Archives#businesscoach Archives — C. Lynn Northrup, CPA, CPIM

Coaches Make the Difference

June 9th, 2017

Coaches can be the difference between winning at business or losing. Every small business owner should have one. They keep you focused on the game. Coaches provide:

  • Guidance
  • Support
  • Accountability
  • Encouragement

I can hear small business owners now, saying “I’d like those things, but I can’t afford a coach.”

It probably should be the other way around, “you can’t afford to not have a coach.” Coaches facilitate transition, change, and success. Here are some tips for success:

  • Take total responsibility
  • Risk sharing your thoughts and feelings with others
  • Bring your beliefs to a Conscious Awareness
  • Develop an Awareness of Character and Persona
  • Listen to Feedback
  • Consider finding a Coaching Process
  • Be Flexible

The job of owning a small business is a lonely place and there is no substitute for have a sounding board and receiving good advice. Some of the challenges facing small business owners include:

  • What do I need to learn?
  • Commitments to grow as a leader?
  • What resources do I need?
  • Potential Problems or Obstacles?
  • Timeline?
  • Measures of success?

Coaches are not teachers but they teach. They provide attention to all the little details that go wrong when you are trying to achieve peak performance. Coaches put more of the things we do into a routine so we can focus on results. They listen closely and keep you on track by providing feedback and let you know where you are falling short. A good coach breaks down performance into its critical individual components and then gets you to focus on the fine details that make a difference.

The essence of good coaching is to get you to think, and about the right things. When you find a coach that is the master of both the skill and coaching, the resulting impact tends to be enormous. Top athletes have coaches! Hire a coach and gain the winning advantage.

In addition to coaching support, I can deliver a full range of advisory services representing a more affordable and efficient solution.

Making Changes

May 9th, 2016

I was asked “when do you know when to make changes?” I have some thoughts about changes and when to make them. Change is difficult, complicated, but still possible.

First, you have to feel the need for change before you can want to make the change. This is tough because you are trying to substitute new, unfamiliar behaviors, for old comfortable behaviors. You might be feeling the need for wanting to make changes, but it seems exhausting and over whelming to get things going. This is when you have to overcome your ego and face your fears.

Facing your fears takes courage, lots of it. You have to look in the mirror and deal with current reality. It boils down to the process of dealing with the elephant in the room. Change is a process that you feel. It is an invisible emotion laden process which is why courage, commitment, and considerable effort are absolute necessities for making change happen.

Change is a process. You’ll instinctively know when you need to take action. Whether it’s a personal or a business change, you have a vision of your existence and what you want to achieve. You have a purpose and a standard for what needs to be accomplished. This provides the basis for how we improve and determines what work needs to be done. These soft skills tell you the problems that need to be solved.

From this starting point you need to buckle down and face the reality of moving to something different. It will take more than just measuring, monitoring, and planning what needs to happen. At this point, it is a matter of just doing it and taking action. I hope this deals with the question of when to make change.

The first step after beginning the process is making sure you’re doing the right things. From doing the right things, you need to move to doing things better. Here’s where you are focused on creating improvement. Creation evolves into innovation and doing things different and better than your competition. It is often copying best practices or eliminating unnecessary steps.

It might sound crazy that you are trying to accomplish things that can’t be done or seem impossible. But in reality this is exactly what you need to do. You’ll never do it if you don’t begin the change process and then keep it moving forward. As I write this, I am reflecting that this is exactly what Blue Ocean Strategy is all about. It is doing something different and better than what others are doing.

Change is essential for success. It takes effort and courage to tackle the impossible. But, you will never achieve the impossible if you don’t initiate the process of change and just do it!

Getting Unstuck

March 21st, 2016

Everyone and every business experiences times when things aren’t going well. You feel like you’re treading water. It is comparable to a sports team or an athlete that hits a slump. It’s a frustrating feeling. You feel like you need to be doing something but it seems like you’re going backwards or standing still. This is a normal situation that happens to everyone at one point or another. The big question is how to get things moving again in the right direction.

Here is what works for me. I am big on lists and notes. When I hit the wall, I sit down with a blank piece of paper and start making a list of all my thoughts and ideas. I try not to be in my office when making these lists to create neutral territory. I outline my thoughts and concepts without regard to whether they are good, bad, crazy or whatever. My next step is to brainstorm the list and expand on it where appropriate. This includes considering the pros and cons of each idea.

Another step is to research each idea that I feel might have some merit. This often leads to checking on what others are doing, especially competitors. During this process, I reflect on what’s working, what’s not, and why. Just engaging in this sort of activity often will jar loose new thoughts and ideas. Often an old idea turns out to be a good approach after a little tweaking.

I am careful not to allow any knee jerk or panic reactions. It is important not to overreact. Take some time and let things settle in and contemplate various possibilities. Also, this might also be a good time to take a break. You would be surprised how this can rejuvenate your thinking. All of a sudden fresh new thoughts and ideas pop into your head.

Often just checking your data and numbers can get you pointed in the right direction. Actually, all small businesses should be checking their numbers and trends each month. This process doesn’t need to take a lot of time. This could maybe take an hour each month. Having a virtual coach or CFO can be a great catalyst in performing this step and a source for some fresh ideas. This approach gives you feedback and an objective point of view.

I’m big on lists and to dos. It helps keep me from procrastinating and putting off things that need to be done now. Procrastinating will get you stuck every time. That’s where my lists and to dos provide the motivation needed to keep things moving. Writing things down helps to reinforce your ideas and concepts and keep your thought process active.

These are things that work for me to keep myself on track and from getting stuck. Hopefully they will be helpful to you as well. Give them a try and you might be surprised on what new thoughts and ideas come to light.

