Managing Through A Business Turnaround
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Businesses in trouble often seek business coaching

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.  So, I have seen my fair share of business owners who have hit hard times and need to turn their business around.  A business turnaround is one of the most difficult maneuvers a business owner will ever make.  I had to do it myself once, I know.  In my business coaching practice I have seen that turnarounds are a time when true leadership is called for.  It’s a time for tough decisions and decisive actions.  Here are some business coaching tips from someone who has been there as well as been witness to many others.

Business Coaching Tip #1: Knowledge is your friend. When businesses get into trouble the owners often avoid looking at the numbers.  They just don’t want to know how bad things have gotten.  So, they avoid doing their P&L’s.  They don’t look at sales trends.  They make excuses.  The first step to righting the ship is to understand exactly where it stands.  Take a look at the vital information you need to know and do it now!

Business Coaching Tip #2: Start the turnaround sooner, rather than later. This seems obvious, but when you are in the middle of a sinking business, it’s hard to get perspective.  Most business owners think a downturn is merely a blip.  They stay in denial far too long.  Things usually have to get really bad before a business owner formally admits that the business is in trouble.  Don’t wait.  Implement a turnaround at the first sign that things are heading in the wrong direction.

Business Coaching Tip #3: Bring in an outsider to help you get perspective. It may be a good friend who knows a lot about business.  It may be a turnaround consultant.  It may be a business coach who has helped other business owners through difficult times.  It may be a small team of people.  Whoever it is, they need to be able to cut to the chase quickly.  And, they need to have no vested interest in the business.  In other words, they need to be objective so that they can give you an honest assessment of where you stand.

Business Coaching Tip #4: Create a turnaround plan. Set specific goals and put them in writing.  Write an action plan to achieve each of those goals.  Have an outsider hold you accountable to taking action and achieving the results you have set out.  A written plan is essential.  Having a vague idea of what to do is not good enough.  You must commit in writing to the things that you will do to turn the business around.  Those actions must have a date by which you will do them.  You must track your results.

Business Coaching Tip #5: Time is of the essence. One of the biggest mistakes I see in my coaching practice is that clients who have businesses in trouble sometimes lack a sense of urgency.  I don’t understand it.  Perhaps it is part of the denial that has set in.  But hear this:  You must act quickly.  Once things start going downhill, they can spin out of control quickly.  Don’t let this happen.  Head things off at the pass.

Business Coaching Tip #6: Act decisively. Don’t pussyfoot around here.  Take big actions, not baby steps.  This is important, because if you make small moves, you will likely have to come back and make yet more.  For example, if you have to cut headcount, cut deeply once rather than lightly multiple times.  Don’t pull the band aid off one hair at a time.  Take bold, decisive action.

Business Coaching Tip #7: Find the right balance between assuming responsibility and beating yourself up. It’s important to assume responsibility.  You own the business, this happened on your watch.  Assuming responsibility actually empowers you to make the changes you need to make to fix things.  If you believe things are not your fault and beyond your control, then you believe you don’t have the power to fix them.  On the other hand, don’t beat yourself up.  That is not helpful.  You need to remain positive and beating yourself up is not the way to do that.  Find the right balance.

Here’s what I know from my business coaching:  If you are willing to take a realistic look at where things stand and take bold and decisive action, you have a good chance of turning things around.  The key is to step up and lead.  Bring in someone who can help you have the perspective to see the right action to take and take it.  This can be one of the most important stages in your business development.  You will learn more about your business during a turnaround than you have ever learned before.  See this as a great opportunity and step into it!

Nan O’Connor is one of America’s top business coaches

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.  (search for her name in the directory) You can reach her at 404-378-5026 or  Visit her website at
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Your Highest & Best Use - Tips from A Business Coach
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It’s a universal concern for all business owners.  As a business coach, I see it everyday.  What to do with yourself?  Better put:  How do you, the business owner, decide where to spend your limited time and energy? What is your highest and best use?

