I've entitled this article 'holding your course no matter what'.
The reason that I have entitled my article is that I have been reflecting on the fact that I have deviated many times from the path during the course of my working career but the one thread that flows through everything is that 'I have always been working to help other people to start and grow a business.'
This started in banking where I very much saw my role as supporting other people to create successful businesses mainly through the provision of capital in the form of loans and overdrafts and also money transmission services.
Sometimes the support would come in the advice I would give or just listening to the business owners plans and helping them to clarify their plans for the future.
I was forced out of banking by my ideology because i didn't think the banks strategy of setting sales targets for their banking products matched my desire to always provide the best impartial advice for my customers. I figured that if I wouldn't buy the banks services, like insurance and life cover, then it would be unethical for me to sell them to others.
This attitude of course caused me a great deal of stress as the Bank applied more and more financial and psychological pressure to conform with their vision but I simply didn't share it and was glad to leave in the end. I like to think that I was vindicated by the eventual banking collapse 7 years after I left but the truth is everyone lost.
The bank lost a faithful and committed employee. My customers lost someone who was dedicated to improving their business (and thereby the quality of business customer that the Bank could profit from). I gave up my job for which I was highly trained - I had spent 8 years working with the top bankers in my region and was fully qualified with my banking exams.
Every stake-holder lost.
I then moved on to business consulting on the basis that I wanted to continue advising family businesses on how to expand and grow. The truth is that whilst I was highly qualified (and I spent another small fortune on being trained as a consultant), I was not great at taking the actions necessary to promote myself.
I have therefore not shared my experience with other business owners as much as I should have done over the last 12 years since I left the bank. This is partly due to the fact that when a business is struggling I tend to take much of the stress and distress on my own shoulders i.e. I get emotionally involved because I empathise with what the business owner is going through.
This is personally painful and can give rise to poor thinking in that a more objective view would sometimes deliver a better solution. It has also given rise to a reluctance to put myself in this situation - in other words I have held myself aloof from getting too involved. Preferring to try to deliver a remote solution in the form of an information product.
But the truth is no business owner who is struggling is in the right frame of mind to study an information product - they need hands on support and help. The kind of help that is simply not available from banks because their staff have been recruited mainly for their ability to SELL financial services to meet the banks sales targets rather than their ability to understand how to turn a business around.
Many accountants have been positioning themselves to provide this kind of support but their auditing role provides their bread and butter income and, as accounting technicians, many of them find it difficult to engage in a consulting capacity.
The reason that I am writing this article is that I think it is time for me to engage fully with a real business and demonstrate what I am really capable of achieving because I now have a deep understanding of not only marketing but also the the skills of planning, budgeting, finance, key performance indicators, systems and processes and product creation.
As Jay Abraham would say, it is my duty to share what I have learnt with other business owners in order to help them on their journey.
Perhaps my biggest weakness is in the people development and team building area - I have been a bit of a loner for the last 12 years with absolutely no desire to engage in the internal politics of business. This is a vital skill given that my clients business team needs to be on board with any changes proposed. However, I see no reason why my role cannot be to influence the business owner (and their team of managers) and allow them to implement the changes required.
In the past I have achieved some remarkable results with businesses but I failed to get testimonials and proof. For example, I have doubled a businesses turnover in a matter of weeks, turned businesses around from losses to profits and even brought businesses back from the brink of disaster.
It's time for me to do that again. But this time I will gather the proof.
This week I am doing a free consultation with the owner of a business who trains minibus drivers. An initial look at his website and marketing gives me huge confidence that I will be able to make a real difference to this business. Currently their online advertising campaign is yielding an estimated 0.3% return in enquiries - if I can't at least quadruple that then I will be disappointed.
I'm returning to the front line of business - holding to my original course which has always been to help other people to start and grow successful businesses.
In doing so I will ask each client to give me a testimonial and to be a case study for me to win additional business. It is my intention to use a lot of online video consultations for both marketing, educational and also product creation purposes.
My current product range will be used to plug my customers into additional training as and when required and I will also provide some done-for-you services - hopefully outsourcing a lot of the work to enable me to concentrate on consulting and promoting my services.
I still want to pursue the info-marketing model but it will be based from now on on practical proof gained from interacting with real businesses with real problems. I think this will be powerfully attractive to other businesses who have problems to solve.
Above all I will be holding my course no matter what because I think my original vision of helping and supporting other business owners is a worthy one and I am well qualified to offer exceptional value in this context. Watch this space!