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.
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