The very nature of my job is that I am involved in business change. Many call it change management but I’m more goal driven so I would call it “business growth” for example. Either way, me becoming involved represents a change of some description. More often than not for the positive. But I can’t help but reflect on the businesses, and business owners I interact with that would benefit from my (or another consultants) interaction, but don’t actually make the leap. Over the next few weeks I’m going a little ‘under the skin’ of why this may be. I am going to gloss over the fact some may not like me or feel they can work with me so will discuss the below:

“Change” – todays topic and how it may stop business leaders / owners engaging external support.

“My business isn’t right” – it’s too big, too small, he wouldn’t know my market etc

“I couldn’t afford it” – I’m sure this is a common one, but hopefully isn’t a reality as often as you may think

“Knowing where to start” – often my first couple of meetings with a new prospective client they have no idea what to expect.

So change……

I haven’t come across a business that hasn’t changed. In this business my fundamental goal of working locally only had to change within the first year. How I market myself and my business is evolving all the time. My branding and identity changed in 2016, my business structure itself went from a partnership to a company in 2014. That’s plenty of change, some managed and planned, some reactive. But at the heart of it my values remained the same.

Working with people open to my feedback and support. Working with businesses I can add value to.  Being honest and constructive with my approach. 

My point? Change in unavoidable. Change comes whether you like it or not. You can accept it, you can growth with it,  but you cannot avoid it altogether. So what does a (good) external consultant add?

Speaking for myself, the first step is critical thinking and questions. What are your business (and personal) goals?What’s at the heart of your business? What’s successful? What isn’t? What should you being doing more (and less) of? I am yet to find a new client that doesn’t think slightly differently about their proposition after only one or two sessions with me. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not shouting “I’m brilliant” here, any experienced, good external consultant will provide some external observations that are harder to see when you’re in the day to day operations of a business full time.

Second step is about prioritising? Accepting and managing change is not about doing everything at once, that would be something to be feared. You need to take the context into account. How big is the business? Whats the working capital? What time can be dedicated to work on something new / different? That’s about prioritising. Change is so much less daunting if it’s broken into ‘bite sized chunks.’ An example?

Your sales strategy isn’t working? Change it. Everything about it. Change it now. That’s not helpful, nor specific, nor prioritised. Here’s a break down of how I recently suggested starting some changes to a small businesses sales strategy.

  1. Review the understanding of the roles and objectives of each sales person from their perspective, and compare to business goals. What do they think of your sales and supporting processes?
  2. Examine the activities of the sales team – customer contact points / visits / calls – new customer vs existing customer etc. How are they reporting this and what are they receiving to support them?
  3. Review your client feedback – what do your customers think of you, and what would they change about your business if they could. (I know a great organisation that can helps with this specifically BTW – see link below).

What conclusions are drawn from above? The result of this will be known within a couple of weeks, a month at the most and what a great place to start from if you believe your sales people could achieve more. The response of the client in question?

“I need some help with my leadership team, can you please propose chairing the monthly meetings”

He was aware things needed to change, a little external perspective and we’re underway. Suddenly change doesn’t seem too scary. It’s manageable. It can be embraced to support your goals. This is replicable in one man businesses, and in corporates. If you’re open to change, and if the context and capabilities of the business are understood.

My final piece of advice on change. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Far better to embrace change as a proactive decision, than wait until it’s forced up on you. Whether its market forces, compliance, competitor activity, technology, or more that is the driver of the moment in your industry try to keep ahead of the curve.

Relevant articles:

Cash is King – don’t wait until its too late!

Scaling Up – a major driver for proactive change is desiring growth

Working on the Business – needed to take control of change

Useful Links

Enquir3 – A great business for surveying your clients to keep on top of what they really think!