Every business owner brings something unique to the table.  Something that others don’t bring.  It’s why you own the business and others don’t.  If they could do it, they would probably own their own businesses.  As a business coach, I often can spot these unique gifts when my clients can’t.  They come so naturally to them that they don’t see them as special.

I’ve gained a bit of insight from my twelve years as a business coach.  I hope the following tips help you decide where your business most needs you:

Business Coach Tip # 1: Ask yourself what are the three most important things you do. These are things you do for the business that no one can do.  At least, that no one can do as well as the business needs them done.  Notice I did not say as well as you can do them.  As a business coach, I always run up against this with my clients.  They don’t want to let go of things others don’t do as well as they do.  Well, if that were the criteria, they would let go of precious little.  The criteria needs to be whether they can do it as well as the business needs it to be done.  Period.

Business Coach Tip # 2: Ask your employees what are the three most important things you do. See if their answers match theirs.  If so, great.  If not, explore why their perceptions are different.  Consider whether they are seeing things you are missing.  Also, be aware that there may be some things you do that you know are vital to the business, but they don’t truly appreciate them.

Business Coach Tip # 3: Make a list of all the other things you do that don’t fall on the joint list. There are probably a lot of things on that list.  Consider why you are doing each of those things.  Decide whether you are doing them because: 1. You don’t have anyone else to do them.  2. You enjoy doing them and don’t want to stop.  3. You have other people who could do them, but you don’t trust them.  Sort them into categories, then deal with them as outlined below.

Business Coach Tip # 4: For the ones that you have no one else to do: Consider whether it would make financial sense to hire someone.  Or, is there someone on your team who could do them with a bit of training? Or, could you outsource.  What makes sense?

Business Coach Tip # 5: For the things you enjoy doing: Ask yourself if you are merely doing these things because they are in your comfort zone.  If so, let them go.  On the other hand, if you truly enjoy them, ask if it makes sense to hang on to them.  Or to do them some of the time and delegate them other times.  You have to take an honest look at what makes sense for the business.  I am the business coach for a software company.  The owner is a geek (a wonderful geek) who loves to write code.  Sorry!  That’s simply not the highest and best use of his time.  He can easily hire that out. He has other priorities, like unique design.

Business Coach Tip # 6: For the things that you have other people who could do them, but you don’t trust them: Is this about them or about you?  Have you given them the proper training?  Have you given them performance reviews so they know the areas in which they are falling short?  If not, then it’s about you.  However, if you have done these two critical things and they are not worthy of trust for certain activities, then you must consider whether they are the right people. If they are not, get the people in who can do the job.

There is nothing more powerful than a business owner who knows her/his highest and best use and acts on it!  Take these simple steps to determine what your business really needs you to be doing.  Then take the steps to delegate the rest.  Play in your sweet spot.

Considerations For Selling Your Business - Business Coacing Tips
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Many of my business coaching clients eventually ask, “Should I consider selling my business?”  There are many factors that should be considered when weighing such an important decision.  And, I have noticed many times when it is the right time to sell, but the owner won’t take action.  Here are some things I have observed in my business coaching that might be helpful to you if you are considering selling your business.

Business Coaching Tip #1: Many business owners won’t sell their business, even if it is the right time to do so, because they don’t have a clue what they would do without it. This means that their identity is so wrapped up in the business that they don’t have any idea of who they are without it.  It happened to me.  It happens to most business owners.  This is why a balanced life is important.  This is why it’s important to retain your own identity, separate from your business.  If you become your business, you will never sell it!

Business Coaching Tip #2: Many business owners can’t sell their business, even if they want to, because it has no value without them. In order to sell a business, the business needs to have value even if the business owner is not in the picture.  This is a consideration every business owner needs to take into consideration, even if they don’t intend to sell their business any time soon.  Build a business that can breathe without you.  It will give you options down the road that you will be glad you have.