Starting a New Business

February 17th, 2016

One of my students asked me to share advice and information on starting a business. After thinking about his request, I recalled a recent article posted on the Business Owners Zone. It is a must read for any person considering a new business venture and was posted by John Benson who successfully started a business and lived through the process.

I thought the most critical question in the article was “do you have a business plan?” A business plan will help to answer the question of whether you have enough money to start and grow the business. The article also touched on the psychological and emotions issues that should be addressed before launching a new venture.

Business coaches weren’t mentioned in Benson’s article but I think having one is a good idea. In a previous blog post I pointed out that business and life can be a lonely journey. Having an experienced coach can be the difference maker between success and failure.

Starting a new business requires serious research and analysis. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Am I qualified to do this work?
  • What is the cost to start this business?
  • What resources do I have to commit to the business?
  • What is the competition?
  • How successful is the competition?
  • Will I need help to run the business and can I get the help I need?
  • Can I run the business from my home?
  • Who can I talk to about starting this business?
  • Do I need a business coach or advisor?

These are just a few areas you need to evaluate. Many other questions will emerge as you prepare to start your journey.

One of my other blog posts dealt with the flower exercise to help you understand your skill set to get a better handle on how well equipped you are to start and run a business. The self-examination process should be part of your homework before making a leap of faith into something that’s not a good fit.

If you make the decision to move forward and follow your dream you will need an expert financial advisor. I strongly recommend engaging a CFO advisor to help you set up a cloud based accounting system. This will provide the necessary financial tools to help manage your new business. Having a good accounting system and being linked to your own virtual CFO is an essential ingredient to success.

Your business coach together with a virtual CFO will help you craft a strategy and develop a business plan. These steps combined with a solid accounting system will give you the tools to measure and monitor your business results. Measurement is critical. If you can’t measure it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t manage it and improve it.

Delivering More Customer Value

February 11th, 2016

Here are three ways businesses can deliver increased value to their customers:

  1. Charge lower prices
  2. Help customers reduce their other costs
  3. Provide more benefits

I think businesses need to focus on finding ways to provide customer value other than just reducing prices. When you provide a benefit bundle to add customer value you are providing a uniqueness setting your business apart and beyond the competition.

Here are some ways to offer more benefits to customers that can take your business to new levels:

  • Offer customized products and services
  • Offer more customer convenience
  • Provide faster service
  • Give customers more or better service
  • Give customers extra training or coaching
  • Provide an extraordinary guarantee that competitors can’t match
  • Give useful tools (hardware or software) to customers
  • Win, keep, and grow customers by rewarding them (membership programs)

Now you have some ideas on how you can beat the competition besides just lowing price.

Helping customers reduce their other costs is an additional way to increase customer value. Some approaches include arguments that your product is more reliable, lasts longer, or attracts higher prices in the second hand market. Some businesses will provide support to customers in the way of coaching and training on how to reduce costs when using their products.

Other approaches to helping customers reduce their costs might include techniques to improve business processes such as purchasing and ordering costs. In this regard, providing them with unique systems to accomplish these tasks is one approach that can be utilized.

Inventory always represents a challenge for both small and large businesses. Offering customers just-in-time supply capability is one way to deal with this issue. Another approach is utilization of consignment arrangements. Some companies offer outsourced inventory management that help to maintain lower levels of inventory investment.

Some businesses justify higher prices by helping their customers reduce their processing costs. Techniques might include more efficient ways to use their products which lowers processing costs. Application of lean six sigma methodologies can help improve yields, reduce waste, eliminate chances for accidents, and lower labor costs.

The Changing CPA World

January 13th, 2016

The world is changing fast and everyone is struggling to keep up. This is true both for businesses and the CPAs that serve them. Instant information is available to everyone making it easier to look up questions on the internet, do their own accounting, run payroll and prepare tax returns.

Business owners frequently need help but don’t know it. CPAs are still traveling down traditional paths and not always in a position to effectively assist their clients. Business operations and financial management can be complicated. Business owners will frequently self-medicate when they should get help. And in many instances, CPAs aren’t adequately trained or skilled in providing in business advisory and consulting services.

Business advisory services range from specialized CFO and controller support, strategic planning, operations, marketing, information technology, and human resources. Most business owners don’t have skills to cope with all these areas of expertise. In addition, there aren’t too many CPAs that have the training and expertise to provide advice to clients in all these sectors. Therefore, it is critical for CPAs to develop their business advisory and CFO skills to be able to help their clients.

Business owners need trusted advisors that can help them address the unique problems in their business. CPAs need to shift their focus to helping clients identify these special needs. This is the future of the profession. This requires training and the development of new skills. Business owners also need to recognize that they can’t know everything and be willing to seek help when and where it’s needed.

The role of CPAs as business advisors is to enhance the productivity, profitability and wealth of their clients. Creating awareness of client needs is critical. CPAs must be willing to collaborate with expert advisors skilled in providing the necessary services. This creates win/win situations for all parties.

The challenge is that most small and medium size businesses have never experienced the benefit of working with a skilled consultant. Another barrier is that they don’t understand how they can benefit from an advisory relationship with their CPA. The key is understanding that using an expert advisor is an investment and should not be perceived as a cost of doing business.

Businesses need to understand:

  • Why they need an advisor/consultant.
  • Why the advisor is ideally suited to perform that function.
  • What will be the approach of the engagement?
  • What is the goal of the engagement and how they get benefit from it?

Consulting engagements are complex and require special expertise. Consultants sell knowledge and expertise, not products. They transact returns from investment, not sales. Their fees represent an investment, and not a cost of doing business. When businesses and CPAs develop a better understanding of advisory engagements, both will benefit from their investment.