how staff play such a big role in the lives of Business Leaders. When I last spoke with Charlie he wound up telling me that three out of the past eight months he spent on holiday overseas. In fact, he was just about to take off again! Well done Charlie. You deserve it.
Michael was ready to talk to someone. He was going through a few epiphanies in this life and had made some major changes. He was a carpenter by trade and he bought himself a business to run - well, when I say business, he really just bought himself a job - the business stuff came later. I wanted to share this story with you because it’s about a client that had to adjust to many new things, all at once, and his business was a really important part that he needed develop so he could find his new ‘normal’. For a long time Michael was thinking about finding someone to help him through his new business and he interviewed quite a few different people until we ended up meeting each other.
He told me “I need to sort out the trash in my head” so I told him “okay, that’s why I’m here.. let’s start with working out where you’re at”. He literally put me to task and said “Brett, sort out the stuff between my ears”. In our first couple of sessions we talked about his life, what he wanted to do on a personal level and where he saw his business fit into that picture.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that he was a closet academic with high degrees and honors - like something out of Cambridge University. He previously worked in corporations for years and even though had taken its toll, unforeseen circumstances (which I won’t go into here) meant he was now having to raise his three kids on his own.
For many people, as it was with Michael, change isn’t always easy and when there are too many changes it can be very stressful. My initial role as Michael’s mentor and coach was to help him adjust his business through the personal changes he was going through. In business books, they call it “change management” my version of that is “getting on with it”.
Michael’s business was a good fit for him because he was also a very skilled in carpenter - he built his own home extension, country get away and renovated many properties. So we got on with the business and building his business.
At at next session I said “Mike, there are a few things I’d like for you to do” and handed him a couple of assessments to do then we went about reviewing every part of his business operation. The number one thing for Michael at this stage was getting to know his numbers and improve his billings. The competition was clearly charging a much higher rate and he wasn’t breaking much above even. “You’re holding yourself back Mike” I told him when we found out that the competition was bringing in more per hour than he was. Michael was working 33% harder than the rest and didn’t even know it!
During the next couple of years his business really took off. Michael’s billings were now positioned at healthy marketable rates, his customer referrals picked up even further and he started to employ staff.
There were many other activities that we did together that went beyond financial improvements and competitive marketing. Michael had been adjusting to a new business slowly, and within 18 months, his business doubled in size and profitability. We both discussed strategies of how to strike a work/life balance and Michael used a few of the methods to really focus on what was important (rather than what was urgent). The more we worked on his business the more we saw the improvements.
The end of the third year rolled around and we talked about how the business was going. And after we smiled about the the 60% increases across the board and Michael was ready to go out of the office to start his 3 week holiday, he stopped to tell me “Brett, my life is finally back on track” - and that was Michael’s version of a high-five. I’ll take that.
One thing that I learned from my time as a business coach working with Michael was that not every business is about breaking new ground, conquering a huge mountain and fighting through the abyss. Sometimes the definition of success is a business that becomes stable, changes slowly and surely and is predictable. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Successful takeover firms fall over backwards to find stable performing businesses. It didn’t matter that Michael wasn’t a high octane, bouncing off the walls, mover-shaker kind of guy, his business was very successful and was exactly like him - a consistent and quiet achiever.
When you’re busy taking care of other people its hard to look at what you need for your own self. That’s how I saw Alana and Rose. Two very capable natural therapists who were dedicated to helping their clients feel fantastic and have a new lease on life. Problem was as successful as their business was, with repeat clients, new services to offer and new products flying off the shelves, the business they were so attached to wasn’t looking after them. I see this kind of thing all the time. Amazing technicians who can give the highest levels of craft and service but they aren’t looking at what really matters in their lives, which in the case of Alana and Rose it was their incomes to support their family commitments.
They had almost had enough when they decided to find me and we met over a coffee in their local shopping haunt. Trendy, inner city spot with lots of hipsters. It was a perfect location for servicing professional, high income earners, baby boomer retirees and people who want to pamper themselves after a long work day. Their business idea was certainly not the issue.
“We work really hard Brett, and we love it. When the business can pay us after all our expenses are taken out, we get a little bit of pay, but it’s not much.” Alana and Rose wanted to have a regular income stream but it just wasn’t happening. That’s why they asked for my help. They worked for the business, paid its expenses, rent, equipment, supplies. I could see that it brought them down and they felt there wasn’t anything they could do about it.
So many business owners get stuck in this cycle so I was pretty confident when I told both Rose and Alana “if I show you some things and you learn how to look at all the different parts of your business, you can make regular payments to yourselves come out of your business”. They looked a little bit like they were beaten down by daily grind of their business and didn’t believe what I was suggested. Luckily they were willing to come on board with me and give it a try and give it 12 months to see what we could do together.
The first very big leap the girls made was that, with my guidance and support, they employed other specialists. Yoga teachers, remedial massage therapists, pilates instructors. It wasn’t all done overnight and took gradual careful consideration because it was a small team and they didn’t want to be in over their heads. What amazed them the most was the more services they put on the higher the volume of customers that came into their business. The position of the business was perfect!
After a few months, the girls experienced a solid customer volume at a good regular rate. This meant that we could work on the rest of their business. When we meet up each month, I found a gradual lift in their spirit and they started to feel like they could really make a go of building a fantastic service for their local community. They were all about customer service.
At the 5 month mark I sprung a little surprise on them by saying “now let’s look at your numbers”. They both looked at me, there was a silent pause and then Rose said “OK, where do we start”. And that was it. For the next few intense meetings we did it all. P&L and balance sheet management, liability management, asset protection. You name it. They weren’t afraid of anything financial in their business. In fact they went along to intense training workshops I sent them on so they could really get on top of their numbers. Coaching business partners like Rose and Alana was so much fun, they didn’t take their business for granted, they wanted to learn and it was a case of the more I gave them the better they got at leading their business.
By the 10 month mark the girls saw a complete turnaround in their business. The coaching they received from me made a business less than a year prior, now able to give them a regular income, they had more staff on board and they were no longer breaking even anymore.
“We want to tell you two things Brett - first. We made a profit!! And it’s not even been a year!!” Alana said to me when she called me up before our meeting to review their goals and targets. “That’s fantastic!” I told her, but between you and me, I knew they had already hit their targets and I was already working on some profit maximisation strategies to share with them. This is the best part of my role I have to say - seeing “business owners” turn into Business Leaders. They didn’t know it but both Alana and Rose were well on their way to running a strong sustainable business.
“Great! Congratulations Alana! What’s the other thing you wanted to tell me?” I asked her. “Well…..Rose is taking time out of the business because….she’s pregnant! Last year she was so worried and nervous and it was all too much. We are now relaxed and know what we’re doing thanks to you, and look what happened!” That was a surprise. Mind you, I don’t profess to help people feel that they can expand their family, but I did believe I had something to do with developing their peace of mind! Did I mention they were both already working mums of small children?
Alana and Rose’s business was set up to support them in their existing family life. In the beginning there was no real take-home wage so they couldn’t rely on the business to give them the stability they were after. Now, only 10 months down the track with regular income, actual profits, and a caring team, it is more than possible.
As a business coach, finding profits was the easy part for me, the harder part for the people that I coach, is to help them find a better work life. When that happens I know I have done a great job.
I keep in contact with both Rose and Alana and had the pleasure of meeting Rose’s new arrival, baby James. As far as their professional life was concerned, I can certainly say that I helped them fill in all the blanks on how to manage their business better, they not only did that brilliantly, they managed to add an extra special ingredient of their very own. Well done!