Business Coaching Tip #3: Don’t stay too long at the fair. There is nothing sadder than hearing a business owner admit that they should have sold their business two or three years ago.  Remember, all businesses go through a life cycle:  birth, growth, maturity and decline.  You usually want to sell just before you reach the end of the maturity cycle.  Unfortunately, I sometimes get new clients in my business coaching practice that waited too long.  It’s hard to rewind the clock after a business has reached the decline stage.  Be very realistic about where your business is in the cycle.

Business  Coaching Tip #4: Entertain all serious inquiries. Many times, one of my business coaching clients will tell me that someone called and said they are interested in buying their business.  Often, they decline to talk to them, because they are not interested in selling at that time.  Never decline to have a conversation.  When someone approaches you, it’s a great time to find out more about your businesses market value.  You don’t have to share any confidential information, just ask questions.  It’s amazing what you can find out.  And, I have seen business owners be surprised by how much they could actually get for their business and decide to sell it.

Business Coaching Tip #5: If you are entertaining an offer from someone to buy your business, be sure to shop it to other potential buyers. I cannot tell you how many times I see business owners ready to take the first offer they receive.  That’s like marrying the first person you date.  Find out who else is interested.  See what others are willing to pay.  The price almost always goes up when there are several interested buyers.  And, you might find that the fit would be better, as well.

Business Coaching Tip #6: Hire someone to represent you.  Don’t try to sell it yourself. These negotiations get sticky.  They take a lot of time and energy.  The buyers job is to tell you how ugly your baby is.  Your job is to tell them how pretty your baby is.  If you are the one at the table negotiating, it can get personal.  You need to be running your business, not spending time selling it.  Hire a professional.  Someone who will work on a small retainer that will eventually come out of their percentage of the sale.  Check references.  Get someone who is really good.  It can be some of the best money you will spend.

Business Coaching Tip #7: Don’t take your eye off the ball. This is a real danger zone.  Business owners get so wrapped up in selling their business that they forget to run their business.  Value can decline rapidly if you take your eye off the ball.  Don’t.

Business Coaching Tip #8: Remember that these deals often fall through. Don’t get too attached to the outcome.  Don’t see dollar signs and imagine yourself on that beach in Jamaica.  The probability is that the deal will fall through.  Don’t get excited until you have the money in the bank.

I hope this give you some good food for thought if you are considering selling your business.

Nan O’Connor, MCC

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How To Spend More Time
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I recommend The E-Myth Revisited to all my business coaching clients.  The author, Michael Gerber, makes a valuable distinction about a business owner’s use of time in a business.  He breaks it down into time “in” the business versus time “on” the business.  Time in the business is the time you spend hands-on delivering the product or service of your business.  Time on the business is the time you spend building and supporting the business itself.  Most of my business coaching clients are spending entirely too much time working in their business when I first begin coaching them.  It’s something we usually work on early on.

Why would you want to spend more time working on your business than you currently do?  Because:

  • As the leader of your company, your job is bigger than just working in the business.
  • It’s hard to build a business when you spend all your time working in it.
  • You will not be able to sell your business if all your time is spend working in it, because it won’t be able to survive without you.
  • You are likely to burn out if you work in your business all the time.
  • You will have a hard time seeing the big picture if your head is always  in the business.

Here are some business coaching tips to help you spend more time working on your business, rather than in it:

Business Coaching Tip # 1: Track your time for a week. No one wants to do this, but it’s really valuable.  Track your time and see your ratio between working in versus on your business.  Many of you will be shocked at how little time you spend on your business.

Business Coaching Tip # 2: Be willing to move outside your comfort zone. The reason most business owners cling to working in the business is because that is what they know how to do.  They know a lot more about how to deliver their product or service than they do about how to build and run a business.  So, they stay where they are comfortable.  I tell my business coaching clients that to build a successful business, and not kill yourself in the process, you will need to move outside your comfort zone and take on some things you have never done before.

