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Business growth specialists for service businesses

Ask Anne!

Ask Anne your burning question. Is cash flow restricting your growth? Do you need more quality leads? Are you flat out and don’t have time to think? All these are very common challenges which can be quickly overcome.

Use the form opposite and take advantage of our interactive FAQ’s and ask directly for Anne’s advice.

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    Your Question

    Leadership

    Q: We are a fast growing company with a team of highly qualified and talented specialists. We want to promote some of them into managerial and leadership roles to help with the sudden growth but they have little or no experience of managing people. Can you give us some advice on the how we can build their skills and confidence?
    A: The best way to approach this situation is to support them with a combined programme of external management and leadership training backed up with internal mentoring and coaching to help embed their new skills and learning. It would also be useful to give them some tools and techniques for understanding and coping with change to help them and their teams as they transition from team members to team leaders.

    Sales

    Q. We have invested heavily in online marketing which is generating many more opportunities that we could take advantage of. We need the customer service team to step up a gear and change the way they are working to meet the demand. How do we do this without upsetting or de-motivating the team when they are already busy and over-stretched?
    A. The best way forward in this sort of situation is to communicate with the team and get them involved in solving the problem with you. They do the job day to day and will be well aware of the issues and also the solutions. They will need to have a clear understanding of the challenge, constraints and rewards which mean that you will have to be prepared to answer the big question that they enviably will ask, “what’s in it for me?”. It also worth saying that not everyone is motivated by money and there are many ways of rewarding and recognising people for their efforts.

    Time

    Q: I want to expand my business but struggle to find the time because I am so busy doing client work. What would you advise?
    A. This is a very good question and one that all business owners have to deal with at some point if they want to move their business beyond themselves. If you are already working at full capacity or near to it, then the best thing to do first is make a list of tasks that other people could do as good as or even better than you for a lower price. A good way of creating this list is to keep a note of things as they crop up over a couple of weeks.

    The next step is to think about who you know that could do these tasks. There may even be someone in your circle of friends and family that might welcome the opportunity and experience to do some work, such as mum or dads on mat leave, graduates or early retirees. Alternatively, there are very good out-sourcing options these days so ask your network for recommendations or search online. If you are part of a larger business I recommend you revisit everyone’s roles and responsibilities to assess if there is scope for anyone else to take on a few more tasks, this could be a good development opportunity for them.

    Once you have created some time make sure you do not fill it with more clients or operational demands. You will need to be focused and disciplined in how you use this valuable time. As a guide you should aim to spend at least 25% of you time growing and developing your own business.

    Marketing

    Q: Most of my business comes from networking and referrals, when I get busy I don’t do as much networking and so referrals drop off. Over time this affects my cash flow and I go from feast to famine. What can I do to even out the flow of referrals and cash flow?
    A: This is the number one challenge for many service businesses in the early stage. The trick to this issue is not to rely solely on referrals, create other income streams and build up a mix of marketing activities that do not require you to be there.

    In order to get yourself into this position you will need to invest time in on working on your own business first. Please refer to the question about time so some ideas.

    Profitability

    Q: We have increased turnover year on year but are not growing our profits, what do you think might be the problem?
    A: Without understanding more about the business it is difficult to say specifically what the problem is. However, in general there are a few key areas that you could look at. The biggest cost in all service businesses are salaries so it is very important to ensure that everyone is being used effectively. You don’t want expensive resource sitting around being under-utilized or worse being over utilized on low level activities. Some other areas that can affect profitability are overheads, margins, pricing and the average sale price.

    Priorities and Focus

    Q: I am constantly overwhelmed by operational issues, how can I prioritise and focus on driving the business forward when the team and customers are so demanding?
    A: This is not an unusual situation for small and mid size businesses that are growing. The most effective way to deal with this situation is train up or takes on someone else to handle the operational issues and manage the team. This would then free you up to take the reins and focus on driving the business forward.

    Direction

    Q: I have been running my consultancy business for a couple of years and thinking about expanding. What is the best expansion route for my business?
    A: There are many and varied routes open to you these days, eg, organic growth supported by a team, acquiring another business, franchise or creating online information products. If you have not already done so, I recommend you start with researching and educating yourself on the various expansion options available to you. Most grow organically as business increases and then drift into taking on more people to meet that demand but this is not always the best or only option.

    I recently worked with a client who was determined to grow through franchising because they thought this route would generate them the best financial return and all they had to do was to systemise their business. When we discussed the implications of having multiple business units with up to 50 people to manage it soon became apparent that they did not have the appetite or skills for this. They concluded that the best option for them was to develop their personal brand and create online information products that they could sell directly online or licence to other consultants.

    Here are some things to consider before leaping in: think about what your ultimate goal for the business is, do you want to create something that you can later sell, pass on or get an income from? How much time do you want to spend working in the business? If you prefer working with clients rather than managing people then building up a team may not be the best option for you.  Ultimately, I recommend that you choose the option that best suits your personality, passion and skill set.

    Anne O'Reilly

    Anne O'Reilly

    Managing Director

    I have helped hundreds of service-based companies grow successful and profitable businesses for years. It doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming, it’s more about knowing what to do and how to do it.

    If you have a burning question, a challenge or an obstacle to growth them please get in touch and I will happily point you in the right direction.

    A little about me…

    I have over 25 years experience of working with SME & corporate clients in a broad range of sectors, including retail, professional services, IT, marketing, financial services, B2C, B2B, central and civil government. Many share similar challenges to growth around people, profit and productivity.