Friday 2 March 2012

Meeting the challenge of communicating our difference - part four - Guest post by Mark Sutherland

This is a special guest post by Mark Sutherland.
Mark lives in New Zealand, a small country in the South Pacific region with a population of less than five million.

It is therefore a remarkable achievement that he has coached 2 Olympic Champions and been the performance coach to 7 World Champions from six different sports.

I first "met" Mark on LinkedIn. He has since given me some invaluable feedback about how I portray my differentiation.

Please find out more about Mark here.

The 8 practical activities to make your business a success
©Mark Sutherland. 

Over the last 17 years as an executive and business coach I have observed the following eight activities to be the most commonly used among my clients who are successful. Since I have clumped these together for my clients who don’t feel successful, they quickly identify with them and elevate their performance. I have executive clients who make sure their managers and supervisors use these as a template for business development. I have self-employed clients who use them to stay on top of their game.

It has been said that the key to success is passion and purpose and I am very much of that belief. The ‘8’ are the practical activities that enable that passion and purpose to manifest. My own clients make significant gains in service offerings, cash flow, client happiness and personal and team satisfaction when these 8 activities are implemented and monitored.

Switch On

Know your people, your business, your market and your industry better than anyone else. Switching On means putting things front of mind. It means becoming a student of the game. The things you need to know about and what you need to know about them are always right in front of your face - you just don’t see them until you switch on. 

Here is an analogy for you. When you want to buy a new car and you know what you want, you start searching for information by reading car reviews, talking to people who own one, you view them on YouTube and tour the car sales yards to check them out. You are so switched on to this model of car that you actually start to see plenty of them the highway. They were always there but now you see them because you are switched on.

Value Yourself Up

You know more than you think you know. You need to value your knowledge, your management skills and your business experience. You need to leverage what you know to give you an advantage in the market place. What you know enhances your credibility. When you truly value yourself up with confidence and self-belief you increase your credibility power. It is your credibility power that will grow your business.

I have worked with many executive clients who have suffered from ‘fraud syndrome’. They tell me they don’t know how they got into such a senior position with high levels responsibility. They literally wonder if they really do know what they should know and tell me they feel like a fraud. I need to point out here that female executives suffer fraud syndrome more than male executives – at least that has been my observation. Once we do a success exercise they quickly acknowledge they are not frauds.

Stick to the basics

Business Excellence is doing the basics better than before all day every day in every way.

In your business there will be core activities that drive your business success. These activities will grow your business – activities such as prospecting, administration, following up leads, regular communication with customers, clients and suppliers, managing your database and providing high quality service and client experiences.

Each of these activities is made up of basic steps components and processes. Make sure these basic activities are not compromised. Always maintain a high standard with them: they are the core foundation of your business.

Know your numbers

Know your numbers. Know your cash flow situation. Know your productivity capabilities, sales figures and profit margins. Know your sales trends so you know how to prepare for busy times and down times. Be inquisitive – it is your business. It’s what you don’t know that can bring you down, so stay on top of your numbers all the time. Do not make decisions about technology, opportunities, diversification and business development unless you know your numbers. Numbers make a business go around. My most successful clients know there numbers.

I had one client who owned a plastics retail shop. He wanted to make more income from the shop but wasn’t sure how to do it. I asked him to tell me his numbers. He couldn’t. I told him my most successful clients know there numbers and I wanted him to get a full audit completed so he knew where he was at. He did this and found he was in a pretty good position but still wanted to generate more cash from his sales.

I gave him the following exercise. He was to review all his 2000 products and decide which items he could raise the price on by between 5c and $5 and still remain competitive. He had to do this exercise against his sales of those products over the previous financial year. It took him two weeks to come up with the numbers but what a surprise. He discovered that it would generate another $250,000. He was ecstatic. I then gave him another surprise and said “isn’t it great to have free money coming into your business”? He asked, “What do you mean”? I explained to him that he was already profitable and paying his bills so this was like a free scoop of ice cream on the cone, a pleasant surprise. I then suggested he put some money aside as a bonus for his very loyal staff and then figure out what to do with the rest. I had to shake the place up a little bit and give the staff a bit of a rev, but once they found out they were getting a bonus I became their best friend.

Drill, Drill, Drill

The biggest asset in your business can make you millions. Staff development and management training are essential. Never underestimate the value and motivation that staff training can provide. Set aside regular coaching and training sessions to up-skill your team and keep them motivated. Training staff is not a cost to your business – it is an investment that when done properly will get you a return. Great staff means happy customers and clients who will spend money and keep the shareholders happy.

I encourage my clients to have formal coaching and knowledge advancement sessions at last once per week. I also encourage them to allocate a staff member to prepare a small training session on something they know a lot about within the business and industry. They get a couple of hours off that week to prepare. For the most part they are not nervous about presenting because they know their team mates.

The outcome is a great level of commitment to provide a quality presentation. The presenter leads a discussion and answers questions. Their confidence is boosted, staff members learn something new and they value their positions and jobs because they are valued by their team-mates.

I had one client who owned a gym and applied this method. Over a year they created a significant knowledge library on all things health and fitness. The quality of service from the trainers elevated and was very high because they were switched on and valued themselves up with their knowledge.

Stay on task

Stick to your game plan – know where you are going and measure your progress against your plan. It is easy to get distracted away from your primary goal when you don’t have a plan. It takes discipline to stay on task and keep your eye on the ball. Every day ask yourself the question, “If I do this, will it grow my business?” Also ask “Is what I am doing a return on investment activity or a distraction”?

Executive Health and Fitness

Peak performers don’t have a choice when it comes to health and fitness. You must maintain a work/life balance, an executive level of fitness, and energise yourself with quality nutrition. This is self-explanatory: a healthy mind needs a healthy body. The research is as plain as the nose on your face. The more energised you are through good levels of health and fitness the more effective you are at your vocation and within your business and correspondingly the more successful you are.

Expect to succeed

If you don’t back yourself no-one else will. Great champions are never surprised by victory: they plan for it and expect it. Great business people are never surprised by success: they plan for it and expect it.

Mark Sutherland
Get more insights from Mark on Twitter.
and connect with him LinkedIn.

What will you do about Mark's 8 insights? I would love to hear about what you do.

Be the difference you want to see in the world

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