Business Coaching Tip #3: Hire good people and trust them to do their jobs. You have to replace your time working in the business with other people working in the business.  Hire good ones.  Train them well.  Teach them to do things the way you want them done.  Teach them the philosophy behind the decisions they will need to make in their job, so they can make decisions without you.  Then trust them to do their job.  Course correct as necessary.

Business Coaching Tip #4: Get your priorities straight. Where are you taking your business and what will it take to get there?  If you don’t have a strategic plan, get one.  Based on that plan, what are your priorities as a leader?  If you aren’t clear about what you need to be doing working on the business, then you will never let go of working in the business.  Give yourself some big “on the business” goals.

Business Coaching Tip #5: Grow your wingspan. You are going to have to grow as a person and as a leader, if your business is to grow.  Expose yourself to new ideas.  Read good business books.  Talk with other business owners.  Hire a good business coach.  Challenge yourself.  Grow yourself.  Become the leader your business will need you to be five years from you.

I hope this has given you some useful food for thought.  Consider where your business really needs you to be long-term and move toward it by spending more time on your business.

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Common Traps Of Business Ownerships -- Business Coaching Tips
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After 12 years of business coaching, I have seen certain patterns.  Traps that many business owners fall into.  Perhaps you can avoid some of these traps if you know about them in advance.  Here are some business coaching tips to help you avoid some of the traps that lay in wait for business owners:

Business Coaching Tip #1: My business is different. Most business owners fail to heed good advice because they have come to believe that their business is different.  They tell their coach, accountant, advisers that they can’t do so and so because their business different.  I did this all the time.  To my detriment.  Guess what?  Your business is simply not that different!  Get over it.  Open your mind and listen to what smart people are telling you.  I wish I had.

Business Coaching Tip #2: No one can do it as well as I can. That may be true.  And that’s fine if you want to be stuck in your business forever.  But, if you want your business to grow, you will have to let go of the things you do today so that you have time to build your business for tomorrow.  You will have to hire good people, train them and trust them to do their job.  In my business coaching practice, I see this syndrome all too often.  The business grinds to a halt because the business owner won’t get out of the way and let it grow.  Don’t be the stopper to your business’ growth.  Shift your role from that of delivering the product or service yourself to being responsible for making sure that others deliver that product or service well.

Business Coaching Tip #3: I’ll add these people while times are good and cut them if we have a downturn. Guess what?  Much easier said than done.  It’s easy to say that you will cut people before you know them.  But then you bring them on, grow to love them, know all about their families.  You get the picture.  Better to hire them on contract if you believe there will be a downturn.  That way you both know it may not last.

Business Coaching Tip #4: Avoiding the hard truth. Knowledge is our friend, but we often don’t want to know the hard truth.  Especially if our business is trending down.  I find that one of the most valuable things I bring to the table in my business coaching is the willingness to ask the hard questions.  Things can’t change if the business owner is in denial.  Don’t avoid looking at the truth.  It’s the only way out.

Business Coaching Tip #5: Failing to get input. It’s so easy to get tunnel vision when you own a business.  You work so hard.  You do everything you know how to do to make the business successful.  You don’t have much time.  You, above anyone else, know what’s best for the business.  Yet, you can be making a big mistake if you fail to get input from others.  It can be so valuable.  Seek input from employees (and really listen, don’t just pay lip service).  Talk to customers.  Talk to competitors.  Talk to other business owners.  Hire a business coach.  Don’t stick your head in the sand.  Develop a lifelong curiosity.  It will really pay off.

Business Coaching Tip #6: Becoming too identified with your business. I often see business owners who need to sell their business.  It’s time.  There’s a great offer on the table.  Yet, they won’t pull the trigger.  It took me years of business coaching to figure out why.  They think they and their business are one and the same.  They have worked so long and hard in their business that they simply don’t have an identity outside of the business.  Serious mistake.  Keeps them from being objective.  Make sure that you grow your life at the same time you grow your business, so that you can remain a separate entity.

Now that you know about these traps, I hope you can avoid them.  They are painful and costly and unnecessary if you are aware of them.

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